Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year: New Challenge with Fit42

I tried to walk away when I saw a tweet about the new Fit42 challenge offered up by a fellow educator who has created a friendly fitness challenge. Why did I want to avoid this wonderful opportunity to be accountable to myself and my goals? Three words: fear of failure.

I have been a recovering perfectionist for most of my adult life, and the fear of failing weighs heavily on me. ( no pun intended!) I obsess when I know the number on that evil little device, the scale, and I lose many hours in thoughts related to that ridiculous number and what it says about me.  Now don't get me wrong: I realize that weight is important to health. But the number doesn't tell the entire story. And, for that reason, I decided that this challenge provided me the perfect opportunity to let me set goals that were not based on weight alone.

What I love about the Fit42 challenge is that everyone shares their story, their goal, and their plan. The forums provide a place to ask questions, offer support, and feel validated and empowered to stick to your plan. Of course, I just joined yesterday, so the trick will be: How do I keep up my activity and my community involvement once school is back in session? I will make it a routine to check in each morning and each evening to keep a record of my progress.

So, I offer you the challenge as well, if you haven't already taken it! If you decide not to do the Fit42, then how will you surround yourself with others who will help you reach your goals? Will you keep up the #temt tweets? Will you contribute to this blog as a writer? Please share how you plan to meet your goals of health and fitness for 2011.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Not me...

This wasn’t supposed to happen to me…
Two weeks ago tonight I went into the hospital because I was having chest pains – it turns out I had a heart attack. Let me back up a minute before I go on…

All my life I have struggled with my weight – it is truly has a yo-yo effect. People find comfort in many things, I find comfort in food. Being single, cooking has never been a fun thing to do, so eating out has been a common practice for me – often drive thru food. I have been on every diet you can think of and am even a Lifetime Weight Watchers member (you wouldn’t believe this looking at me).

The next thing that has been a struggle for me is exercising. While many people love to exercise, I can think of many other things I would rather do than exercise. I have tried many different forms of exercise, and really haven’t found my niche. I joined #temt with the hope it would inspire me to workout more. It did in the start, but like in the past, it worked for a bit and then there were many things “ that got in the way” of me having the time to exercise.

All of this has not made me the most healthy person. Looking back there were many warning signs that I wasn’t feeling well, but ignored them or really didn’t notice them because feeling crappy was my norm. I never thought at 43 yr. old I would be having a heart attack.

Like I said, I went in 2 weeks ago today, I think I actually had the heart attack on Monday. I didn’t feel well, had chest pains – but I knew I had a lot going on that week and I needed to push through and keep going (BIG MISTAKE). So I continued to work, presented at a school board mtg., traveled 5 hrs. south to a site visit to Van Meter, Iowa. When we got back from Iowa, I was still having pains, but I didn’t go in until I opened this picture from my niece thanking me for taking to Berenstain Bears the Musical(picture above) – it was then that I knew I needed to go in because there were 7 children (my nieces and nephews) who I want to be there for in the future. So I called my sister…

To make a long story short – I had 3 blocked arteries – one 100% blocked and two 70% blocked. I had 2 stents put in, a three night hospital stay and some big lifestyle changes ahead. The result: I am feeling awesome, but have a long road ahead. I have a new heart healthy diet, am going to cardio rehab two days a week and have many dr. appointments ahead.

What do I want from the #temt?
1. Get an annual physical – I had not been to the dr. in years, this could have been prevented.
2. Please share any heart healthy (low fat, low sodium) recipes and/or websites – especially small portion recipes.
3. Continue to share and support each other in exercise – I really don’t want this to happen to anyone else:)

This has been a bump in the road for me, but nothing I can’t handle – especially with the support of others.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

8 Small Changes = Big Wins, Over Time! - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

When the summer was beginning to wind down, I knew that keeping up my workout routine was going to pose a challenge. I know I am not alone with this sentiment.  That was one of the reasons that we started TEMT: to keep up our motivation and encourage each other to find the time and ways to take care of ourselves!
Here are 8 small changes I am trying to make in my daily practice so that I don't lose my focus on staying healthy! They may not be new ideas for you, but putting them down here means I will remember to practice them. Feel free to add yours in the comment section as well!
  • Take the steps At my school, there is a very nice long staircase that separates the lower part of the school from the upper part. Since I get to school early, I have the perfect opportunity to "run" the steps a few times to get my heartbeat going. This is, of course, not a substitute for a session of "cardio" but over time, it adds up to increased minutes of active movement. 
  • 30 minutes is enough time to squeeze in some exercise I have always seemed to maintain this all or nothing approach to working out. If I don't have more than 30 minutes I often say, "I didn't have enough time to exercise today." I must fight this false notion!  I am vowing here and now to take 30 minutes of my lunch time at least twice per week to walk with a friend. It may not provide the "all sweaty" feeling of an intense workout, but it will help to maintain my fitness level.
  • Lift some weights I keep a pair of dumbbells under my desk and try to use them at least 3 mornings per week when I arrive at school. I can squeeze in sets of exercises to work out my biceps, triceps, chest and shoulders. 
  • Keep a bag in the car Sometimes one of my tutoring students will cancel, or I have a 30 minute period I can take to go for a run before getting in my car for the commute home. If I have the bag ready, I can find a place to change and de-stress with a run after a busy day.
  • Have healthy snacks handy  I don't know about you, but when I don't plan ahead with some healthy snacks, I am much more apt to grab something in the staff room. Fortunately, there are often healthy fruit or veggie snacks there, but I try to be prepared. When I take the time to nurture myself with healthy snacks, I am much more inclined to exercise as well.
  • Include the workout on that to-do list When I see it written there, the intention becomes more of a reality.
  • Set reasonable goals If you promise that you will work out 5-7 days per week, but have only been able to achieve a goal of 3-4, why not shoot for a slightly longer or more challenging workout? Make sure your goals are achievable and won't lead you to abandoning them altogether.
  • Be kind to yourself and don't compare to others!  I'm not sure how this one applies to others, but I know that I am my own worst enemy at times. I need to focus on encouraging myself, not criticizing or comparing myself to someone training for a marathon. When I meet a goal, I need to acknowledge myself for the achievement!
What has helped you achieve your fitness goals? Care to share your challenges and successes?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Beating "That Guy"

