Welcome back to the final post of our summer #WhyIExercise series. It’s an honor to welcome guest bloggers, Bethany Petty and Lee Ann Raikes. Join us as they share their fitness journeys.
Please welcome Bethany Petty from Missouri. Bethany is a high school social studies teacher. She earned her BSEd in Secondary Education from Southeast Missouri State University and her Master’s in Learning, Teaching, and Curriculum from the University of Missouri - Columbia. As well as being a teacher, Bethany is an educational technology instructor, blogger, and author of Illuminate: Technology Enhanced Learning (EdTechTeam Press, 2018). She was recently presented with the Outstanding Young Educator Award from METC (2019) and was recognized by EdTech Digest as a finalist in the School Leader category (2017;2019). Bethany conducts professional development sessions focusing on intentional tech integration to enhance learning throughout the country. Follow Bethany on Twitter @Bethany_Petty.
Let’s hear from Bethany.
#WhyIExercise . . . Bethany
When I started teaching in the Fall of 2008, I was like most first-year teachers - trying to keep my head above water while doing my best to do the best I could for my students! Even though I was an athlete in high school and college, and coached multiple volleyball teams when my playing days were over, my physical health and fitness took a backseat to my teaching career. All of my spare time was spent researching, studying, and creating content for my students.
Shortly after I started teaching, my long-time boyfriend finally proposed! In addition to teaching and lesson planning, I found myself eyeball deep in wedding planning and, according to my friends and family, becoming the epitome of bridezilla! During the second semester of my second year in the classroom, I found out I was pregnant with our firstborn, Hanna. A little over one year later, I learned I was pregnant with our baby, Molly. Needless to say, my first few years of teaching were quite eventful!
Why do I share this brief biography, you ask? During the first part of my teaching career, my focus was on everyone else other than myself. I totally took myself off of my list, so to speak, shoving my physical and mental health to the back burner. Shortly before my 30th birthday, with a fantastic marriage, two beautiful and healthy daughters, a Master’s degree, and years of teaching experience under my belt, I decided it was time, once again, to make my physical health a priority.
In typical “Bethany” fashion, when I decide to do something, I DO IT. I decided that running would be a great physical activity for me because it didn’t require much equipment - other than a great pair of shoes - and it was something that I could do by myself. I used the Couch 2 5K running app to build up my stamina and to actually learn to run. As an asthmatic who is prone to shin splints, I never ran more than I had to in volleyball practice and conditioning! Running became an amazing outlet for me to sweat out my stress and do so in a relaxing, solitary environment.
Also in typical “Bethany” fashion, I ran too much, building up my mileage too quickly because it just felt AWESOME, and I ran into injuries. As a former athlete, I knew what I was feeling in my knee wasn’t quite normal, but I pushed through. This landed me in months of physical therapy, trying to get back to normal.
During that time, unable to run, I found myself getting antsy and anxious. I needed another physical outlet! This is when I stumbled upon Beachbody on Demand programs that let me workout from home, with minimal equipment. Once again, the convenient accessibility to workouts and sweat sessions helped me put myself back on the list, making my health and physical fitness important again.
So, why do I exercise? My workout time, whether it’s with weights, on my treadmill watching Netflix, or on the road listening to 2000s pop radio, is my “me” time. I’m refilling my cup, so to speak, so I can be the best version of me for all of the people who are counting on me in my life. I have the energy and focus to volunteer as a coach for my daughter’s soccer team, cart both of my girls to hours of dance classes and piano lessons throughout the week, while helping with homework, nightly reading, and “snuggle nests” before bed. I exercise to give the gift of health and wellness to myself, my family and my students deserve the best version of me. And - I deserve it, too! #WhyIExercise.
Please welcome Lee Ann Raikes from Ottowa, Illinois. Lee Ann is a 7th grade Engligh Language Arts teacher. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University and her Master’s from the University of Phoenix. Lee Ann’s educational philosophy is to teach to the whole child. She believes that students are humans first and students second. And that building relationships within the classroom is the key to success. Follow Lee Ann on Twitter @mastereducator.
Let's hear from Lee Ann.
#WhyIExercise . . . Lee Ann
Humans are born to move. From kicking inside the womb, to countless tries at taking our first steps, movement literally drives us forward. It is humorous to me how in my younger years, I didn’t focus on finding time in my schedule to exercise. I just did it with no conscious effort or the thought of being pushed to discomfort. After graduating from crawling to walking, I went right into running. When I mastered the art of riding a bike, I never got off. I loved swimming so much I even become a lifeguard. As I grew older, life seemed to get in the way. There were schedules to maintain and my joyful mindset of just getting up and moving was replaced with angst and the thought of going through the pain cave. Just like life, my exercise habits have gone through a variety of phases. However, as I am entering the back half of my life, I have not only found a love of pushing my body to its limits once again, but I also now know the countless benefits that exercise offers. Why do I exercise? Let me count the ways.
I am adopted and have no idea what lies in my medical history. This unknown has made me choose to make healthy decisions when it comes to diet and exercise. The benefits of exercise are proven to add years to your life as well as help with countless health issues from diabetes to depression. I watched my mom as she developed and suffered with Alzheimer’s and I understand how remaining active can help deter that terrible disease. Being an educator, I have read all the research on the importance of adding movement in the classroom to stimulate thinking. Clearly, moving our bodies is important both physically and mentally. I am known to have an upbeat attitude as well as countless energy which comes from adding exercise to my daily regime. I don’t want to live my final years taking multiple medications or being limited due to inactivity. I know schedules dictate, but making sure to take the time to take care of myself only makes me a better wife, mom, grandma, friend, and educator. I am selfish and I want to be around as long as I can watch my children and grandchildren grow.
This is an extension of living a healthy lifestyle, but is so important when dealing with day to day pressures. There is research that states that teachers take on symptoms of PTSD and I can verify that is an issue. I, like most educators, take upon ourselves the issues that our students bring into the classroom. There is nothing better than taking the time to get out in nature and take a walk, ride a bike, or run in order to keep stress at bay. Self-care is vital in order for being the best version of me I can be.
I have run 16 marathons and countless half-marathons and have done it all with a wonderful group of women. We have traveled all over in our adventures and have created memories and life long friendships. There is nothing better than making exercise fun and something to look forward to. These women continue to encourage me, inspire me, keep me honest, and push me to limits I never knew I could reach. I insist you find your posse, get out there, and turn exercise into experiences.
Thank you so much, Bethany and Lee Ann, for sharing your stories. Bethany, what a great reminder to find that “me time” in order to be the best versions of ourselves. I can’t wait for your next book to come out. We’re ready to celebrate with you. Lee Ann, you clearly have a passion for adventure, testing yourself, and camaraderie. May we all have your sense of adventure. Again, thank you both for sharing your stories with us.
Readers, what an honor to share 12 outstanding educators and their inspiring stories about #WhyIExercise. As we start planning for our school year, be sure to carve out time to exercise, eat healthy, and get plenty of sleep. As the saying goes, “We can’t take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves.” Have an amazing 2019-2020!!! Let’s continue to cheer each other on both in education and fitness.
If you’re interested in participating in #WhyIExercise next summer, please complete this Google interest form.
#MuchLove . . . Marilyn ❤️
Welcome back to week 5 of our summer #WhyIExercise series. It’s an honor to welcome guest bloggers, David Holliday and Jeremy Lowe. Join us as they share their fitness journeys.
Please welcome our first guest, David Holliday. David is from Plano, Texas. He is a 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Reading and Language Arts special education teacher. David earned his Bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University. He has been an educator for 5 years, coming over from corporate. He received the beginning teacher of the year award in 2015 at Rice Middle School, has an honorary lifetime PTA membership for community service to youth in 2019, has served for 3 years, and continues to serve, as a lead sponsor for Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Rice MS, and served on the Professional Learning Commission for Plano ISD in 2018-19. David is an active member of the #FitLeaders and #TeacherFit tribes. Follow him on Twitter @docholliday747.
