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
Coming soon, #WhyIExercise: School Year Edition. During the 2018-2019 school year, two educators will be spotlighted each month. Come back at the end of August to read about the fitness journey of two inspiring educators. Subscribe to our mailing list in the right side bar. Get ready to be motivated!
#MuchLove . . . Marilyn
Welcome to our final #WhyIExercise post for the summer series. It’s been a fun summer sharing! Please join me in welcoming our guest blogger, Aubrey Yeh. Aubrey is an Educational Technology Specialist in the Boulder Valley School District, in Boulder, Colorado. She been a 1st-12th grade orchestra teacher and 3rd-6th grade science teacher as well as summer school principal. Additionally, she is a Google certified educator and trainer. She earned her Bachelor’s in Music Education from University of Colorado - Boulder and Master’s in Educational Leadership from University of Northern Colorado. It’s an honor to share Aubrey’s journey. She can be found on Twitter @Ms_A_Yeh.
Let’s hear from Aubrey.
Growing up, my dad made sure my siblings and I were exposed to all kinds of sports. I played a bit of softball, but really settled in with soccer. It became a family affair - over the years, my dad coached all three of the kids in the family, so weeknights and weekends were full of getting us to different practices, games, and tournaments! I stopped playing my freshman year of high school to focus on music, but continued to follow and help out with my brother and sister’s teams.
For years after this, I didn’t really have any kind of fitness routine. At all. College was busy, practicing violin and being involved in my church ate up my time, and it didn’t get any better when I started teaching. Every summer, I would try to get into running (anything that was FREE sounded right up my alley!), but it wouldn’t take long for my allergies & asthma to catch up to me, and I would end up feeling completely sick for the whole day. I also tried a few different things during the school year, such as joining an indoor soccer team with friends, but I seemed to develop a talent for spraining my ankles, knocking me out for several weeks at a time. Needless to say, none of these routines ever lasted.
In the spring of 2015, I traveled to Kenya with a friend as a part of QJoy International for a few weeks to work with students with disabilities. This friend had a great fitness routine, and despite being in a different country, she was faithful in doing FitnessBlender videos. She finally convinced me to try one with her, and after we got home, I continued to look these videos up! I appreciated being able to complete them in the privacy of my own home and pause when I needed to slow my breathing down or take my inhaler.
That summer, I decided I needed to find something that would work. I swallowed my distaste of paying a rec center fee and started swimming. To my surprise and delight, it actually helped my allergies & asthma, and I felt better on the days I swam (a stark contrast from my running experiment)! That was the beginning of me keeping up a consistent routine. At first, I thought I would only keep it up during the summer, but three years later, I am still going strong!
Last year, when I moved from the classroom to a position that includes more time in the office, I decided to try running again. To my surprise, I had grown stronger, so it did not trigger my asthma and I actually started looking forward to it! I credit my success both the strength I gained from swimming and the fact that I learned how to breathe and pace myself better.
Honestly, when I started, it was mostly about losing weight and being healthy. While those reasons are still relevant, I find that it is more about doing something for me these days. As educators, we spend so much time pouring out to other people, and not enough time recharging ourselves! Exercising gives me the time to let my mind wander, and it often ends up being the best processing time I have!
My routine is to swim a mile three days per week, run 3-4 miles two days per week, and do some kind of strength training one day per week. I probably get at least five out of the six days in most weeks! I also enjoy going on random walks & hikes with friends when I get the chance.
Disclaimer: I am slow. I know I could work to improve my speed, but it’s really more about getting out there for me! I am a very goal-oriented person, and it’s somewhat freeing to not have hard-and-fast time goals for my exercise, but just to get out and do it!
This is one area I really should be better about - my commitment to eat healthy does not match my commitment to exercising, especially when ice cream is involved ;-).
I do find that, since I exercise before work, I am usually starving throughout the morning! This has caused me to shift my eating habits to a bigger breakfast & snacks before lunch, and fairly small dinners.
Exercising is a great way to start my day, even if it does mean waking up insanely early (my co-workers cringe at my 4am wake-up time). It gives me energy and allows me to start the day with a clear mind!
My team enjoys getting out on little walks during the day, but I find that I still crave more movement because I am not bouncing around my classroom all day!