I would love to be the bigger man and tell you the main reason I love to run in all of the 5K’s, 10K’s, and Half-Marathons is for the physical exercise, the camaraderie of my fellow runners, and the donation I get to make to charity. Those may all be true statements about some of the reasons I love to run in these races. However, the honest truth is that I’m still an overly-competitive guy who craves a challenge.
I can honestly say that I have no hope of winning any of these races, and very few times have I even placed in my age-bracket. But there is still one thing I can count on doing at any race I run…

I have to beat that guy.

Now, that guy can come in many shapes, forms, and sizes but he’s always there at the starting line of every race I run. (In fact, according to my wife, that guy can even come in the form of that girl…but I digress.) I’ve learned over this past year of “competitive” running that in order to challenge myself, I have to find someone at the starting line who I have to beat.
One race it might be the slightly older gentleman who is wearing the way-too-short running shorts in some form of neon color. I’ll see him and immediately think…

I have to beat that guy.

Another race, he will take the form of the guy who is doing far more stretches than any other runner. Seriously, do you really need to stretch out every individual toe? Sure enough…
I have to beat that guy.

In yet a different race, he will appear (sometimes in a group) wearing a costume or ridiculous outfit. I may not be the swiftest of foot, but there is no way I’m getting beat by a dude wearing a Batman costume….

I have to beat that guy.

One more common form he can take is the look-like-I’m-running-a-triathalon-when-it’s-only-a-5K guy. This is the guy that shows up for your local charity 5K with every contraption you can buy from the nearest running store. He’s loaded up with far more than your normal headphones and running watch. He’s also got a brace for every joint on his lower-body. To complete the look, he’s got the utility belt complete with two bottles of water (hey, it’s only 3.1 miles and there are like 3 aid stations on the course) and enough snacks to feed a boy scout troop on a 4-day hike. You know where I’m going…

I have to beat that guy.

This past Sunday at my most recent 10K, he took the form of the loud, obnoxious, random-conversation-starter. To make matters worse, he managed to start every sentence with “Dude,…” You’ve probably met this guy. He walks up to complete strangers at the starting line and, instead of starting a casual conversation, begins to immediately invade your personal space. “Dude, this race is going to be awesome.” “Dude, the hills on this course are going kick our a**.” “Dude, last race I hauled a** to place 3rd in my age bracket.” “Dude, what’s your age? Just checking to see if you’re my competition, dude.” At this point, the only thought running through my mind was Dude, I’m about to take my bib number off my shirt and shove it down your throat. Oh, and…

I have to beat that guy.

Sure enough, my sole focus became making sure I finished ahead of that guy. Of course, he took off way too fast with the lead pack and I was able to pass him even before the 2-mile marker. That gave me a lot of satisfaction until I realized I needed to find more motivation to get through the next 4.2 miles.

Maybe the rest of you runners out there can tell me if I'm just that shallow of a person to pick out someone at the start of every race to try to beat. Maybe it's just me, I don't know. I just find that if I can get my juices flowing at the start of each race, I can channel some of that competitive spirit I've had my whole life.

And if you happen to be at the starting line at my next race and you're wearing shorts a little too short, stretching a little too much, wearing a costume or saying "Dude,.." a lot, you might notice me giving you a little stare down. It's nothing personal, but just know...
I have to beat that guy.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fitting it All in!

It's been awhile since I have posted here and I've been feeling a little guilty about falling off the #temt wagon. I had anxiously predicted that the beginning of school would be a challenge for me with my longer commute, tutoring job and learning all of the ins and outs of being at a new school in a new grade. Overall, I haven't failed miserably, but I have only been averaging 2-3 workouts per week over the past few weeks, compared to 5-6 during the summer.

