Welcome back to #WhyIExercise! You're going to be touched by this week's spotlight educator, Teresa Gross. She is a middle school literacy teacher outside of Rochester, New York. During her 15 years as an educator, she started out as a speech therapist, and is currently teaching 6th - 8th graders. Teresa can be found on Twitter @teresagross625.
Let's hear Teresa's fitness journey.
Over the past 10 years, a healthy lifestyle has become extremely important to me both personally and professionally. Working with middle school students, particularly young women, I consider myself a role model for them. I want them to feel good about themselves and see the beauty they have inside and out. Showing them a balanced lifestyle, which includes healthy eating and working out is important to me. So many of our young women are dissatisfied when they look in the mirror. I hear from them on a daily basis, “I need to lose weight.” I want to empower my female students to be proud of who they are and embrace their natural beauty.
Exercise has always been in and out of my life. It found its permanent place approximately 10 years ago when my dad passed away and I went through a divorce. I was overweight and feeling overwhelmed with what was happening in my life. I needed a way to relieve the stress and anxiety I was feeling. I started out small, just doing some Pilates on a regular basis. It amazed me the results I started to see and feel. I was not doing it to lose weight or for anybody else. It was for ME. As I started to build up my stamina and strength, I added other workouts in.
Over the course of approximately 3 years I had lost around 50 pounds and was feeling 100% better. It was a complete lifestyle change for me. I realized I had to make exercise a part of my daily life. Ever since then, I have tried to incorporate it into my daily routines. It’s not that I “find the time” because then it sounds optional and it’s not optional. It is part of being a healthy individual.
It’s difficult for me to share this picture, but in doing so I hope others are inspired to implement a healthy lifestyle. It can be done. I am living proof of that.
It might sound simple, but I exercise to relieve stress, maintain a healthy weight and because I enjoy it. I get to combine two of my passions depending on my workout…...reading and listening to music!
I like a variety of workouts. Over the past few years, I have accumulated several different workouts and accompanying equipment I can use in my living room. A few examples are cardio kickboxing, Pilates, toning ball, balance ball, yoga, and riding the stationary bike while reading. I have nicknamed it my “Book & Bike” workout. It allows me to take any class, at any time, without leaving the comfort of my own home.
Walking is one of my favorite workouts. Living in NYS, we have a short amount of time with warm weather. I take full advantage of it. There is a route I take that is almost entirely uphill. I sometimes do half the route (about 30 minutes) and other times the entire route (about 60 minutes). I immensely enjoy the time to myself. Listening to music and cutting myself off from social media, it is a great time to reflect, recharge and relax.
I also enjoy the freedom to work out when I want and not be locked into a schedule as I might be if I joined a gym. My favorite time to work out is between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM, which is impossible during the school year. On the other hand, it is ideal for the summer and when we have time off. During the school year there are times I wake up at 4:30 AM to get a workout in or wait until after work in the evening. It has been a challenge for me to find a balance between fitness and my professional life during the school year. It is a work in progress.
The most important element for me in my routine is that there is no routine. The only requirements I put on myself is to try and integrate abs and arms with my lower body workouts. In addition, I aim to work out at least 4 times weekly. I mark a calendar with an “X” to keep track of my progress. Some people might need more structure, however it is a system that meets my needs and works for me.
Unfortunately, I have always been somewhat of a picky eater. In my twenties, I started developing debilitating migraines. When I was living on my own again, I cut many foods out of my diet to see if I could find a source. Since then, I eat very plainly and drink mainly water. As a result, my migraines have essentially disappeared. The only beverages I consume on a daily basis are water (a lot of water) and coffee. In addition, I have started eating smaller portions throughout the day. I have always been more of a “snacker” than wanting to sit down for large meals. I eat foods like carrots, almonds, yogurt, bananas, oatmeal, cheese, protein bars, salads, etc. Since I do eat such a limited variety of foods, I have been attempting to incorporate more protein in my diet with smoothies. I use cranberry juice, orange juice, strawberries, ice and a protein powder. Eating a balanced diet is extremely challenging for me. I am getting better with some support from my amazing PLN!
Students are the reason I do what I do. The more balanced I am, and the healthier I feel, the better I am as a teacher. When I am well rested, healthy and fit, I have more energy, am more focused and can put 100% into my instruction every day. My energy level is mirrored by my students. The more engaged I am, the more engaged they are. I am also a role model for my students to find a healthy balance between their academics, social and athletic lives.
I find it incredibly motivating to have a “check-in buddy”. Whether you check in about workouts, diet or just to encourage each other. It can be via twitter, voxer, text, etc. Whatever works for you, but don’t feel you have to do it alone. I have found great support through the #fitnessedu team. I highly recommend finding a support of your own.
I just love the simple Nike quote of, “Just do it.” Whatever it is, whatever your passion, whatever your reasons…...just do it. Do it for you and nobody else. I highly recommend the book "Shoe Dog" by Phil Knightly. The memoir tells the story of how Nike started out small and later became a world wide phenomenon. The perseverance, support and innovation of the masterminds behind the popular brand is inspiring. It models collaboration, communication, risk-taking, trust, respect and leadership. It is not just for athletes.
As I think about next year, a combined personal, professional and athletic goal is to maintain balance. I also think that might be my #OneWord. Believe in yourself, imagine the endless possibilities and find a healthy balance in all that you do.
A sincere thank you to @RunnerGirl13_1 for inviting me to tell my story! It was an honor and pleasure writing this.
A big thanks back to Teresa, for opening her heart and her mind with us. Her transformation journey is truly inspiring. As educators, we can’t take lightly the role we play in influencing our students academically, socially, emotionally, and physically. Teresa is a role-model indeed!
As we continue on our own personal fitness journeys, let’s take it from Teresa, and . . .
Marilyn . . .
For more inspiration from Teresa, follow her blog, “Loving Literacy”.
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.