Let’s hear from David.
#WhyIExercise . . . David
Ever since I was a young man, I have enjoyed sports and exercise. Football, basketball, and baseball were my favorites because I prefer team sports over individual sports. I played a lot of golf in my adolescent and early adult years; however, the expense of the sport doesn’t allow me to play as much as I would like to with a daughter approaching her college years! I played competitively in youth and high school basketball and played in intramural football and basketball leagues with my fraternity brothers at Texas Tech University. I am a big believer that playing and participating in sports in our youth helps us learn a lot about teamwork, perseverance, and winning and losing graciously. Fitness and sports have had a positive effect in my development as a person and help me stay connected to community and friends.
Trying to decipher why I exercise is far more complicated than it may appear. I believe that in order to be my best, I need to maximize my efforts to produce a healthy body, spirit, and mind. If I am lacking in one of these components, I am setting myself up for a fall. For most of my life, I have had a deep fear of loss. This was compounded when I lost my nephew, Jacob, at the precious age of four to cancer in October of 2005. This devastating loss changed everything, especially for my younger brother, Rob. To say the least, at this time of my life, fear consumed me. Over time, I have had a lot of questions about the role of suffering and loss in my faith. I believe exercise somewhat models suffering in its own unique way. When I endure something that isn’t pleasing, it helps me grow and stretches my limits. From a spiritual and mindset perspective, this allows me to build on failure and trust the process of an exercise regimen to strengthen the core of my body and the discipline of my mind. The suffering I have experienced in my life allows me to empathize with my students, many of whom have had deep suffering in their lives. This makes me a better educator.
In addition, the discipline of exercise and diet has enabled me to lose 28 pounds, 9% body fat, and one percentage point in my blood sugar. This is the healthiest I have been since that devastating loss my family experienced in 2005. Exercise keeps me focused on accepting my past, living my best life now, and preparing for a fulfilling and purposeful future.
Basically, I eliminated all sugar from my diet 13 months ago. I try to keep my daily sugar intake below 10 grams. I eat a lot of lean meats and vegetables. Simple, but it takes a lot of discipline. However, denying myself means I am putting something more important above myself. That is empowering and helps me live a life of humility, which I am called to do.
I work in a challenging atmosphere where student anxiety and stress are commonplace. Being of sound body, spirit, and mind allows me to be a comfort for my students when they need me in their most vulnerable moments.
I have a choice to make every day. Who do I serve? Do I serve self or do I serve others? If I do not take care of my body, spirit, and mind, I cannot make the obvious choice in serving others.
Believe. Believe in yourself and believe in others. Believe that people are trying their best, especially on their worst days. Believe that people are giving you their best on your worst days.
Please welcome Jeremy Lowe also from Plano, Texas. Jeremy is an Upper School Principal at Prince of Peace Christian School. He has a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Educational Technology. Jeremy was named the Administrator of the Year (2006) in the Pacific Southwest District of the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod, is a board member on the National Association of Lutheran Secondary Schools, and has been named an inaugural Swivl Educational Video Pioneer. He is active in the #FitLeaders and #TeacherFit tribes. Follow Jeremy on Twitter @DrJerLowe.
#WhyIExercise . . . Jeremy
I remember teaching one afternoon in an American literature classroom; it was my second year as a teacher. The day was like any other – I was having some fun with juniors teaching The Scarlet Letter when suddenly, I doubled over in pain right in the middle of my lecture. The worst pain I’d experienced in my life, I wondered if my appendix ruptured. I tried playing it off as a joke but had to leave the classroom and was taken immediately to the ER. Months went by without diagnosis and the problem worsened to the point I struggled walking up steps or even teach for a full day.
Now, I had been an athlete all my life. Three sports in high school and blessed to play college baseball (a dream of mine) in a small NAIA college. I hiked, lifted, ran mud races and was as healthy as I could imagine. But to look at me sick, you would have laughed. I was 5’7” 125 pounds and literally wasting away until I was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. A disease that attacks my own digestive system much like diabetes attacks the pancreas or rheumatoid arthritis attacks the joints, Crohn’s came on suddenly and with a vengeance. But, God’s undeserved grace in my life, a loving patient wife, and medications with lifestyle changes helped me turn the corner over the span of three years. I gained weight and strength and returned to the classroom with energy and enthusiasm, eventually becoming the principal, then executive director of a Christian high school in Southern California.
With the shift to administration, and the stresses and workload that come with that responsibility over time, I relapsed then let myself go – I’m embarrassed to admit that. However, this time, I began to gain weight as I didn’t hold fast to the lifestyle changes that were necessary to hold Crohn’s at bay. I ballooned up to 206 pounds frankly tired of fighting it.
To dig a bit deeper into the soul of my situation, in the darkness was an incredible feeling of loneliness. You’ve often heard that leadership is lonely, and it is. I believe it is the driver of burnout for leaders in education, and unless we address that issue, we will lose many great people in our field. You see, that negative inertia of my life was strong until the untimely death of my father-in-law. Life seemed to snap into focus. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and, candidly, scared. So, I leaned into the @fit_leaders #FitLeaders #PLN led by Dr.Ryan Jackson (@RyanBJackson) on Twitter. He encourages us to Live Better – Lead Better. I decided to post about my journey even though I felt a little embarrassed that I wasn’t as strong, or fast, or fit as others I was seeing on Twitter. I doubled down on the accountability I felt there and now my inertia is moving in a whole new direction, thanks to encouraging educators like @MarilynEDU, @matthew_arend, @ctopher73, @docholliday747, @MistahBruno, @literacy_kim and many more. I was blessed to share in a podcast with Nick Mann (@S2Change2), who supports educators through #TeacherFit about my journey and received comments from educators who were encouraged. I’m thankful for these leaders in my life and hope to get to shake their hand one day.
Today, I’m 173 pounds with my Crohn’s in remission and exercise 5X per week. I am incredibly thankful that God continues to give me chances each day to be a better husband, father, and leader in my school. That’s why I exercise. I won’t go back; how could I? I don’t know how much time I’ll have to impact others in this life I’ve been given, so there’s no time to lose!
Thank you so much, David and Jeremy, for sharing your fitness journeys. David, so sorry about the loss of your nephew, Jacob, But, what a way to honor his life by using him as motivation to take control of your health; physically, mentally, and spiritually. Jeremy, your struggle with Crohn’s disease has been difficult. But, it surely propelled you to new heights. (For more information on Crohn’s, the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America is a valuable resource.) Thank you both for sharing your personal stories. You are both amazing educators and leaders. More importantly, you are men of God that are touching your communities, families, and PLN.
David, Jeremy, and I are members of Nick Mann’s “Teacher Fit” coaching and online community. We are having fun and seeing tremendous results.
When you become a member, you gain access to the SugarWod app, an online community, instructional videos, and access to a certified Crossfit coach. Jeremy was recently a guest on Nick’s podcast. Take a listen here. If you’re interested in the group, scroll here for more information.
There are some amazingly motivating fitness communities on Twitter. Be sure to follow the hashtags: #FitnessEdu, #FitLeaders, #TeacherFit, and #RunAndRant.
#MuchLove . . . Marilyn ❤️
Welcome back to week 4 of our summer #WhyIExercise series. It’s an honor to welcome guest bloggers, Vicki King and Colin Hanna. Join us as they share their fitness journeys.
Please welcome our first guest, Vicki King. Vicki is from Lindenhurst, Illinois. She is an educational partner and advocate as well as a leadership coach. She has earned her BS in Education and her MS and Ed.S in Ed Leadership. Vicki is currently a doctoral student researching Social Justice & Equity in Education. Vicky is an active member of #EquityLiteracy founded by, @pgorski, dedicated to dismantling injustices in educational settings and beyond. She is also an inspiring member of the #FitLeaders and #RunAndRant communities. Follow Vicki on Twitter @vicking02.
Let’s hear from Vicki.