I know that many of us on #temt work in education and sometimes we can get caught up in an "all or nothing" thinking about exercise. If we don't have at least an hour to devote to a run or walk or gym workout then we decide it's not going to happen. What if we arrived at a solution that was "in-between?" Here are a few examples:
  • Each morning( or at least 3-4 of the days) when I arrive at school, I grab my hand weights as I put my things down on my desk. I do this before anything else!  I do sets of bicep curls, tricep exercises, squats and lunges. This entire process takes 10-15 minutes and I can feel my heart warming up and my muscles awakening.
  • After a meeting sometimes is the worst time to drive home since it's right at the beginning of rush hour. What  if I take 30-40 minutes to do an exercise video in my classroom? All I really need to do is keep a pair of workout shoes and clothes at school for those occasions. Can I do this? Yes! Have I done it yet? No, but I promise to try it out this week!
  • Although I only have 40 minutes for lunch, I could try at least 1-2 days per week to take a walk for 30 minutes. I know it would clear my head and feel great, yet I have not done this yet. I think I will invite the teacher next door to join me. Our school is on beautiful grounds and I can enjoy and get some exercise. 
  • One place where I tutor on Mondays is surrounded by great hills where I could walk and run for 30 minutes after the session. I tried this right before school started and it was awesome to miss a bit of the traffic and go home feeling more relaxed. 
In listing these options, I feel much better about my commitment to exercise and keeping it up during the school year. What kinds of solutions are helping you stay firmly connected to taking care of yourself? Thanks in advance for sharing!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Right for me

Sunrise in St. Pete. Photo credit M.Simmons(For those of you who have ever looked into astrology…my birthday is on the cusp between Leo and Virgo, so I've always said that I had the best of both signs…but that was the Leo talking. Well, this summer my “Leo” started talking suddenly…)

I used to be active in sports and dance in high school and afterward for several years. But, when teaching really took over my life, regular exercise went out the door. I have two young kids and I really want to stay healthy for them and be a good role model. The only exercise I had done in years is yoga. After talking to some friends who run and bike and reading all the temt posts about running, I thought, “I can do that.” Maybe that would be a good change for me. I have always had that type of personality that thinks I can achieve anything if I put my mind to it. I am invincible!

So I started interval running with a friend every other day. Why wasn’t I improving? “Oh, It’s the humidity." “Maybe I just didn’t get enough sleep.“ ”I just need music for motivation.” ”It will get better soon.” After only 7 running days and 2 weeks of feeling horrible, I finally listened to my body and stopped. I was about to collapse. I was so fatigued I got winded for extended periods of time just walking up the stairs. I went to the doctor and we are currently trying to figure out the reason for the fatigue.

Thanks to some “temt”ers out there, I started reading more about walking vs. running. It reminded me that I don’t have to do what everyone else does, I don’t have to run long distances to improve my health or my life. Maybe I've just never been meant for running. I can be invincible in my own way. So, after 2 weeks of no exercise, trying to regroup, I tried walking and yoga.

You know what? I felt just as good about myself for getting out there and had energy the rest of the day. I'm honoring my body and am doing what is right for me.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Focus on Your Breath

No matter where you are and what you're doing, if you are reading this blog, you are doing what keeps you alive, and may just be the key to unlocking your healthy self: You're breathing.

In and out.

In and out.

In and out.

How often do you really tune in to your inhalations and exhalations?

Try this simple exercise a few times:

Inhale for six seconds, hold for two seconds, exhale for six seconds, and hold for two seconds. Feeling more balanced? What does this do for you?

For me, breathing steadies my body and mind. In my yoga practice, I try to match each breath with a movement or a pose. When I walk or jog, my breath is part of a machine in motion.

Your breath is always there for you, a friend.

Thanks Joan and #temt for helping me out this summer. As the school year starts, I'll be sure to check in with all of you. My back-to-school tip for the day should come as no surprise: Focus on your breathing!


Monday, August 16, 2010

Make Time for You!

I just need to say a simple, yet heartfelt THANK YOU to #temt and all the wonderful people who are posting... you are really keeping me motivated!

From success stories to mutual fall backs to inspiring words that keep me going.

"Honor Your Body," posted Linda.

"Do what you love," implied Make a commitment to yourself."

And that's all just this month!

So I would like to add my line to these: Make time for you!

It's ok to do this and it is not selfish. I'm learning as I get older that I need to take care of myself before I can be the best I can be for others. I need to think of exercise like brushing my teeth: necessary for overall health.

No longer can I put it off because I need to wash a few more dishes, type one more email, sleep one more hour, make a deadline - I am my own deadline! And I need to make time. I owe it to myself.

Just Doing It

I've had a pretty rough weekend, so the last thing I wanted to do was any kind of exercise. I typically do a work out video every day which is a mixture of cardio and weight lifting, but I couldn't get myself to do it. We had family coming over, the house was a disaster, and, in all honesty, I preferred to stay in bed and watch old "Friends" episodes in my blissfully dark bedroom. However, I don't do well if I sit around all day. To me, sitting around and watching the grass grow is a completely wasted day. I'm not sure if this is a testament to how I was raised or if this is just a personality trait of mine. Either way, it seems nearly impossible for me to relax according to the average Joe's standards.

To me, it can be relaxing to have a completely spontaneous day. When I don't know what is going to happen, it excites me and I feel like I'm on vacation (even when I'm less than a mile from home!). I love to be outside, to have picnics, to take my dog on walks, or to go for long bike rides and hikes. To me, that feels more relaxing than the cliche of "laying around eating bon-bons."