Personal: One of my personal goals has been to be more honest with myself, as well as others. I have a hard time saying no, but I want to be more sensitive to where I am and when I need to take a break.
Professional: My team is making some changes to spend less time in the office and more time in schools. My goal is to really collaborate with teachers and spend good time with students!
Athletic: I have been thinking about doing some kind of a timed race in the future - I’ve never done one before! This might be a 5K, a swim & stride event, or a sprint triathlon!
I’d like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Aubrey for sharing her journey. Her focus on recharging, taking time for yourself, and being honest with yourself really resonate. As we embark on our new school year, let’s take Aubrey’s advice. Self-care and balance are just as important as the physical components of being fit. Thank you, Aubrey, for sharing and closing out our #WhyIExercise summer. You are a tremendous inspiration.
Be on the lookout for a new #WhyIExercise school year edition starting in September. Subscribe to the blog via email from the side bar subscription box. If you are interested in being a guest contributor, please fill out this interest form.
#MuchLove . . . Marilyn
Welcome back to #WhyIExercise. We hope you’re having a fantastic summer. It’s an honor to spotlight this week’s guest, Joe Young, from Mountain View, California. It's exciting to announce that Joe is starting his first year as an elementary school principal. He previously taught fifth, second, and first grades and was an instructional coach. Joe received his B.S. in Human Development from UC Davis, Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from UC Davis, Administrative Credential from the Santa Clara County Office of Education, and Masters of Science in Applied School Leadership from National University. Follow Joe on Twitter @Jyoung1219.
Without further ado, let’s hear from Joe.
Handball, jump rope, basketball, baseball, track and field, more basketball, swimming, tennis gold, racquetball, rock climbing, snowboarding, cycling, surfing, and more have always been active in my life. The list above is what I can remember all the way from handball as in elementary student. It continued to grow as I grew. There’s really nothing I won’t try.
Curiosity, social connections, family, and therapy.
Why do I exercise? Curiosity. I have always wondered, “Can I do it?” whenever I see a sport or fitness routine. That wonder is always followed by interest and action. I have enjoyed every sport or fitness experience I’ve tried.
Why do I exercise? Social Connections. Connecting with others before, during, and after exercising makes the time together extra positive and memorable.
Why do I exercise? Family. As a young child, I witnessed my grandparents’ struggle with diabetes and problems with their body weight. My grandmother passed away because of complications with diabetes. My aunt did as well. My father is pre-diabetic. Family history is one reason I exercise. I exercise so I don’t repeat my family’s history. I also exercise so I can live for MY family.
Why do I exercise? Therapy. I’ve been saying that running helps me process my day. When I run in the evening, I take that time to reflect on the day, filter the noise of the day, and clear my head. Running, for me, is like therapy.
My fitness regime consists of healthy living, running, and more running. Healthy living to me is first in my list because it compasses more than just fitness. It includes eating habits, constant reflection, breathing, mindfulness, and letting go of trivial things. Often it’s the small things that become big in my mind that takes over my life, so many parts of my life. That’s when running comes in. Running helps me filter the day. It helps me reflect on the day, process things, share them with my wife, and let go of the trivial things.
Running is also big in my fitness regime because of the many races I participate in. I used to cycle a lot - competing two century rides (among other shorter distances). I still get on my mountain bike and my road bike at times, but running is definitely a large part of my fitness regime. I’ve done many 5Ks, 10Ks, and 12Ks, 24 half marathons, and 2 full marathons. Some of my favorite races were the runDisney half marathons in Anaheim, the runDisney Star Wars Dark Side half marathon in Florida, the San Francisco Giant Race, the San Francisco Marathon, and the Big Sur International Marathon.
I have never really been a big food person. Specifically, I am not picky with what I eat, I have no food allergies, and I am open to eating pretty much anything. What role does food play in my fitness? It’s the fuel for my fitness and life. That’s all. I try to eat healthy but I also know I don’t always eat healthy. And that’s okay. No matter if I eat healthy or unhealthy, I know it’ll burn away on my next run. I really try to focus on enjoying the foods I eat at the present moment rather than worrying if I’m eating right.