#WhyIExercise . . . Vicki
I remember running the forest preserve and park paths with my grandpa when I was still in grade-school. After our runs . . . well, I was probably the one running and my grandpa was more likely jogging with me. Afterwards, we would hit the pool or jacuzzi in the backyard. My grandma would bring out lemonade or ice water for us. There was no competition; there was just my grandpa and me running.
I can vaguely recall going to the high school track in Chico, California with my mom and dad. They would sit on the bleachers and just watch me run around the tracks. I would pick up an acorn or rock every time I took a lap and hand them to my parents to keep track of the number of laps I had completed. I loved the way they would smile or laugh when I’d toss them another marker. There was no competition; there was just my parents smiling and me running.
At some point, I entered a local race with other kids roughly my age. I was the youngest in the group. I remember being disappointment at not winning; I placed third. I remember the celebration afterward with my parents and grandparents. I remember them giving me a bright yellow jumpsuit with a silly phrase across the top about being a champion or something. I remember feeling their full support and pride. But that was the last time I remember running until I was 18 and started dating my husband and our first run was so far from pretty and I was miles away from the runner and athlete I had been 10 years earlier.
The first run I did with my boyfriend, BK (now husband), was only ten or twenty minutes long. I didn’t own any running attire or running shoes. I was sucking air loudly. It’s funny to recall because he had to ask me several times if I was going to be okay. I couldn’t answer him, but I kept going. We kept running around the park on the one-mile track. We did that together everyday for weeks. Months went by and we had eventually gotten me shoes and appropriate exercise attire. There was no competition; there was just my best-friend and me running.
Eventually, I found myself running seven to eight miles around that park all by myself. It felt freeing. I felt alive. There was no competition; it was just my thoughts and me running.
Since then, I have realized that I am at my best, emotionally and physically when I am not living life as if it were a competition. I am an Achiever by nature and it is a strength that keeps me pushing limits and my boundaries. But sometimes I run a fine-line with my goals, and get my wires crossed about why I am exercising or running with an unhealthy and unnecessary need to be faster, better, stronger . . . Faster, better, and stronger than who?! Even when it is myself I am competing against to achieve a fitness goal, it isn’t always a healthy competition.
I exercise, I run, I lead, I learn, and I serve because I enjoy doing those things. Those things bring me life. I especially love doing all those things with people I love! I am also immensely grateful for the relationships on social media I have developed with others who are like-minded on their exercise and fitness journey. There is no competition; there is just a couple thousand of my closest social media friends, my hot hubby, and me sharing a fitness journey.
Please welcome Colin Hanna from Saint Louis, Missouri. Colin is a physical education and health teacher as well as an assistant football coach with a focus on strength training. He earned his Bachelor’s of Science in Physical Education and Health, a Master’s of Science in Educational Administration, and is currently completing his Doctorate of Education in K-12 Educational Leadership. Colin is active with the #FitLeaders tribe. Follow him on Twitter @coachcolinhanna.
#WhyIExercise . . . Colin
I have always loved to exercise. As far back as I can remember, I was moving and shaking. Exercise was interchangeable with neighborhood games and team sports. Whether it was tag in the neighborhood or basketball games on the weekend, I found joy in exercise. As a high school student, I enjoyed participating in three-sports and working out. I was then blessed with an opportunity to play collegiate football at The University of Central Missouri. This love and passion for movement led me to a career in education as a physical education and health teacher, as well as coaching football and strength and conditioning. It has been in that arena that I have been able to develop relationships and support students and players in their pursuit of overall health. I really appreciate that I get to work with students and players with varying exercise and health goals. It is truly a metaphor for exercise as we continue into adulthood. Some of us enjoy running, others lifting, other people love tennis, golf, hiking, CrossFit, basketball and the list goes on and on in terms of the ‘how’ of our exercise and fitness.
As I have gotten older, I have worked to be a more reflective and introspective person. In that reflection, I have found that my ‘why’ comes down to three distinct ‘whys’.
· Family: Family over everything. My family is part of my why because I want to be my absolute best for them. I want to be as healthy and fit as I can be to ensure that I live a long and healthy life. When my wife and I had our son, it was another great reminder of the gifts and joys of this life, and family is most certainly a gift. I want to be my best for both of them!
· Competition: Competing makes things fun. As I have grown, I have been better, with some help from great coaches and mentors, about healthy competition. I firmly believe competition should start within oneself, but doesn’t have to remain there. I have found that if I focus on competing with myself, it allows me to appreciate a competition with others and respect their work toward competition. This could be a weight lifting competition, marathon, sports, etc. My encouragement to students, players and peers is to never take away competition between yourself and others, but rather remember and learn the skill of healthy competition with self and others.
· Being My Best: I simply feel my best when I exercise. It may be the simplest why, but I just have to keep that in mind at all times. Getting in the gym and starting is the biggest part of success. Stay consistent, it makes you feel sharp and prepared to take on anything.
My ‘whys’ drive most, if not all, of my decisions and help me to continue toward my true north. I am so thankful for my ‘why’.
Accountability, Follow-Through and Support
Every day I challenge myself to remember all of the support that I have around me from my family and friends. Like many of you, I work to maintain a high-level of discipline and motivation, but having accountability is still something we all benefit from. A few reminders I like to use when times are tough and days get busy:
1. Consistency beats programs: having a plan is key, but if a day gets away and all you have time to do is a walk, instead of your normal high intensity workout, take the walk - your body, mind, and spirit will thank you.
2. Maintain a healthy, but realistic outlook on food: many times ‘diet’ and nutrition are the bane of our existence. Don’t spend unnecessary time beating yourself up if you don’t eat the healthiest meal. The focus is being present and conscious about your eating. Conscious eating says, “I am going to have this ice cream because I want to enjoy it with some friends.” It puts the control back in your hands. When you do this, you will find that your conscious choices become more health focused, with occasional treats.
3. Find the fun in exercise: find exercise that you enjoy. If it is weight lifting, perfect. Running, great. Playing pick-up basketball, soccer or softball, go for it. Hiking or walking, put those shoes on. The only requisite is that YOU enjoy it. If you make an exercise choice based on your interest it will never feel like work.
4. Put family first: this one isn’t directly related to fitness, rather overall health. Family and close friends should come first. Build a regimen around your loved ones and your daily schedule. The reason I advise this is because what is a healthy body if you never visit, fellowship, or spend time with those you love? It is in the balance that we can truly enjoy our commitment to our health.
I implore you to find your why and then find your exercise bliss! I look forward to connecting with many of you as educators, leaders and fitness fanatics. Cannot wait to hear your story, too! #FitLeaders
Thank you so much, Vicki and Colin, for sharing your stories. Vicki, your story is full of love and connectedness. You are so blessed to be surrounded by loved ones that have nurtured you and your desire to run. Colin, your tips and reminders are spot on. Each one of us is different. And that’s o’kay. At the end of the day, find what you love and do it. Fitness and healthy living is a lifelong pursuit. Whether we find motivation in competitions with ourselves or others, keep striving to be better everyday. Thank you again, Vicki and Colin, for sharing, inspiring, and leading.
On a side note, Colin and I have an interesting connection. When I first saw Colin on Twitter, I was in shock. You see, I have a son named Colin and a daughter named Hannah. Needless to say, Mr. Colin Hanna is one great guy.
As always, if you’re looking for a tribe, there are many to choose from. Follow these hashtags for inspiration: #FitnessEdu, #FitLeaders, #RunAndRant, and #TeacherFit.
#MuchLove . . . Marilyn ❤
Welcome back to our summer edition of #WhyIExercise. We’re excited to spotlight two phenomenal and fun educators, Karen and Jennifer. Join us as they share their fitness stories.
#WhyIExercise . . . Karen
Please welcome Karen from Narragansett, Rhode Island. Karen is a special education teacher. Karen earned her bachelor’s degree from Salve Regina University, her master’s degree from Rhode Island College, and her Special Education Administration Certificate from Providence College. She was her district's Teacher of the Year and a finalist for the Rhode Island state Teacher of the Year. Follow Karen on Twitter @Teach4SpclNeeds.