So what's my point? Well, after feeling fairly useless on Friday and Saturday due to my lack of exercise and addiction to Matthew Perry's witty banter as Chandler Bing, a friend of mine, Leisa, suggested that we take a nice long walk on Sunday morning on the Los Gatos Creek Trail. I had never done that walk, so I agreed. We planned to leave at 9 in the morning, so I attempted to go to bed early. I didn't really succeed and, in fact, wound up waking up at 5:00 and couldn't get back to sleep. I was pooped by the time Leisa let me know she was outside and ready to roll. How was I going to get through this?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the area, you can access the Los Gatos Creek trail from many different points. We chose to start in Campbell and hiked all the way to downtown Los Gatos. Round trip, that is approximately 10 miles. Yikes. Couldn't I just stay home and watch one more episode of "Friends" instead?

I have to say that walking that trail was the best thing I could have done all week. I decided to wear ankle weights (don't ask me why) for the first 5 miles and then removed them for the walk back. The ankle weights added more intensity to my walk, but I didn't feel that they were entirely necessary. All I knew was that I felt completely relaxed and comfortable walking with a good friend and getting my daily dose of exercise. When Leisa and I arrived in Los Gatos, we stopped for a light breakfast (yogurt and fruit for me and an egg, tomato, and avacado breakfast sandwich for her) to get our energy up for the walk back to the car.

After an obviously comatose start to my weekend, I think I was the most relaxed on the trail. I felt invigorated afterward and my muscles were screaming for more. I guess the point of posting this entry is to let everyone know how easy it is to fall into a sedentary routine. I am known as the "exercise nazi" and I still have trouble motivating myself to get moving sometimes. If you feel like you're having a similar problem, exercise in a way that doesn't feel like work. Your exercise routine doesn't have to feel forced. Find something that not only gets you moving, but that also relaxes you. Walks, hikes, bike rides, yoga, and dance classes are my "relaxation exercises." What are yours?

On Exercise Hiatus

This is the Holy month of Ramadan and I am fasting. From 6:20am to 7:40pm, I will not drink or eat anything. The first couple of days were rough for me because I have not fasted in the last 5 years. But this year I was moved to do so, and I am feeling like I made the right decision. Each time a voice has told me to drink or eat something, Al-Hamdulillah, I resisted. Hopefully, this Ramadan will mark a re-commitment to my faith and to me being a better person.


Friday, August 13, 2010

What Can Be Done About Childhood Obesity?

The Twitter Exercise and Motivation Team is a fantastic resource that combines a dedicated blog and the clever use of the hashtag #temt to motivate hundreds of tweeps into getting fit and living healthier lives! I have been encouraged by the collaboration and kind words of support from team members, inspiring blogs, links to useful resources, and insightful tips such as this tweet from @cybraryman1: "Keep motivated to exercise by setting realistic goals & keeping an exercise journal #temt Make time to exercise in your busy schedules". BTW, you can keep track of the #temt exchange and some interesting statistics at the What Hashtag address: .

As I read another of many disheartening articles on obesity, I thought how educators in the TEMT team could extend its collaborative model by taking steps to reduce childhood obesity through programs in schools. There is an abundance of information on obesity. For example, a Google exact search for "Obesity in America" for the past week brought up 14,300 results. The most significant findings on adult obesity were recently reported by the CDC. In brief the number of obese adults living in the United States increased by 2.4 millions in just two years (2007 to 2009) and in nine states more than 30% are obese. Flip through the pages of this Slideshare slideshow to see how the trend rapidly increased the past 25 years and in particular the increase from 5 to 9 states with rates greater than 30% for the past reporting year (2008 - 2009). The original PowerPoint is located at the CDC U.S. Obesity Trends page.

The news is even grimmer for children as described on the page Childhood Overweight and Obesity. All statistics stand out but perhaps this one is the most telling: "one study found that approximately 80% of children who were overweight at aged 10-15 years were obese adults at age 25 years".

So as educators and collaborators what can we do? What have some of us already accomplished in our schools or communities? One start is to share resources, ideas on how to get started, and stories of success (present or pending). I thought about steps such as having students create a healthy eating wiki as part of a class or school project. Students could learn much from such a project: collaboration to build something really useful that they can take pride and ownership in, the value of nutrition, comparing good and bad calories, family history (recipes), skills in technology (learning how to contribute to a Wiki, add comments, insert links and photos), and so on.

There is a lot of movement in taking steps to reduce the prevalence of obesity, which is encouraging. At the same time the trend is still upward and reversing it will take considerable patience and persistence. The section What Can Be Done lists educational resources for community, schools, and self: food and nutrition, physical activity, technology, success stories, and activities that provide opportunities to raise student awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle and empower them to to integrate physical activity as as a way of life.



Squeezing in the TIme!

AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Robbert van der Steeg

As I wrote the title of this post, I inevitably had the image of me squeezing into my clothes if I don't squeeze in the time for exercise during the school year. It seems that every summer I get myself much more active, develop a routine of running or other exercise, although this summer, thanks to "TEMT" I have really reached a new level of personal commitment to getting fit and staying that way!