A couple years ago, I had a conversation with a colleague about their #OneWord - balance. She felt down and defeated from the start of the year with her #OneWord. After listening and learning about her perspective, I realized she saw balance as a noun, a destination. For her, it was a single state of being, that she would arrive at that balance she was seeking. Balance for me is a verb, a process. In our conversation, I shared that perspective with her. Some days it will be easy to eat healthy, exercise, get enough sleep, … and other days it will be harder. The good news is that tomorrow is a brand new day and it’s another day to focus on the verb, to focus on balancing. From our conversation, she felt at ease with her #OneWord and the daily process of balancing. From our conversation, I was reminded that some days I will eat healthy and some days I will not. Tomorrow is a new day.
As a self proclaimed data junkie, I use a Fitbit Zip and my AppleWatch to keep track of my steps, minutes of activity, and more. I appreciate the notifications from my AppleWatch to stand up when it senses that I’ve been sedentary for too long. I appreciate being able to look at my Fitbit Zip to see how many steps I’ve taken. The data of the steps and the awareness to keep moving helped me when I was a classroom teacher. It motivated me to move around the classroom, engage in one on one conferences with my students around the entire room, and participate in the PE exercises with my students. When I transitioned to an instructional coach, getting steps on my Fitbit and AppleWatch was easier since I was going to many classrooms throughout the day supporting teachers and their students. As I transition to being an elementary school principal, I know that the data from these devices will definitely help me keep moving and not stay in the office. One of the best things an administrator can do is getting out of their office and going into the classrooms. My focus of hitting my daily step goal will definitely positively help me with this as an administrator.
Just put one foot in front of the other. I, like others, have fallen down and gone through stretches where I don’t work out, don’t focus on my fitness, and stop running. During those times, it is definitely hard to get back to the fitness routines. That small critical voice is definitely there whispering fear, doubt, and disbelief. Can I get back to marathon shape? It’s during those times that I stop and remember I just need to start. I just need to put one foot in front of the other. My marathon shape or any fitness shape didn’t happen with ease. It took hard work and that hard work took place over time. I just need to start with that first step.
Personal: I am looking forward to continuing my running. I currently have 3 half marathons scheduled for the Fall, with 2 on back-to-back weekends.
Professional: It is an absolute privilege and pleasure being an elementary school principal and I know that my goal for this school year is to be a servant-leader for the students, teachers, staff, and community.
Athletic: I am pretty sure this athletic goal isn’t for 2018-2019 because it will take a lot more training than just one school year, but I would really like to do a triathlon.
A sincere thank you to Joe for sharing his journey. It’s apparent that Joe’s dedication to fitness, family, and hard work have made him the athlete that he is. Joe’s running accomplishments and medal collection are an indicator of his passion and perseverance. It’s going to be exciting watching Joe take on his new role . . . principal! What a JOY and pleasure to hear your story, Joe! Your humility and desire to be a servant-leader are characteristics we all strive for. Thank you for being a role-model and inspiration.
#MuchLove . . . Marilyn
Welcome back to #WhyIExercise. We hope you’re loving the summer series. Please welcome Ashley Garden to the tribe. Ashley hails from Atlanta, Georgia. She is the Dean of Students at Woodland Middle School. Ashley’s education includes: B. S. Middle Grades Education - Georgia Southern University, M. S. Education - Walden University, and Ed. S. Educational Leadership - Kennesaw State University. You’re going to enjoy the journey of this life-long learner. Ashley can be found on Twitter @msgarden_edu.
Let’s hear from Ashley!
Even though most people don’t believe me from my height, body build and structure, exercise has not always been a part of my life. I have always been a bookworm and enjoyed learning, I was far from being an athlete or exerciser as a child. Even though I was not an athlete growing up, my family, especially my mom, did encourage healthy eating habits throughout my childhood and upbringing.
I’ve been on my exercise journey for about 15 years. As a young adult in college, to prevent gaining additional weight after the “Freshman 15”, which I gained every pound and probably more, I focused on working out by incorporating more cardio into my daily routine. Whether it was was working out at the local campus gym, walking everywhere on campus, or taking additional steps, I made a point to start getting active as I was getting older. About 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. I really wasn’t surprised by the diagnosis, because its genetic and I also have other health factors that affect it. I was determined to beat this diagnosis and hopefully prevent other medical issues, especially since I’m single and hope to get married and start a family someday, so I made a point to really take control of my health, focus on my fitness regime, and monitoring my diet.