Let’s hear from Karen.
I may have pushed myself to the limit this year and that doesn’t surprise me one bit! As my 40th birthday approaches, I have set a goal to run my very first marathon. Why now? How about . . . why not??? I’ve had a vision to run a full marathon since I was in high school. I’ve run 1/2 marathons and ultra relays, but never a full marathon. Am I crazy? Heck yeah, I am! Bring it!!!
The race is in October, which allows me the entire summer to build up to 26.2 solid miles. I started running a few days a week after school back in April. I found an amazing colleague (much younger and so much cuter than myself) to run with. Tori and I set off after school on our runs by the ocean feeling the breeze on our faces as we shared smiles and talked about our school days. As the months went by, I realized that I truly enjoyed having Tori as a running partner. I asked Tori if she would be interested in running an upcoming 10 mile road race with me in July. With hesitation in her voice, she explained she had never run more than 3 miles. With excitement and positive energy in my voice, I replied, “I’ll train you!” She said, “Yes!” Oh, I could just feel the excitement and giggles inside my body as I could NOT wait to help Tori set and reach a goal!!!
But wait . . . I have a goal myself . . . why do I always do this? I honestly cannot help it . . . I LOVE to help others. I’m convinced that my mission in life is to build up those around me and help them feel like they are a gift in this world.
As I plan out my own personal running distances, I will help Tori navigate hers. There’s nothing more exciting to me as a special education teacher than helping others crush their goals, no matter what age or how large or small the goal might be. It’s a passion of mine that comes from deep within my heart and bursts like fireworks when we experience “mission accomplished!”
Two days ago, Tori and I set a goal to run 5 miles. Little did she know, I had a hidden goal of pushing her further without her knowing it. We started off our run with a wonderful chat about what we’ve been doing since school ended. We shared stories, we laughed, and at times, we took long silent pauses to clear our minds. All the while, I kept her at a comfortable pace and continually checked in with how her body was feeling. At the end of our run, I glanced at my Garmin which reported 6.94 miles and grinned from ear to ear. “Don’t be mad at me Tori . . . but you just crushed almost 7 miles girl!” I told her as we exchanged a high-five. She could not believe it and I was incredibly proud of her. We capped off 7 glorious miles with high fives and smiles. I was so proud of her!
As I work towards my own exercise goals, it’s important to stop along the way and reflect on how we can inspire those around us. Take time for others. The feeling of encapsulating that goal-crushing moment with another is a reward within itself.
I challenge you to set a goal for yourself this week. And if you really want to lift the level of inspiration, help someone else achieve theirs!
Best wishes for a healthy summer,
#WhyIExercise . . . Jennifer
Please welcome Jennifer Dean from Palm Desert, California. Jennifer is a first grade teacher. She earned her B.S. in Elementary Education, an M.A. in Early Childhood Education, and an additional M.S. in Instructional Technology. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator and Trainer and is a Coachella CUE Board Member. Follow her on Twitter @Techy_Jenn.
Let’s her from Jennifer.
Exercise, healthy eating and weight in general has been something that has been difficult for me over the last several years. I used to do 5ks every month, exercise regularly and be part of different fitness groups. However, over the last two years I have done less and less of that. This year, it really caught up to me, and I realized I needed to make a change.
Obviously, gaining weight was a big struggle for me, but it was not the reason I decided I needed to get back on track. I realized that my lifestyle was not only causing me to gain weight but it was leading to other issues. I realized that I was developing unhealthy habits and not taking care of my body the way I should be. I also do not yet have children, but want to start our family. I realized in order to do this, I needed to be not just lose weight, but really develop some healthy habits, change my lifestyle, and take care of my body the way I should.
I had a parent of a former student who owns a gym and does nutritional courses and etc. She has become a friend of mine and knew a lot about my journey. I contacted her because I wanted to not just go on a “diet” or do a “meal plan”. I wanted to really change my lifestyle. My goal wasn’t to just lose weight and fit into a pair of jeans. I truly wanted to develop healthier habits and completely change my lifestyle. She helped me identify my goals, set my macros on myfitnesspal, and holds me accountable.
Healthier eating habits was a major part of what I needed to change, but I also wanted to get back into being more active. Luckily, I live in a beautiful place where I can be outside every single day. Even in the summer, as long as I get up early, I can be active outside. I also have a dog (who is on Twitter too @CharlestonPup) and I love being with him. I started just making the goal of walking him for 20 minutes a day. Once I was able to do that for a week, I increased it to 30 minutes a day. Now I walk him about 4 miles 4-5 times per week. I love it because I am just “walking” but I get to enjoy the beautiful weather, admire the scenery, feel my body getting what it needs and even stopping to socialize a little with other walkers.
Since starting this journey in early May, I have lost just a little over 20 pounds. Although this is very exciting, it is not the best part. I have found that I have more energy, my self-confidence is coming back, stress is relieved and I can just feel this change. It is hard to describe with exact words but as I have changed my lifestyle and started making these small progressions, I feel healthier, happier, and just different. It is not about a diet or completing an exercise program for me. It is about truly living a healthier lifestyle that enables me to accomplish more than I could before. I still have a long way to go in this journey, but I am excited to continue and be a healthier me, so I can create a healthier “us” soon!
Thank you so much, Karen and Jennifer, for sharing your stories. Karen, what a blessing you are to your friend, Tori. We’ll be waiting to get a glowing report on your full marathon in October. Jennifer, your journey is so relatable. We all go through phases of life that get us off track. But the great news is that we can get right back in the game. It’s clear that both of you are exercising not only for yourselves, but also others. Karen, you’re inspiring Tori. Jennifer, you’re taking control of your health in preparation for motherhood. We can’t wait for that report as well!
Most of us are now on summer vacation. With a little more time on our hands, be sure to take care of yourselves both physically, mentally, and spiritually. We are servant leaders to our students, staff, and others in our circle of influence. As we’ve heard the saying, “You can’t take care of others if you can’t take care of yourself.”
As always, if you’re looking for a tribe, there are many to choose from. Follow these hashtags for inspiration: #FitnessEdu, #FitLeaders, #RunAndRant, and #TeacherFit.
#MuchLove . . . Marilyn ❤
Welcome to another installment of #WhyIExercise. We’re excited to spotlight a fabulous duo! Please welcome husband and wife, Angela Rivas and Brent Klug from Michigan. Angela is a high school special education teacher. Brent is a world history teacher and soccer coach. Both Angela and Brent earned their Bachelor’s degrees from Grand Valley State University. Additionally, Angela earned her Master’s degree in Education Technology from Grand Valley. Angela is a member of Nick Mann’s Fire and Flow Crossfit group and #TeacherFit community on Twitter. Follow Angela on Twitter @MsRivas2U.
#WhyIExercise . . . Angela
I’ve broken up and made up with exercise for most of my adult life. I have lost count of how many times I’ve heard, “You’re so skinny--you don’t need to exercise!” Yes, I’m naturally small. I got it from my mother. We are smaller women. However, skinny doesn’t mean healthy. I’ve always dreamed of being one of those women with defined muscles. Not bulky, but more muscular than I am now. Unfortunately, it was easy to put off exercising. I had kids, I had a job, there are always things to do. There was always a reason. If I was exercising regularly and missed a few days, it was easy to leave it altogether, thinking I already failed at it. Now that I’ve leveled up to Level 40 in life, it’s become much more important to me. First of all, it has been a big help with my anxiety. I have struggled with anxiety almost all of my life and exercise is a temporary release from it. I tend to overthink and worry about everything. When I exercise, I’m just focusing on that and any other worry disappears. At that moment, I’m just trying to concentrate on my breathing and survive the workout. I truly believe exercise is a cure for so many things. There has never been a workout that I’ve regretted. I may have regretted it during the workout, but when all is said and done, I’m proud of myself for getting it done.