Now comes the dilemma, and I hear it echoed throughout the team. How will we keep up our commitment, devoting the time to exercise when we are pulled in so many directions? Now I must admit that writing this makes me feel a bit of a fraud, as last year, I did not keep up my promise to myself. I exercised sometimes on weekends, but overall, with working 2 jobs, commuting to work I did not find the time. I am proclaiming, right here, right now, that I will do it this year! It may not be the 5 or 6 times a week I have been exercising this summer, but here are some ways I will keep up with 3 -4 days per week and incorporate more activity in my life in general.
  • I will keep weights at school and do sets in the morning when I arrive. Bicep curls, tricep presses, squats and other exercises can be quick and easy. You can ramp it up by using heavy books as well!
  • I will intentionally park a bit farther away from my building.
  • I will join the kids in movement breaks often!
  • I will plan ahead for breaks in my day. I tutor as well as teach and when I get finished working by 5:30 or 6:00 there is no reason why I can't change clothes and shoes and go for a run before my hour long commute.
  • I will commit to exercise during the week at least 2 times on weekdays and both weekend days. Making a reasonable expectation will ensure that I don't give up. 
  • I will use the tv/dvd player in my classroom to do a short exercise routine before hopping in the car to go tutor. I must choose carefully so I don't get too sweaty, as we don't have shower facilities at my school.
  • I will ask the staff at my new school if anyone wants to commit to running with me after school one afternoon per week! 
As you can see, there are many ways to get creative and move around. For many of you serious runners, my ideas may not be enough. I already get up early (5:30 a.m.) so I know that running at 4:30 a.m. and being on the road by 6:00 a.m.  probably isn't a goal I would stick to. For me, making reasonable initial goals will ensure success and allow me to still try to "squeeze in" the time whenever I can.

What will you do to squeeze in the exercise time?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Battle of the Bulge

Yeah. This is me.

Well, not technically me, because this picture is not of my abdomen, but I can identify with it.





A food-fueled love machine.

Call it what you will, we all know what it really is.

Fat. Fatty, fat, fatty.

I didn't used to be like this.

Actually, that's not true completely true.

The year I turned 35, I was anticipating the birth of my second son. I was over 200lbs, and felt old. I had a 3-year-old and didn't feel like I could keep up with him, activity-wise. I'd start to sweat if I pushed my son on the swings for 5 minutes. This was not the way I wanted to live, so I went to my local gym and talked to a trainer. I started working out with him, eating better, and losing weight.

By the time my second son was a year old, I'd dropped nearly 50 lbs and begun training for marathons. Eventually I completed 2 full marathons, several half marathons, and countless 5- and 10-K races. I was never an age-group contender, but was happy in my middle-0f-the-pack finishes. No matter where I finished, I was proud of my accomplishments. I looked at myself as a runner. As an athlete.

Fast forward a few years- stress from the job, the ravages of age and gravity have reduced my once-impressive physique to that of a stereotypical middle-aged man. (I can't help but think of the Mike Myers skits on SNL). I find myself once again north of 200, eating poorly and spending too much time sitting on my rear end.

But that ends now.

It's not easy to start working out again, but then again, very little worth doing is easy. It's tough to have to walk before you've finished jogging a slow mile when you used to be able to run 10 miles without a break. It's tough to find yourself gasping for breath after 5 minutes of activity when, not long ago, you could work out for an hour easily.

Tough, but it has to happen.

Fitness is a journey, not a destination.

It's been a little over a week, and I can feel my endurance returning. I'm more careful about what I eat, and feel better in general. The tricky part will be maintaining this progress once I return to work (that's another issue entirely!), but I'm confident I can.

Besides, I owe it to myself and my family.

(Cross-posted at; photo from

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Joy of Walking

Greetings all! I would like to share with you my personal experiences in walking for exercise and good health, enjoyment, and the thrill of accomplishment. The beauty of walking to stay fit and feel better is that most anyone can participate and the goals you set are your own.

About 6 or 7 years ago my doctor warned me of my increasing weight (borderline obese), family risk factor of heart disease, and a dangerously high cholesterol ratio (HDL to LDL). He prescribed Lipitor to manage the HDL cholesterol level but recommended regular exercise and diet to manage the other factors. That was the challenge - playing competitive basketball anymore was not an option because of repaired cartilage and aging joints, especially the knees. And I don't use treadmills in large part because I work long hours underground and can't bear the thought of missing any daylight that is left.

That is when I started walking as a serious form of exercise but it was slow going at first. The first year I walked 1 to 1.5 miles two or three times weekly from April through most of November. As I experimented with different footwear (sneaks, socks, blister protectors & so on) and improved my conditioning, I gradually increased each summer my 2-3 times weekly walks: 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, and now 9 or 10 miles. Twice each summer I walk a 25-mile round trip on the beautiful Catherine Valley Trail in New York state, which runs from Millport to Watkins Glen. The results - weight down, cholesterol ratio now way below normal, breathing has improved (less issues with asthma) and I feel more energetic.

