Be Up for the challenge

It’s the middle/end of July, and many schools are starting to release their plans for the re-opening of schools. To say this is stressful would be to significantly underestimate the huge burden Covid-19 has placed on millions of people. Personally, I realize that no matter how we return to school, it won’t be perfect. It can’t be! There are too many unknowns that can’t be predicted. We can be sure of one thing, though. Our students and their families will need us when school starts.

Just about any person who I speak with is nervous about the future state of education. That’s normal considering the circumstances. Who wouldn’t be scared and even a little tentative, (okay, a lot tentative) about returning. With that said, I’m hoping that all of us are up for educating students. While I don’t have nearly all the answers, and others will offer other suggestions, I’m hoping that what is mentioned below can ease a bit of the anxiety.

Let’s make an honest effort to connect with our kids. Whether it’s virtual, in a traditional fashion, or in some kind of hybrid model, building those connections will reduce stress, ease the strain of starting the year, and even improve our mood. There isn’t enough space in this post to cover all the hundreds of ideas to promote relationships. But the simple act of introducing yourself and telling kids how excited you are to be back is a great start. No matter the setting, building those initial connections with students will be huge, and even necessary. Little things, like learning names, telling personal stories, and just daily hellos, will go a long way in transitioning into the year.

As a parent of two older teens, I’ve long appreciated when teachers have kept me in the loop about their progress. Anyone in education knows how important it is to connect with the parents/guardians of students. Still, today it takes on a special significance since so many unknowns will be happening. Letting parents/guardians know that you care, are here for their children, and will ALWAYS be supportive, may allow those who are scared of bringing their kids back to school to feel just a little better and more comfortable. Phone calls, emails, letters, and even videos if you enjoy doing them are great ideas. Personally, a phone call home is best, but I realize that it isn’t always possible.

Along with those relationships that we’ll be building, our conscious effort to have patience, persistence, empathy, and caring sets the tone for each day. Students will sense our willingness to make a difference when our personal side shows through. Realizing that all of us are unique to education, the easiest ways I’ve found to establish the four traits from above are merely modeling them.

Patience isn’t even a suggestion for these times. If you’re like me, you already saw in the Spring that lacking any patience will be a recipe for disaster. Just by taking a brief step back and recognizing the situation will help us understand the value in being patient. Going right along with patience is that fine line between hassling kids and showing a certain level of positive persistence. I found that if I wasn’t continually promoting students to work hard and stay determined, many would stop! The keywords, though, are “positive” and “promoting.” As a teacher of older students, hassling them, especially when we couldn’t see each other, would be a zero-sum game of frustration. Again, being persistent tells and shows parents and students that you care.

I’m guessing that many of you had similar situations, where you heard about Covid’s impact on students and their families during the Spring. It’s heartbreaking to listen to the stories that have affected so many families. Our ability to empathize can be the difference between students making it through these challenges and just giving up. When we show empathy towards our students, they will also be able to understand the difficulties we are having. It may not seem possible for younger people to show those types of emotions, but in different times, it’s incredible the kindness that you’ll see even in the most budding minds.

Lastly, and most important of all, is just being a caring person. Along with the other three areas, showing a caring attitude will enable and maybe even give hope to those who need it most. Remember, as we help our students and parents, they will reciprocate in kind. Thanks for all you do each day for students and their families. Have a wonderful day!

Exercise: Learning to love it Part one

Key Tips That We All Can Use

Truth be told, I’ve been exercising seriously since the age of 13, or 42 years! During that time, I’ve probably never taken off for more than a month or two. That’s not meant to brag, but to make an essential point. It’s because exercise is something that I’ve learned to love! Whether running, biking, racquetball, lifting weights, or playing sports, I’ve experimented with many forms of movement. Some have stuck, like, strength training, biking, and running. Others have gone by the wayside.  

Based on my practice training students and adults, it’s my experience that many people just getting started with exercise, and even those more experienced individuals need help developing a passion of exercise. This isn’t any major revelation since many of you know this already. My hope is that the five brief tips below can help you find your fitness mojo! More will follow in another post.