About 7 months ago, I sprained my ankle really bad. I am still recovering. I remember at that time thinking, “I wish I could work out or do something.” I knew I would get better eventually, but I also knew there are people who have conditions who would love to be able to do what I can do but can’t exercise for whatever reason. I’m able. So I should. And I want to. I like to challenge myself to see how far I go in my fitness journey. Just because you get older doesn’t mean you can’t be fit! I’d love to be those ladies, who in their 70s or 80s are still going strong with their fitness! I never want to workout because a doctor tells me I need to due to a health condition. It should never get to that point. I think just 30 minutes of physical activity a day is more realistic at keeping the doctor away than an apple.
Lastly, I have 4 children. I want to set a good example. My husband and I both exercise and we ask them all the time to work out with us, which they find annoying. I encourage them to just go on walks. It doesn’t have to be a heavy workout. I think that’s where dread starts to set in. If it seems too daunting, they don’t want to do it and I’ll admit- it can be like that for us as well. Honestly, it still takes some pushing on our part. However, they see that taking care of ourselves is something we prioritize. We try to limit junk as much as we can in the house, but will allow a little here and there. I remember my now 18 year-old went on a Spring Break trip with her friend’s family. She said they ate fast food the whole time and wished for a salad just once. This is coming from one of my pickiest eaters! I know my children will make their own choices as adults someday but hope they take on some of the habits we’ve tried to instill in them.
I exercise because I have a genuine desire to better myself, both mentally and physically. However, as a teacher and a parent, I have teenagers watching me on a daily basis. I want exercise to be just as normal and routine as taking showers or brushing your teeth. In an age where my students and my own children are bombarded with junk food advertisements and products and spend hours a day on social media, it’s a battle we need to keep fighting. The more they see us do it, the greater the chances that they’ll consider it as a positive change for themselves.
#WhyIExercise . . . Brent
Are they looking at me? Do I look in shape? Do I have the “Dad Bod”? Yo, why am I flexing in front of this mirror, does this make me conceited? All thoughts I have had. The insecurities can be solved by exercise and the pride can be caused by exercise. I am a proud husband, father of four, coach of two soccer teams and a teacher of 150 students. People are looking at me.
What I want them to see is a person who looks like they take care of themselves. I want my kids to see a good example of what taking care of yourself results in. Yeah, I want my students to appreciate the academic aspects of the things I teach them, but that’s not it. I give them life stories and advice about life. One piece of advice is their health. I want to be a solid example of what I preach to them about. I talk about eating healthy in front of them. I eat healthy in front of them. So if I talk about the benefits of exercise and living healthy, I better be a good example of what I am preaching. As a coach, my players want to see me do “Beast Mode” not just preach about it. They ask me why I do it, and I simply say because I want to be a beast and you can too. I show them the grind. I show them heart and passion. Because I exercise, I show them the results.
I’ve slipped in and out of shape. I have hit low places in my health. I have lost my muscle definition and had to bust my ass to get it back. I know I am not the fittest person, but I know I am better than the average 34 year old. Yes, people are looking at me. Yes, I feel I am in shape. No, I don’t have the dad bod. And no, I am not conceded. Our bodies are works of art. We all have a different ideal of what we want to look like, and I am looking into that mirror evaluating the art of my hard work and dedication.
I exercise almost everyday because I have the eyes of our youth on me. I want to be a great example of a healthy human. I also do it because it is good for my mental health. My physical appearance is something that has made me insecure, and I don’t want to go back to that.
Thank you so much, Angela and Brent. What fantastic stories from both of you. Angela, you are a true testimony to your children of what a healthy woman can be. Your focus on physical and mental health is a great reminder for all of us. Brent, your passion for your health on and off the field is surely not going unnoticed. Our youth are watching. As educators, parents, and members of our communities, we have tremendous amounts of influence. Thank you both for sharing your fitness journeys and mindsets. It’s an honor to have you as guests on #WhyIExercise.
Educators, if you’re ready to start or ramp up your fitness journey, I highly recommend Nick Mann’s “Fire and Flow” online coaching and community. Angela and I are both members and are already seeing tremendous results. For more information, click here. Angela and Brent were recent guests on his podcast. Take a listen here. Follow Nick on Twitter @S2Change2.
There are some amazingly motivating fitness communities on Twitter. Be sure to follow the hashtags: #FitnessEdu, #FitLeaders, #TeacherFit, and #RunAndRant.
#MuchLove . . . Marilyn 💕
Welcome back! This is our fourth summer of #WhyIExercise. Be ready to be inspired and motivated by our guest bloggers this summer. It’s so exciting to share the health and fitness journeys of amazing educators. I anticipate an exceptional summer of sharing.
Join us in celebrating this week’s guest bloggers Lori Green and Tim McDermott.
#WhyIExercise . . . Lori
Please welcome Lori Green from Canal Winchester, Ohio. Lori is the School Improvement Coordinator for Groveport Madison Schools. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University, her master’s degree from Olivet Nazarene University, and her Urban Principal Licensure from IUPUI. Lori is one of the founding members of the #FitnessEdu tribe. Follow Lori on Twitter @loriannegreen.
Let’s hear from Lori.
In 2006, I turned 40. I was just coming out of an abusive relationship and I was very unhealthy. I watched an episode of Oprah where this lady was talking about The Law of Attraction. I made a decision that I wanted to be healthy: physically, spiritually, emotionally, and financially. I began the work with no end goal in mind. Seeing a counselor helped me with the difficult inner emotional work, but it was so worth it!
I knew that it was also time for me to get started on the outer work. I started walking, but then I decided I wanted to give running a try. I talked with a neighbor who suggested heart rate training. Wearing a heart rate monitor transformed my running! As I continued to apply positive words to my inner and outer work, my desire of being fit in those areas came to fruition. I started running half marathons, I completed many triathlons and duathlons, and I even ran two full marathons!
THEN I turned 50 . . . and while I won’t go into too much detail, I will say menopause hit me hard. The physical activities no longer were benefiting my weight maintenance. My heart is very healthy, but over the past 2 years, I have come to realize that my overall wellness is not determined by what my body weight is. I have a very healthy heart and very low blood pressure. I have reduced my running due to some issues with my feet, but I have found walking and strength training to be what works best for me right now.
So #WhyIExercise is to be at my best health! My husband and my children and their partners deserve to have a healthy wife and mom . . . and most importantly, I deserve to be at my best health! When our intention is to be healthy, and when we can remove any expectation about how that may or may not look physically, we will be healthy! That’s where I am on my journey, and it’s exciting to think about what will happen in the future!
#WhyIExercise . . . Tim
Please welcome Tim McDermott from Oswego, Illinois. Tim is the principal at Alice Gustafson Elementary School in the Batavia Public School system. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Early Education from Arizona State University, his master’s in School Leadership from Concordia University, and his Doctor of Education from Aurora University. Follow Tim on Twitter @Tim_McDermott1.
I first started my journey into exercise ten years ago. There was a new gym that was built a few miles from our home and my wife and I decided to join. Like many newcomers to the gym it was a bit overwhelming. I would go on occasion, but I found little success in creating a new habit. I tried going after school, but I found that I had a lot less energy and desire to work out.
A few years went by with some on and off success. It wasn’t until I became a principal and started my doctoral program that exercise became a regular part of my life. I realized that I was 20 pounds overweight, stressed out, and literally eating anything that was in front of me. I knew that something had to change so I rededicated myself to go to the gym every morning before work. I found that starting my day at the gym and lifting weights provided me a great deal of stress relief.
Twenty eight months ago my world came crashing down around me as my wife, Jenna, was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer. Watching Jenna go through a nine hour surgery to remove multiple tumors, chemotherapy, another round of chemotherapy due to a recurrence, and now being on a maintenance drug has been heart wrenching. Jenna battles everyday and puts on a brave face for our teenage daughters. She tries incredibly hard to not let anyone know that she is always exhausted and is in some kind of pain.