Aside from the enjoyment of meeting people and being outdoors, walking has many health benefits, not all so obvious. The biggest disadvantage of walking compared to running is the extra time required and patience is important - results do not happen overnight. So walking is not for all of us, but if other exercise options are not available or you are struggling to meet more ambitious goals, then consider a long, steady path towards walking.


  • Manage cholesterol - extended walking will raise your LDL cholesterol but it is gradual and requires extended, regular exercise.
  • Weight control - Walking can help you lose weight but it must be done regularly and you should improve your diet at the same time.
  • Opportunities to reflect - walking can be boring for some but take advantage to reflect. Some of your most creative thinking may emerge. You may even want to take with you a voice recorder so you can capture some of your most inspiring reflections. And it's okay if people think you are talking to yourself!
  • Listen to podcasts and audiobooks, although do be careful of your surroundings. I mix days with podcasts and music or nothing at all.
  • Find where your local nature trails are and take advantage of them.
  • Take photographs and share with others
  • Walking can be social - walk with your spouse, friends, family, and neighbors
  • You can compete in walkathons for good causes and raise money.
  • Manage stress - when you improve your health and sense of well-being, then stress will naturally decrease as well.
  • There is less wear and tear on the joints. The shock factor of a runner's step is 3-4 times a person's weight but walking is usually only 1 to 1.5. Sports such as basketball and tennis can reach a SF of 6 or 7.
  • Manage asthma - Many folks with asthma report fewer attacks when they exercise regularly and I can attest to that personally. At the end of long walks I enter a "zone" in which there is no effects of asthma - exhilarating! (however, like death and taxes, it does come back.)
  • Burning calories. There is no question that running burns more calories during the same amount of time - more bang for your buck. However, many of us do not run really fast and all of us could improve our walking speed over time. For example, if you walk for 30 minutes at 4 miles per hour you will burn 165 calories. Running 5 miles during the same amount of time burns 285 calories.
  • Blood pressure - A study shows that 40 minutes of brisk walking (3 or 4 mph) will reduce blood pressure and this article explains why it works.


  • Most Americans walk less than 6,000 steps per day and many much less than that. I have known of office managers who always work at their desk and can not manage more than 3,000 steps in one day. Get up from your desk often and take short walking breaks.
  • Purchase a pedometer and start calculating how much you walk. Then set goals to realistically increase your average steps per day. The recommended average is 10,000 daily steps.
  • Establish a walking route and schedule regular times to achieve your goal no matter how modest it may be.
  • Finally, I recommend purchasing quality footwear (personally I have had great luck with Nike Air Monarch) and to make sure you have plenty of toe room!


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Chasing the Morning Sun

As I write this on Sunday morning, I am enjoying my last day off for the next 4 months. Football practice starts tomorrow and school resumes shortly after. That means something school related every day until Thanksgiving (yes, even every Sat and Sun).
My challenge becomes, how do I continue the running schedule I've so diligently stuck to this summer? After reading Joe Stahl's post yesterday called "School, Fitness, How Do I manage..." it got me thinking about how much I'm going to have to re-prioritize my life to keep it up. But, you know what, my health and fitness is worth that effort.
What I've determined is that the best time for me is going to be early, and I mean early (4:30 am) to get my running in. While that thought may terrify some people, I've always kind of been a morning person anyway so it won't be that much of an adjustment.
While it's highly debatable and definitely doesn't fit everyone's schedule, I also believe that doing my cardio before I eat my first meal of the day, helps me stay in better shape.
Here an excerpt from Should You Do Cardio First Thing in the Morning Before Eating by Tom Venuto,
"The argument in favor of fasted early morning cardio goes something like this:
1. When you wake up in the morning after an overnight 8-12 hour fast, your body’s stores of glycogen are somewhat depleted. Doing cardio in this state causes your body to mobilize more fat because of the unavailability of glycogen.

2. Eating causes a release of insulin. Insulin interferes with the mobilization of body fat. Less insulin is present in the morning; therefore, more body fat is burned when cardio is done in the morning.

3. There is less carbohydrate (glucose) "floating around" in the bloodstream when you wake up after an overnight fast. With less glucose available, you will burn more fat.

4. If you eat immediately before a workout, you have to burn off what you just ate first before tapping into stored body fat (and insulin is elevated after a meal.)

5. When you do cardio in the morning, your metabolism stays elevated for a period of time after the workout is over. If you do cardio in the evening, you burn calories during the session so you definitely benefit from it, but you fail to take advantage of the "afterburn" effect because your metabolic rate drops dramatically as soon as you go to sleep.

Research supports this theory. A study performed at Kansas State University and published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise showed that a kilogram of fat is burned sooner when exercise is done in the fasted state in the morning than when it’s done later in the day." (

One of the other benefits for me is that I really love the tranquil, quiet, and usually much cooler conditions of a morning run. There is just something very therapeutic for me about running before the sun, and the rest of the world, gets up.

Trust me, there will be plenty of groans from me when that alarms beeps at 4:30 am tomorrow but hopefully I can force myself out of bed by remembering how important my morning runs are to me.


