Fitting in Fitness

An educator lives by the clock during the school day. We have a set schedule of classes, duties, meetings, answering parent phone calls and emails, lesson planning, grading and anything else that comes up. Normally, our day starts very early, leaving little time for morning workouts and by the end of the day (many of which include coaching and/or activities sponsor duties ), a jaunt to the gym sounds like a major endeavor. Sitting down to grade sounds more likely.  Add to the mix the traditional, high carb, processed food menu still offered at most schools, and one can see how it can be difficult for teachers to stay physically fit.

Teachers like to set positive examples for students, and we teach the student much more than we teach the content. There can be, however, many roadblocks to teachers’ achieving a sense of balance in their professional and personal lives, and it’s unfortunate that fitness can easily take a backseat.

I completely empathize with and understand these frustrations. I’ve been a full-time high school English teacher for the past twenty years, juggling parent responsibilities, advanced degree study and extra professional duties with my own personal goals.  But as a fitness enthusiast for most of my life, I’ve utilized tried and true tricks to stay in shape even during the most stressful days of the school year. And I can’t wait to share specific ways I do that!

I emphatically believe that anyone can achieve the fitness goal he or she wants to achieve –  however difficult – with some earnest discipline … and that discipline does not have to radically change one’s lifestyle. It will take work but there are some simple daily foundations one can start to incorporate:

Teacher Tips for Being Fit ~

1. Schedule time for exercise. Teachers love to plan ahead and work by schedules so why not write your workouts within weekly schedules?! Make it an integral, non-negotiable part of the day. Scheduling 30 minutes of exercise in for three – four days a week is doable for anyone. Work it into that part of your day that works best for you:

Before School Option:
Wake up a half hour early, or even 15 minutes early. Whether it’s performing basic body movement (crunches, push ups, bodyweight squats, simple stretches) or partaking in a morning jog, you will be more wide awake and ready to take on whatever unfolds during the day.

During School Option:
If there is a faculty gym available during the day, why not use a free period in the middle of the day for some movement? Don’t feel comfortable working out at school? No worries. Walk around the building during a free period OR find an empty classroom and complete a 10 – 15 minute workout (specific workouts for these coming!).

After School Option:
Go to the gym directly after leaving the building or get work done and then GO. I personally like to get my grading done before I go to the gym so that my mind is free but there’s something also to be said for heading to the gym right after work, leaving the evening free to schedule it the way we wish with family and friends. Experiment and see which works for you.

2. Incorporate more movement during the school day.  Studies show that incorporating short bouts of exercise throughout the day offers the same health benefits as one consecutive workout. Take the stairs more often, go talk to colleagues across the building rather than sending an email and sneak in a single exercise (such as calf raises) while standing behind your desk or waiting in the copy room. Movement encourages thought, and these bouts of exercise can spur problem-solving or generate new ideas in between class periods (more single-sneak exercises in a future post).

3. Keep workout gear nearby. Behavioral triggers make exercise more automatic. How about a set of dumbells under your bed? An exercise ball set next to your desk? Disc sliders under the table? No weights; no worries … use whatever is available to add weight to a movement. One of my favorite no-weight exercises is a set of tricep dips using whatever table is nearby.  Also, always have an extra gym bag in the car. This is key to get to the gym when one finds oneself with precious free time. (recommendations on favorite workout gear coming soon!)

4. Focus on legs (if possible). Legs require greater muscle recruitment and energy burn. You’ll get more bang for your buck, if you will. My morning exercise routine always includes squats and lunges (future post!)

5. Stay positive!!!  – This is above all else! Don’t think of working out as a chore or punishment.  Play upbeat music, click on a favorite podcast or turn on the t.v. Grab a friend and workout together when you can. The more you make time for fitness, the more it will become an integral part of your day that you won’t want to miss.

When you’re busy and stressed, will power may be low. But trying just a couple of simple fitness tips can make all the difference. The number one anti-age method is exercise. Regardless if you are 22 or 62, always active or usually sedentary, it’s never too late to benefit from incorporating simple physical activity into your day. You’ll feel better and be more productive, guaranteed!!