Jenna’s incredible strength and courage has inspired me to tackle something that I used to hate doing - running. I started to run to deal with my own pain. Running provided relief and I started to look forward to it. I challenged myself to run farther and then to do a few races. I surprised myself with being able to complete a 5k and then a 10k. As Jenna was battling her recurrence this past fall I poured myself into running and completed two half marathons. I wanted to do some small act to show her how much I loved her.
Running and lifting weights has given me an outlet and helps me deal with my anxiety about the future. Exercise has helped me to better support Jenna, to be a better dad, and a better principal.
Thank you so much, Lori and Tim, for sharing your stories. Lori, you are conquering 50 with dignity, grace, and strength. What a motivation for us as we transition through the many stages of life. The reminder to be “intentional” about our health surely resonates. Tim, your wife and family are so fortunate to have you as their rock. I’m so glad you found that place of relief and even started enjoying running. It’s an honor to have both of you share with the #WhyIExercise readers.
Be sure to check back in for the next 6 Saturdays as more amazing educators share their #WhyIExercise stories. And follow the #FitnessEdu, #FitLeaders, and #TeacherFit tribes for weekly motivation.
#MuchLove . . . Marilyn 💕
Welcome back to #WhyIExercise. We hope that you had a blessed Thanksgiving with your families and loved ones! Please welcome our November spotlight, Mr. Josh Harris
Josh has been in education for almost 20 years. He is currently the Educational Technology Director for the Alisal Union School District in Salinas, California. Josh has also been an EdTech Specialist and middle school history teacher, as well as a ASL paraprofessional. Josh received his BA in History from SFSU, his teaching credential from CSUH, and his MA in Educational Technology from Touro University. He is also a Google Trainer and Innovator. Follow Josh on Twitter @EdTechSpec.
Please join us as Josh shares his #WhyIExercise journey.
#WhyIExercise . . . Josh
I am not a lifelong exerciser. I was a lifelong exercise avoider. I have been, and [sometimes] continue to think of myself as “a fat kid.” Bullying and body shaming never produced any change; fat has been who and what I was forever. I lived my life with that as part of me. I’ve lost and gained hundreds of pounds, but nothing permanent. In my head, Josh was, is, and will be fat.
In February 2017, three months after my 44th birthday, and a lifetime of being told, “you’re gonna get diabetes just like Grandpa/Nanny/Uncle Bernie/Grandpa Jerry/Uncle Jerry/Grandma,” the doctor finally told me that all those predictions had come to pass. Knowing what that disease had done to members of my family, I was...terrified. I was, at last, driven to change.
My doctor pointed out that I was a “good candidate” for bariatric surgery. This was another thing I’d actively avoided even considering. However, a cousin and a close friend who’d had the surgery and I had some real talk about it. I decided to move forward with surgery, but it’s not as simple as just saying yes. Kaiser Permanente (and most reputable bariatric programs) make you lose some weight before they will schedule surgery. In this case 10% of my highest weight in the last 12 months--for me, 42 lbs. Meaning, yes, I was about 420 lbs in February of 2017.
I had to face the nemeses all fat people face: Diet and Exercise. I set the goal of 5,000 daily steps, increasing by 2,000 per month until I hit 11,000--at first I used my iPhone to count steps, then I bought an Apple Watch. I knew I had succeeded in losing large amounts of weight following a high protein, high fiber, low carb diet, so I changed how I ate soon after. I let everyone in my life know what my new rules and goals were, making everyone either a passive or active ally in my new goal.
Food became, and is to this day, something I have to be mindful of everyday, at every meal. Exercise had to become a serious habit, movement like a compulsion. It had to become something I held myself accountable for, and reported out on social media so that people would notice if or when I had gotten lazy. The Apple Watch, a piece of technology I now love, helped in this more that I could have imagined. The constant feedback and reminders, the ability to check several metrics throughout the day kept me focused on my goal. Seeing me always working toward my movement and exercise goals motivated coworkers along with me.
By August 2017, I’d lost about 80 lbs and they scheduled my surgery for Sept. 11, 2017. On the day of surgery, I had lost 105 lbs. That was 5 lbs over my personal goal and really impressed the surgeon. The exercise changes were a massive factor, and were facilitated by all the support from friends, coworkers, and family. Today, I am 250 lbs lighter than I was.
I exercise now to never go back. I worked too hard, endured too many setbacks, and I enjoy what I have become too much to let myself go back. There is not always joy in the exercise itself, but there is joy in the accomplishment. There is joy in the ability to more easily do what was painful and exhausting before. There is joy in those that tell me I have inspired them into action. I exercise so all that doesn’t end.
Thank you so much, Josh, for sharing your journey. And it truly has been that . . . a journey. You are an example of dedication, perseverance, and the power of a loving and supportive support group. You have so much to be thankful for. #WhyIExercise is honored to have you as a guest blogger. Thank you for inspiring us to take our lives into our own hands and do the hard work to achieve.
May all of the #FitnessEdu, #FitLeaders, #RunLap, and other tribes find joy in the journey like Josh has.
#MuchLove . . . Marilyn ❤
Welcome back to #WhyIExercise. We’re excited to share the journeys of two educational leaders from Wayne, New Jersey, Stacey and Scott Wisniewski.
Stacey is a middle school vice principal. She previously taught kindergarten for 10 years. She earned her BS in Exercise Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Stacey has two master’s degrees from Seton Hall University. One in Education and the other in Education Leadership. Her husband, Scott, is an assistant principal and supervisor of mathematics and counselors. He earned his BS in Mathematics and MS in Educational Leadership from Montclair State University. He is currently working on a second master’s in Education Technology from American College of Education. Follow Stacey on Twitter @staceywiz7310 and Scott @Mr_S_Wisniewski
Without further ado, let’s here from Stacey and Scott.
#WhyIExercise . . . Stacey
The position of principal and assistant or vice principal has transformed more than anyone, not in the field could ever imagine. The modern day school leader needs to be a student advocate, teacher, leader, motivator, tech-savvy, connected, engaged, visible, mediator, committee spearhead, expert, and the list goes on. Basically, we need to clone ourselves to do all the things we need to do. So now that I have stated that there is basically not enough time in the day to do our job responsibilities, add in parenting and personal commitments, we barely have enough time to sleep! But, if you value something enough, you manage to fit it in.
I read in a running magazine a long time ago, in one of their featured stories, about a woman struggling with fitting it all in. Her driving force was the feeling that if she couldn’t take care of herself, how could she take care of others. That resonated with me. If I don’t value myself, my body, my health, how could I possibly know what it feels like to truly value something. I exercise and commit to health and wellness because I feel what I exude physically, emotionally, and intellectually is all equally as important. I see myself as a model for my own daughters, the students, and the teachers. I put my all into everything that I do, starting with myself. I value exercise, health, and wellness, because I feel it is all tied together to our ability to manage, cope, and function in our careers and professional lives. In a field that is has a high female population, it gives women something else to connect to with me as a leader.
We started a workout club in my school last year. Seeing each other struggling and motivating each other through the moves allowed for me, as a leader, to develop deeper relationships with the teachers in my school. People at work no longer make snide remarks about my body, or that I am skinny or about what I eat. They know me differently now. They know I dedicate time and energy into my body as well as my career and it is not something to be taken lightly. Why I Exercise is simple…..I do it for me . . . because if I can’t take care of myself, how do I take care of the 800 + students in my building.
#WhyIExercise . . . Scott
Exercise has always been a part of my life. Being involved in football and wrestling from middle school and high school, the expectation was to be in the weight room. I was fortunate enough to be able to play football at Montclair State University. During this time, my weight went from 195 pounds in high school to close to 240 pounds in college and eventually reaching 249 pounds about a year after finishing my playing career. I began to get chest pains and really did not feel confident in myself. I began to eat healthier and incorporate more cardio and running into my workouts. Over the next 10 years, I went from struggling through 2 mile runs at 10 minute miles to running half marathons, spartan races, and completing a full marathon. I was fortunate to have met my wife during this time as she has been an huge motivator and partner through this. She got me into running but more importantly got me into eating better and taking a healthier approach to life. Within this timeframe, we also discovered Insanity by Shaun T. This was a comprehensive, total body cardio. From Insanity, we continued through various other Beachbody workouts.