Run by Sunrise by Leefotos'

Resolutions in August

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Vasilis, a veritable runner/writer/astronomer, was wondering in Facebook whether we can still make resolutions in July or do we have to wait until next January. Well, since everyone told him that it’s not too early, or too late, I just thought that my new resolution is to exercise more this school year, that is about to begin. The last two Januarys (or Januaries?) what I was hoping for was to travel more and get better at my job. I think it’s time to add the fitness part.
The last four weeks, since we all started this blog and this group, have been good. I kept going for my work out three times a week. I even went for running while I was holidaying in Rhodes (and why not? The conditions were ideal). But now that September approaches, I’m not sure I will be able to keep up with my promises. That’s why I’m committing myself publicly to this, because if I don’t I will feel even more embarrassed.
I know that exercising regularly is the good thing for me to do. But it’s something I have to persuade myself to do. It doesn’t come naturally. And it’s not in my country’s culture either. Greece, although it is sunny and its climate is mild most of the time, isn’t a country of joggers and runners. Things are changing of course, maybe because we somehow managed to evolve from a country of balanced Mediterranean diet to a country of overweight children.
So this is another post, a bit personal I admit, to just let you know that so far I have gone for running or walking three times a week, with a short break because of serious family problems, but still, I jumped again on the “train” and now I added a routine of ab exercises! I’m counting on you people to pull me up again every time I fall off… Just being here and reading your stories is motivation enough!

P.S. The photograph above is from the ancient stadium in Rhodes, where I went running two weeks ago. It felt like I was taking part in ancient athletic games!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Do What You Love

Recently I made a decision to not play hockey next year as my wife and I are pregnant with twins... a week later, after talking with my wife and reading #temt tweets, I came to my senses and realized the importance not only of physical fitness, but also doing what I love - I reversed my decision and am committed to playing hockey 1-2x week through the year. As a principal and soon to be father, I was concerned, much like all teachers, about time. My plan for next year is to book meetings with me to continue to do my workouts (because I never miss meetings) and also to continue to play hockey. Physical fitness and health are so important and we all know that if I let that go, the dominoes fall and lead to less motivation and more of a challenging time to get going once again.
I LOVE playing hockey... why would I give that up? There are many other less productive things that I can put on the side burner for a while but we always need to make time to do what we love, especially if this involves fitness.

School, Fitness, How Do I Manage...

As school quickly approaches and everyone begins heading back to the kids, some are thinking “how do I manage a fitness regimen with other responsibilities.” First, just remember you have to take time for yourself. This will only allow you to become a “happier” teacher/administrator. This is something I have struggled with each year; however, I have found some things that have worked for me.

1. When changing your lifestyle or changing your routine tell people what you are doing. I would say nine times out of 10 people are very supportive to what you are doing. This will only give you more support and encouragement. In addition, you may find someone who will join you.
2. Schedule time for your workout. My team at school knows that I cannot meet on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings because that is when I go to the gym. If I have to meet I need to know in advance so I can rework my schedule. The first week is hard, but try to get into a routine quickly because once you stop sometimes it hard to get back onto the “train,” however, if you fall off we are all there to pick you up and get you back on. That’s what a team is for!
3. When school begins you may only squeeze in 20 minutes, but just think 20 minutes is better than zero J
4. I prefer to workout in the morning. I will not lie it is hard sometimes to get out of bed, but I enjoy coming home after work and relaxing. Some of my friends are opposite, they like to workout in the afternoon as a stress reliever. When you workout may be due to when you have to report to work.
5. I usually park further away from my building because then I can get a little exercise as I walk to my building.
6. One of my colleagues exercises with her kids. She also uses the time they are at little league practice for a time to walk.
7. Another colleague walks the building right after school and uses the field to help with her exercise routine.
8. Side-note: Don’t forget to bring snacks to have mid-morning and mid-afternoon. The help refuel your body for a workout!
9. If you are a runner or walker look for a local 5k run/walk...they are a lot of fun and you meet some great people who have the same enthusiasm!
10. You have already come this far...keep are inspiring people around the world!

I know there are many other ideas and ways to schedule workouts during our busy schedule! Jerry (@cybraryman) set up a wallwisher to allow us to post ways to workout at the beginning of school . I look forward to reading what other are doing to get into a routine and stay motivated. Just remember…you have to take of yourself first!

Joe (@jrsteach)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Honor Your Body

photo by Mike Baird

In my earlier posts here on the #temt blog, I wrote of my Curves workouts, which I love. It's a great full-body circuit workout for strength and cardio. Earlier this year, my friend added yoga to her running regimen and she really loves it. I decided to check out the yoga studio near my house.

Santosha Yoga is a wonderful studio and I signed up for a package of classes. I've been going to basic classes, but tonight I felt more like yoga than Curves, and Yin was the offering on the schedule this evening.
A softer type of yoga, yin yoga helps stretch the connective tissues of the body. The practice is quiet and passive; it has a quality of stillness. The poses are held for a longer period of time which can be very meditative and calming allowing your awareness and breathe to be directed to a particular part of the body. In the Yin practice we concentrate on keeping your joints mobile and helping regulate the flow of energy in the body. This type of practice is beneficial to all levels. (from the Santosha Yoga website)
Yin has the same instructor I've had for basic, so I felt safe trying it. (hmmm, sounds like a post for my other blog.) The class had a wide variety of women, some of whom have obviously practiced yoga for a long time, as they could practically fold themselves in half! I, on the other hand, not so much! But Jean's constant message: "No judgement. Honor your body, however far it can go today."

