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 ❤
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.