Wow, we’re on to week three in our #WhyIExercise summer series. This week’s spotlight educator has a true transformational story, epitomizes the word grit, and leads both his family and school with passion and pizzazz. It’s a privilege to introduce Matthew Arend. Matt was born in Pierre, South Dakota and was raised in Ankeny, Iowa. Matt says he, “Made it to Texas as quickly as I could.” Side note - my parents and siblings are from Texas, so I completely get it. As my mom says, “Once a Texan, always a Texan.” Matt received his Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Peru State College in Peru, Nebraska and his Master’s of Education from University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. Currently, Matt is the principal at Sigler Elementary in Plano, Texas. On Twitter, you can follow the @SiglerStars and Matt @matthew_arend.
Without further ado, let’s hear from Matt.
I have always been active playing sports as a kid including high school and college. It was in high school I discovered the deep relationships that can be developed through playing team sports and having to count on your teammates to achieve greatness. Clearly, there are parallels in my job today as a principal and the relationships developed with our staff (aka the team). After winning the high school football state championship as a senior in the state of Iowa, I continued playing football in college receiving a scholarship from Peru State College. College football allowed me to continue to develop relationships, focus on teamwork and taught me lessons in grit and perseverance. I had to overcome a foot surgery, broken leg, and knee injuries over my college football career, but learned valuable life lessons about myself through the process and came out stronger as a competitor and more importantly as a person. As an offensive lineman in high school and college, maintaining strength and weight was just part of life. At my heaviest, I weighed in a 280 lbs. After my last game, I knew life as a football player was over and so was weighing nearly 300 lbs. It was then that I took up running. I started with 5Ks which led to 10Ks and half marathons then ultimately marathons. 80lbs later I have over a dozen marathons under my belt and have successfully completed one (sprint) triathlon. While weights are still a part of my workout regimen, the heavy weight lifting from the football years are waaaay behind me.
Exercising is part of life. For some it is something they must do and for others it is something they choose to do. For me...I would say it is both. In a weird way, I like the way my muscles feel after putting them through a grueling workout or how I feel waking up the next morning after attempting a workout I have not tried before.
My trips to the gym include my son who I am growing as a future #fitleader. As a principal, I model the balance I want my teachers to have, but as a father, I model the lifestyle I would want my son to have. I want him to enjoy going to the gym, being fit, and balanced. I cannot think of a better way to model that than having him be a part of the journey.
If those two reasons are not reasons enough for #whyIexcercise, the last is easy. I never want to weigh 280lbs again….ever!
I am one month into training for the Marine Corp. Marathon that will be in Washington DC in October, so my regime is running, running, and running some more. When I am not running, I count on the support of the #fitleader family to serve up some motivating workout routines and some #WODs. While there are some great CrossFit workouts to complete, I was in Florida last December and cooked up my own #WOD which I titled the “Texas 50”. All together it is a 5 mile run, but at each ¼ mile you do 50 reps of an exercise. I have substituted a variety of exercises depending upon the tools at my disposal, but I would love to see you give the “Texas 50” a try.
As the saying goes, abs are not created in the gym. Abs are created in the kitchen so food and diet is important. My wife plays an important role in supporting my fitness and takes great care of our family in the kitchen. We regularly use JuicePlus which encourages our clean eating. A smoothie for breakfast, a clean lunch, and a clean dinner help the body metabolize the healthy foods and keep the unhealthy foods at arms length. Once every two months or so, we will participate in a 10 day cleanse removing the following from our diet completely:
No food after 6PM
Exercise also provides the balance I need to be a #fitleader. I love being a principal and I only know one gear. I go hard. Knowing I go hard, I need to find an outlet that allows me to reflect, recharge, and be ready to go the next day. Exercise is my outlet. Whether it is a run to clear my head or a WOD to blow off some steam, I know I will find my center, be a better leader the next day, and model the #fitleader mindset and lifestyle for the teachers and community I serve.
“Sleep when you’re dead.” My grandpa used to share this quote with me when I was in high school and college and the message he was getting me to understand was “seize the day”. Yes, #fitleaders must rest, but there is a difference between rest/recovery and being lazy. “Ain’t no one got time for that.” I go hard, play hard, and push my body to it’s limit. Call me crazy.
Personal: Being a principal can be a demanding job. Personally, I strive to find a balance between being a husband, father, and principal and in that order. Easier said than done, but that is the goal. My family comes first and I need to remind myself of that often. (Sometimes they remind me too!)
Professional: Be the best principal I can be. I will not be a principal for the rest of my life, as I do want to move up the professional ladder, sharing my gifts and experiences, but until then...I want to grow #SiglerNation and share just how amazing our teachers, students, and school community is.
Athletic: Each marathon I run I set out to PR. My previous best is 3:19, so when I hit the streets of DC in October, the goal is to improve. When I am not running, it is to keep a healthy baseline and push myself, introducing workouts I have not completed before.
Grow - I am entering my 7th year at Sigler Elementary and we are ready to take off! Our theme for the upcoming year is #SiglerNation and it is taking the voices of our students and staff and putting them out there for others to connect with, learn from, and grow with us. We hope you join our efforts and connect with #SiglerNation.
A teacher who will be joining #SiglerNation next year shared with quote with me and I believe it fits each of us, regardless of our journey. “Go where you’re sent, stay where you’re put, give all you’ve got.”
For those reading who are new to the #WhyIExercise or the #Fitleaders movement...you are at a starting point. Put one foot in front of the other and take the next step. Some days it is a big one, some days it may be smaller but always keep moving forward.
I’d like to extend a sincere thank you to Matt for sharing his fitness and educational journeys with us. I’ve been a fan of Matt’s for about two years now. He keeps me motivated athletically and fills my Twitter feed with exceptional educational blogs and articles.
Matt’s one word, grow, is one that we can all latch on to. We can grow as role-models in our homes, we can grow as influencers in our classrooms and schools, and we can grow as athletes in our gyms, courts, tracks, or garages. I challenge you to be inspired by Matt and choose one area where you would like to grow. Follow us on the #FitnessEdu and #FitLeaders hashtags to share your journey.
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.