So that, friends, is my message to you today. Honor your body. You haven't (insert exercise here) in a while? You did too much yesterday? That's OK. Honor your body and do what you can. You will improve!

'I hope that's not my tummy."

Several years ago, I was conferring with an animated kindergarten student during writing time. He was working on a little alphabet/picture dictionary and was brainstorming "t" words. I pointed at the, rotund......person on the page and jokingly said, "Wow. I hope that isn't my tummy." Without missing a beat he replied, " is....but don't worry, I gave you a big shirt so it won't show."

Don't let this happen to you! Work out. Eat right. Get enough sleep! Enough said.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Running for the Love of It

I have never done anything in a timely manner. My piano lessons began at thirty one and then I found running at thirty two. I enjoyed the piano but there was still something missing so I put away my exercise books decided to try running.
As with most beginning runners I began because of a need to excercise. The first attempt was an almost disaster, I barely made it around the block. Not being one to give up, I began counting the street lights in our neighborhood and everyday I went a little farther. Before long I was running an hour a day. I have never measured miles, only time.
Over the past twenty eight years, I have run in the intense heat of Texas, the icy winds on the island of Adak in the Bering Sea, and in three Honolulu Marathons in my adopted state of Hawaii. Running has helped my through my breast cancer and my husband's illness. It is a time for not only for me to physically exercise my body but also my mind. When I was in the classroom I planned lessons, reviewed student progress, and thought about other ways to improve my classroom. Now that I'm a coordinator I review my schedule, plan inservicing, and think of ways to help my teachers.
Four thirty is fairly early but it works for me. It's quiet and it's just me, my Mizunos and what's ever on my Nano. It's my time to take care of me and I wouldn't miss it.

My Second Love

If you’re like me, your first one is tough to get over, the thought of it makes it tough to get out of bed, and it can keep you from being able to move on to your second. Love? No, I’m talking about miles when I run. Thankfully I convinced my first love to marry me and am still happily married today. But the first mile, that nasty little lady still haunts me every day that I run.

Granted, I’m fairly new to this whole idea of being a serious runner. I was a 5′11 240 lb offensive lineman in high school and that’s the mindset I kept for most of my 20’s. When I hit 3o, I realized that actually translated into a 6′1 230 lb fat tub of goo. Something had to change so I turned to running.
My problem with running, though, was that stinking first mile. I hated it (and still do). The shooting pain in my side, the aches in my knees and ankles, the trouble getting my breathing under control. Seemed like it didn’t matter whether I ran in the morning or evening; whether I stretched before I ran or not; or any other tips or tricks that were out there…I just hated mile one. If every mile was going to feel like this, there was no way I could run a 5K, let alone anything longer. Thankfully, I pushed myself and kept running even though my body and mind were telling me, “Let’s go back to the couch and watch some Seinfeld reruns.” That’s when it happened, I met my second love.

The second mile, she’s a different story. No matter how far I run on a given day, (usually 3-5 miles) I never feel better than I do during that second mile. While mile one is nothing but pain and suffering, mile two makes me feel almost euphoric. My breathing evens out, a good steady stream of sweat begins to pour out of my body, my joints and muscles all loosen up, and my mind begins to get filled with those wonderful little chemicals called endorphins. If I felt as good as I do during mile two, I could be an ultra-marathon runner with no problems. (Sadly, mile one’s cousin, the last mile, is headed my direction but that’s for a different blog).

As I was running the other day (and cursing mile one yet again) it occurred to me that my struggles with mile one and my love of mile two was a great metaphor for many aspects of my life. If many of us had stopped doing something after the first time we tried it, our lives would be very different, and probably much worse.
For example, if I had made up my mind about teaching after my first year, there’s no way I would have stepped foot back into the classroom. That first year in the classroom I spent most of my time about one day ahead of the kids and my classroom management was atrocious. I can remember thinking, “there’s no way I can do this for another 29 years.” The first time most of us got behind the wheel of a car probably wasn’t our finest driving moment. Mine wasn’t and the transmission on my dad’s 1980 Ford truck can vouch for that. Heck, even our first kiss was most likely not a real romantic experience.

But the more I taught, the more I fell in love with the profession and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. The more I drove, the better I got, to the point that my wife only corrects me once or twice every road trip. (love ya, honey) The more I kissed…well, you get where I’m going.
I guess my point is that I’m so glad that I didn’t turn around after mile one that fateful day and discovered how much I love mile two. Just like I’m so glad I stuck it out with many things in my life even though they were difficult at first. Too many people today simply quit things once they get a little bit tough. We are in an “instant gratification” society where if we don’t like, or get, something right now, we’re going to move on to something else. Running has taught me that while I may be also guilty of this at times, the best things in life are best enjoyed after a few trials and tribulations to get there.