Prior to a recent car accident (May 2018), I was very active with my workouts, including HIIT training, weight training, and/or cardio 4 to 5 times a week, in addition to averaging 50 thousand plus steps a week just walking and constantly moving at work. My #fitcrew is what helps me make it through tough workouts and keeps me accountable throughout the week to meet my #fitgoals! Since my car accident, I haven’t been cleared to workout yet, so I have focused on stretching and adding yoga to recover from my injuries.
Food Regime: My food regime and diet is fairly simple. Like I said earlier, as a child I was always influenced to make good food choices and eat healthy. My mom always encouraged me to eat vegetables with every meal, especially green veggies and to always be mindful of starches, potatoes, rice, etc. Even though I had this healthy start as a child, I still can improve my discipline with my diet. I LOVE to eat and I don’t restrict anything, I just make sure that I eat in moderation. I eat and drink what I enjoy, whether it’s meats, a vast amount of veggies, dairy, and sweets, it doesn't matter . . . just in moderation. Since being diagnosed with high-blood pressure, I do make a point to drink a lot of water (about 100 ounces per day), read nutritional labels, and monitor my sodium intake. You can learn so much about what you eat just from reading nutritional labels.
Supplements: I take a daily multivitamin and I add ground flaxseed to a lot of meals and drinks for heart health and omega-3s. I occasionally use protein powder in post-workout or meal-replacement smoothies.
Fitness makes me a better educator and life-long learner. I feel better and hopefully from my lifestyle, encourage others (students and colleagues) to eat and live better. For the past 10 years, I have had the privilege to not only live in the South Fulton county area, but it’s an extra special experience that I get to also work in the same area where I grew up. I am a proud product of Fulton County Schools, Westlake High School (Atlanta, GA) class of 2000 and it just feels amazing everyday to serve students that were just like me. (The AVID program really works!) I grew up in a single parent, low-income household, but I defeated the odds that were stacked against me. I share this to say, that I hope and aspire to be a physical example to my students (through my personal perseverance, determination, and lifestyle) that despite the odds, anything they strive for is possible.
Personal: My car accident has opened my eyes and increased my faith in ways I have never imagined, and I’ve realized that life is too short not to experience every aspect of it. As a lover of food, travel, and life, my personal goal is to continue to try new restaurants and food, continue to travel the world to get more stamps in my passport, and experience what life has to offer through various experiences! I want to be the very best person I can be!
Professional: My professional goal is to continue to grow into a better educational leader. And to continue to learn more regarding effective instructional practices and school culture. I’m currently reading “Get Better Faster” by Paul Banbrick-Santoyo, to learn more about how to effectively coach and encourage teachers at my school to grow in their own professional practices to make an impact in their classrooms through instruction and climate.
Athletic: My athletic goals are to continue to get stronger and push my body through continuing to be active. I also aspire to run a 5k, so speaking and publishing this goal should help me stay accountable.
I want to give a #ShoutOut to my mom, who I feel will ALWAYS be my biggest personal and professional supporter and cheerleader. She is my rock and I appreciate her, not only as a parent, but as my friend! My #FitTribe Uche Ngoddy, Amaka Ngoddy, Chi Chi Ngoddy, Chi Chi Ezekwueche, Tomeka Ford, Rita Madden, and Ijeoma Ibezue. Also, to my professional #FitCrew #WMSFitFam Jason Stamper, C. Hankerson, Nardos Ghebreab, Carla Austin, Michael Chapple, Chanel Johnson, Elva Ratchford, and the #FitnessEDU crew. Without this AMAZING group of fitness gurus, fit leaders, and fit family, I would not have made the fitness gains and improvements that I have.
I’d like to offer a sincere thank you to Ashley for sharing her journey. I love her transformation from bookworm to athlete. She truly embodies the scholar athlete and the motto of AVID - Advancement via Individual Determination. May we all be models to our students both academically and physically like Ashley does. Thank you, Ashley, for putting your heart and soul in all that you do!
#MuchLove . . . Marilyn
Welcome back to #WhyIExercise! I absolutely adore this week’s guest blogger. Please welcome, Leticia Skae-Jackson. Leticia is a literacy coach in Nashville, Tennessee. She received her master’s degree from Vanderbilt University and is currently pursuing her doctorate degree and will graduate in the summer of 2019. Leticia is a phenomenal educator, health and fitness inspiration, and mother.
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.