Now, exercise and health are such important aspects of our lives. I believe it is important for our daughters (ages 6 and 4) to see us exercising and understand the importance of making positive, healthy choices with our bodies. My wife and I will alternate our workouts between Beachbody workouts and running in the morning before work. Our workouts will take between 30-40 minutes and there are several exercises incorporated into the workout. We recently signed our 6 year old daughter up for a 5k! I also believe in modeling positive, healthy behaviors for the students.
In addition to modeling positive behaviors, exercise has also allowed me to satisfy my competitive spirit. I like the challenge of improving my times in running, I like the challenge of increasing my pushups or pullups. The idea of challenging yourself in various venues is a value that I would like to install in my students and my children. When my students see me running races and putting in my all, I believe it helps set a standard and expectation for them.
There are so many positive reasons why I exercise as it improves my personal health, displays a positive role model for my children and students, while providing me a vehicle to continue to motivate and push myself to improve. So many people in their lives and careers get “stuck”. They stop growing, stop learning, stop improving themselves. Exercising is a way that I can continue to challenge and handle adversity. A month ago during a half marathon, I dehydrated mid race but refused to not finish even if it meant walking. I ended up in the hospital requiring an IV. As I lay on the hospital bed, I promised myself I would sign up for that same run again next year and finish the run the right way. I believe it's important to face your challenges head on and remove “I can’t” from your vocabulary. If someone were to have told me that I would complete a marathon back when I weighed 249, I would never have believed them. My mindset now is not that I completed a marathon but I want to do it again and do it faster. I want to set an expectation for my children and my staff/students to not run from challenges but to train, prepare, work hard and be better than I was the day before.
There are so many life lessons in this post. A huge thank you to both Stacey and Scott for sharing your stories. You’re definitely leading your family, schools, staff, and students by focusing on being your personal bests. I love how Stacey models a healthy lifestyle for her daughters and others. And Scott’s motto can be applied to both our professional and person lives: train, prepare, and work hard.
Many blessings to our readers as we enter the Thanksgiving season. I’m thankful to all of you for inspiring and motivating the fitness tribes. Shoutout to #FitnessEdu, #FitLeaders, and #RunLap for leading and encouraging all of us to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others.
#MuchLove . . . Marilyn ❤
Welcome to another installment of #WhyIExercise School Year Edition. We’re excited to be spotlighting two phenomenal educators. Join us in celebrating the fitness journeys of guest bloggers Andrew Arevalo and Justin Birckbichler.
#WhyIExercise . . . Andrew
Please welcome Andrew Arevalo from El Centro, California. Andrew is a fourth grade GATE teacher at McCabe Union Elementary School District. Andrew earned his BA in Liberal Studies and Multiple-Subject Teaching Credential from San Diego State University and his M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from American College of Education. Follow him on Twitter @Gameboydrew.
Before I entered public education, I worked as a different type of educator. I was a certified fitness trainer. Instead of teaching kids how to multiply and divide, I helped adults learn how to take care of their bodies. I had my loyal clients. I even had my own weekly fitness class with its very own cheesy name, Abs with Andrew. This was my life, and I was hooked to helping people transform. More than that, it was somewhere I went to forget about everything and just hit the weights. It was my serenity. However, once I entered my credential courses and started my first full-time job as an educator, I had to step back from this world I was in love with.
I said goodbye to the barbells and hello to the books. I didn’t have a choice. I was taking 25 units and trying to survive the treacherous first-year waves. I thought my goodbye was more of a temporary departure; however, I was completely wrong. After the credential program, I immediately began my masters. The stress slowly piled on. The gym life I had known so well became completely foreign.
Fast forward right around the end of my masters. I remember the day when “it” first happened. It is forever implanted in my mind. I was trying to eat and my food just wouldn’t go down. I thought I wasn’t chewing well. However, after another attempt, I realized, I couldn’t swallow. Within a few weeks, I was in a operating room getting an endoscopy. From there, everything was like a blitzkrieg; it happened so fast! Doctor-after doctor, appointment-after-appointment, and there was no clear consensus. One doctor diagnosed me as having an autoimmune disease. Another said it was a gastrointestinal problem. Regardless, I needed to do something because the problem persisted. I was weighing around 140 pounds and struggling to maintain my weight. One doctor recommended I should try the 6-food elimination diet, which should really be called the ALL-food elimination diet. In the diet, one must eliminate the 6 most common allergens (e.g., fish, nuts, dairy, wheat, soy, and eggs) from his/her diet. Do you know how hard that is?
After a few weeks of trying this insane diet, I decided to become plant-based. I thought it would be more realistic given my lifestyle. It wasn’t until about the sixth-month of trying this diet when I noticed my swallowing returning back-to-normal. However, I was also on a heavy dose of GI-related medication as well. After another endoscopy, my GI doctor said my symptoms were brought on entirely by stress. I couldn’t believe it. Was the stress in my life this debilitating? He went on to further explain that my symptoms would be kept at bay if I found a way to destress.
It was at this point in my life that I realized everything was in my control. The stress, the symptoms, I could control it all! I decided it would be best to find a familiar outlet that would allow me to destress. So, I turned back to the lifestyle I had given up. I started back up at my local gym. I was embarrassed my first few weeks. I remembered how I once was, and I kept trying to compare myself to that. No more abs with Andrew, here though. In addition, I was completely sore. My body felt like it was going to fall off. However, I didn’t lose focus. I had too much riding on the gym. Within a year, I was feeling the best I had felt in very long time.
Since returning back to the gym, I have been able to gain weight and get off some of my medication. The gym is where I go to destress, to lose myself, and to focus on the clink clank of the weights. I don’t think about anything there. I go and workout because I love it. I can’t make it every day or even every week. However, I’m ok with that. What I’m not ok with is letting stress run my life. This is why I exercise!
#WhyIExercise . . . Justin
Please welcome Justin Birckbichler from Fredericksburg, Virginia. Justin is an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher at Lee Hill Elementary School in Spotsylvania, Virginia. Justin received his BS in Elementary Education from Shippensburg University, his MS in Curriculum and Instruction from Western Governors University, and is a Google for Education Certified Innovator and Trainer. Follow him on Twitter @absotTC.
Let’s hear from Justin.
I was diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 25 in November 2016, after discovering a lump on my testicle during a routine self-exam. (If you’re a male and don’t know how to do a self-exam, you need to - click here. It needs to be part of your health and fitness regimen.)
While most people consider cancer to be a terrible thing, it was actually quite the blessing in disguise for me. It helped me balance myself and regain a long lost commitment to fitness.
Throughout my middle and high school years and college, I was really invested in exercise through various sports and activities, but once I moved to Virginia from Pennsylvania and started my Masters program in early 2014, I let my healthy habits slip.
Though I finished my Masters in August 2015, I did not make a sustained effort in restarting a regular exercise regimen. I would jog for a few days, but it never lasted. I always had an excuse … not enough time and no energy were my go-to.
After experiencing 10 weeks of grueling chemotherapy and knowing what it truly feels like to have no energy, I realized I couldn’t use that as an excuse anymore. Physically, I was honestly ashamed of my bloated and flabby body, lack of endurance, and pitiful amount of strength post-chemo. I decided to make fitness a priority, so I joined a gym and found sticking with the new habit wasn’t too difficult.
I go directly to the gym after work, which helps me keep the positive momentum going. In the beginning, I found if I come home from work and sit down, I was less likely to get back out there. Now, since I actually looked forward to working out, it doesn’t matter when I go, but I still find the consistency is key.
While at the gym, I usually split my sessions between weightlifting and running. While hitting the weights, I usually pair a major muscle group, such as chest, with the inverse minor group, such as biceps. In the running realm, I’m a big fan of negative splits and intervals, while watching Netflix, of course. Watching The Flash definitely makes me run faster!
Another big change I made was in how I ate. I eat more whole foods, home cooked meals, weigh nearly everything I eat, and put it all into my FitBit app to help track nutrients and calories. I do allow myself to indulge, but in more moderation.
Since making all of these changes in August 2017, I’ve shed over forty pounds, dropped nearly ten percent of my body fat, increased my running stamina, and nearly doubled my maximum lifting stats.
Yet, why I exercise is much more than just the physical benefits. It’s my form of self-care. As a cancer survivor, I’ve found that applying habits from chemotherapy (such as keeping detailed records, repurposing items that came with me to infusions, and continued goal setting) helps keep me motivated to stay on the ball with my fitness regimen. You can read more about these concepts here.
While I am exercising, I often think about what I’ve been through and what kind of person I want to be. It’s an intense moment - both physically and in the reflection aspects.
Cancer isn’t something I would wish on anyone, but in my case, it was only honestly exactly what I needed. Now, I’ve grabbed my life by the ball(s) and made a commitment to making my post-cancer life the best it can possibly be. Fitness plays a big part in this journey.
Thank you so much, Andrew and Justin, for sharing your #WhyIExericse stories. We truly appreciate your vulnerability. You are clearly two men that have taken control of your lives after unforeseen medical issues. Although the complications were different, the commonality is that you both got back up after the setbacks. You not only recovered, but you are both thriving. Exercise, diet, and self-care are now the new norm. You are both truly inspirational. Thank you again for sharing with the #WhyIExercise readers.
For more information on testicular cancer, visit testicularcancersociety.org.
I hope you’re all having an amazing start to your school year. Be sure to follow the #FitnessEdu, #FitLeaders, and #RunLap tribes for weekly motivation.
#MuchLove . . . Marilyn
Welcome to our first installment of the #WhyIExercise School Year Edition. We’re excited to be spotlighting two educators each month. Join us this month in celebrating the fitness journeys of guest bloggers Tyler George and Laura Bradley.
#WhyIExercise . . . Tyler
Please welcome Tyler George from Clinton, Michigan. Tyler teaches high school APUSH, AP World, and AP Human Geography. He also coaches track and is a college professor. Tyler received his B.A. in History and Social Studies Education from Siena Heights University in 2008 and his M.S. in Physical Education from Canisius College in 2010. Tyler is an active member of the #FitnessEdu tribe and has an active Facebook fitness group. Follow him on Twitter @GeorgeHistory.
Let’s hear from Tyler.
I exercise for a few different reasons, but the most important are named Hayden and Rowan. My boys are my life, their mom is my best friend, and the greatest memories I have are with them, so I want to make sure that I am around a long time to make more memories. In addition to my family, I workout for myself. I want to make sure that I am the healthiest version of me that I can be, when this occurs I am the best version of me for my family and my students.
In college I reached my heaviest at 320 pounds, as a thrower you didn’t have to be “fit” you just needed to be strong and balanced on your feet. While struggling to go up some stairs I decided to lose the weight, eventually I became obsessed with the number on the scale...a dangerous precedent that led me to a battle with bulimia. In just 6 months I was down to 170 pounds, and this was achieved in a dangerous and unhealthy fashion.
Having little training in nutrition, I gained it all back. I am now down to 270 pounds and feeling strong, focused, and driven. I now workout 30-60 minutes a day using the Beach Body On Demand program, follow my cup system, watch the carbs, sugars, and sodium, and am feeling great.
In 2017 I became an online fitness and wellness coach, since doing this my team has grown to nine people with all of us working together on our goals. I have a long road ahead to achieve my fitness goals, but like I tell everyone, “have faith and trust the process.”
#WhyIExercise . . . Laura
Please welcome Laura Bradley from Petaluma, California. Laura teaches English 8, Digital Design Lab 7/8, and Broadcast Media 7/8. She earned her B.A. in English from San Francisco State University and her M.A. in Curriculum, Teaching & Learning, with an emphasis in Educational Technology from Sonoma State University. Laura is a Google Certified Innovator and National Board Certified Teacher. Follow her on Twitter @LAMBRADLEY.
Let’s hear from Laura.
Running was my caffeine, an early morning antidote to stress, a booster of both energy and mood. Running gave me time to think, to wonder, to dream. It gave me the distance I needed from the classroom to snag an elusive lesson, like: how will I engage my 8th graders in literary analysis without interfering with their love of reading? So often in the cool, dark mornings of my runs, the best ideas would surface. Running gave me so much more than physical exercise.
I smiled more often, laughed more easily, had more patience with my students and more creativity in my work simply because I got myself up and moving before breakfast. But I made the youthful mistake of assuming I would run forever.
A few years ago, a number of factors brought my running to an end. It started with insomnia, and then a foot injury took running away completely. I can’t even walk the neighborhood with my husband, an exercise most of us assume we’ll enjoy well into retirement.
So what do we do, those of us who love to exercise, who recognize its many benefits, when life throws us a curve ball and steals our favorite physical pursuits?
After mourning the loss of running and feeling the sluggish effects of a sedentary lifestyle, I decided to return to lap swimming, the sport of my youth. I knew it would give me an all-over workout without adding stress to my knees and feet, and since I clocked thousands of laps in years past, it’s a sport I knew I could pick up again.
In a perfect world, my days would now start with an invigorating workout in the pool, followed by the energy, creativity, patience and joy that come from daily exercise. But my transition from runner to swimmer hasn’t been riptide free. The boredom of swimming lap after lap is far less motivating to me than running had been. And for some reason, swimming doesn’t give me that jolt of energy that I enjoyed after running; at this point, swimming just makes me so tired I want to go back to bed after a workout! (I mean, who thought it would be a good idea to hold your breath while working out?)
But I am feeling the full-body benefits of swimming. While running worked my lower body, swimming makes everything hurt. My legs feel the variety of muscles called into service as I switch from breast stroke to back to freestyle; and my arms, long neglected when I ran, are starting to feel stronger. Even my creaky neck and shoulders feel the benefits of the repeated twists and turns of swimming. And my new waterproof iPod and earbuds are driving away the boredom of churning out lap after lap after lap.
The hardest lesson for so many of us who exercise may be letting go of our favorite activities as we age. Or maybe that’s the second hardest lesson, because much harder for me has been finding the same enthusiasm for a new fitness routine.
This reminds me of the struggles my own students face in my classroom. As I push them to go beyond comprehension to deeper, analytical reading, I see their desire to stay where it’s safe and familiar. “But Mrs. Bradley,” they say, “this is hard! Can’t I just tell you what happened in the book? I don’t like analysis!”
No, sorry, Mrs. Bradley, those days are over. Time to pack up your running shoes, thank them for all they’ve done for you, and embrace your new fitness friends: goggles, cap, swimsuit and the invigorating scent of chlorine. And just think how great your upper arms will look next summer! Running never did that for you, now did it?
Thank you very much, Tyler and Laura, for the inspiring posts. Tyler, way to go with your weight loss and commitment to help yourself, your family, and your online fitness community with their fitness goals. If you’re interested in joining Tyler’s Facebook accountability group, contact him here. Laura, what a great post about transitioning from being a runner to a swimmer. There are so many stages in life. No matter where we are, a healthy lifestyle can be part of it. Thank you again, for sharing with the #WhyIExercise readers.
Be sure to come back the last Saturday of each month for two more inspirational posts. If you’re not on the mailing list, subscribe to the mailing in the sidebar of this blog.
Have an amazing start to your school year! Be sure to follow the #FitnessEdu, #FitLeaders, and #RunLap tribes for weekly motivation.
#MuchLove . . . Marilyn
As educators, we know the importance fitness has on both our bodies and minds. This blog is a celebration of educators and the role exercise plays in our lives.