  1. Many people start doing too much exercise, too quickly. They go from never working out, to training seven days a week. Then the dreaded soreness hits you like a ton of bricks! This may be common sense to some, but it really is critical to understanding exercise. Your body must have time to adjust when you begin any exercise routine. This is especially the case when you’ve done nothing for in the past. Yes, much of this depends on the intensity, the training, your body, and a variety of other factors. But please, avoid starting out too quickly.
  2. Just the opposite of the above tip; please try to exercise more than one day per week. You can read thousands of journals, articles, and books. You can watch hundreds of videos. The responses to how many days a week will vary so much that it’s confusing to know the answer. My response to how many days isn’t about an exact number, because there can’t be one. Anyone who gives you an exact number, find another person to take advice from. As a general guide, three to four days is a high starting point. This allows for time off but still gets you in the routine of training. Sure, you can do more if you’re loving it. But again, follow rule one!
  3. Exercise should not be just about one body part! It’s always driven me crazy when somebody says, “I’m training biceps today!” Really, your biceps are a tiny muscle. There is absolutely nothing wrong with training biceps, as long as there are other muscles involved. Yes, sometimes bodybuilders will say, “I do biceps, back, and shoulders today!” That’s different. I’m speaking in general terms. Focus on whole-body strength and conditioning exercises, sports, hobbies and anything that works a large part of your frame. I won’t cover the actual movements yet, that’s for another post.
  4. Find a partner, or even better, a group to exercise with. Exercise can be challenging when you get started or even when you get hooked. Peloton as a great example of the benefits of social interaction. Just one caveat. Make sure your goals are your goals, and not somebody else’s. All of us are unique. It’s fine to follow the lead of those you admire. But again, know your body! Which is number five!
  5. Know your body! I’ve learned through many years, how my body adapts to all kinds of exercise. This is paramount for a successful lifetime of wellness. For example, if you start running and have pain all the time; either stop running, see a professional running coach, or find something else. Please keep in mind how every type of movement makes your body feel. If you finish a workout and hated it, are constantly really sore, you might want to consider another option. Finding something you love is so important.
  6. Lastly, please do the following: Ask for help, listen to experts, be open to change, have fun, and enjoy making exericse part of your life!

Thanks so much for reading this post! I genuinely hope it’s been beneficial. Exercise is universally proven to improve mood, confidence, and how we feel. Give it a try!  

The Positivity of wellness

3 things – Proud, Feeling Great, Being a Doer

Wellness, by its very nature, is an extensive-term.  It’s not uncommon for many people to think of wellness only in the context of how we look or feel.  That’s unfortunate since it is much more about a holistic (whole body and mind) approach to being your best. In an earlier post, the “four steps to wellness,” I mentioned exercise, nutrition, rest, and the emotional component. To be clear, those four are not the only areas related to a wellness continuum. Experts will often write and speak about spiritual, financial, environment, intellectual, etc. 

My focus, mainly because of my profession as an educator and trainer, is solely on exercise, nutrition, rest, and emotional wellness.  Training, food, and rest will usually be under the umbrella of “physical” wellness.  I see them as unique parts of that umbrella, not just one single component.  You’ll understand why, after reading my short personal exercise story.  

Because of how exercise influenced some of my younger years, I’m going to cover “the positivity of wellness,” which often falls under the emotional classification.

People can have high levels of physical (exercise) wellness but not be well!  I know this because I’ve lived it and watched many others do the same.  When I was younger, in my 20’s, I became hooked on bodybuilding.  I wouldn’t say it completely overwhelmed my life, but by easily spending 5-6 hours a day in the gym training, it seems clear now that it wasn’t healthy for my emotional and even physical state.   While I saw gains in my physique, they came at the expense of other parts of my life.  More specifically, how much time I spent with others, being stressed when gains didn’t come as quickly as I would have liked, and usually comparing myself to others, which is rarely a good thing.  Even with the benefits I saw, I wasn’t satisfied, so I’d always be changing diets, training plans, and rest schedules.  Anything to get better!  While a few worked, I learned some valuable lessons on how to see wellness in a different light.

In my opinion, being positive about our emotional wellness is the most critical step in developing a holistic approach to how we look, feel, act, and live our lives.  Yes, that seems like a stretch!  But after covering some key points, hopefully, you’ll see how meaningful it is to create that positivity in your life.  Here is also a quick read on “How to Improve Your Mindset For Wellness”

👍 We all have moments that make us proud.  The issue is our willingness and comfort level in admitting it.  Whether speaking with teens or adults, I’ve often heard,  “Shap, there aren’t many things that I’m proud of!”  Of course, after a brief chat, just about all of them realize that’s not true. Honestly, I’ve never met a person who doesn’t have at least one part of their life that hasn’t given them some sense of positive well being. Unfortunately, it’s normal to look at moments that don’t go well and dwell on them.  Maybe it’s because those events are unusual compared to the sense of normalcy that we generally have.  What’s important, though, is realizing that it’s a much better solution to focus on those happy times that inspire us, give us joy, connect us with others than to let negativity fester.  My experience has taught me that the easiest way to make this happen is simply by taking a few seconds to think about each situation and where we want to place our energy.  The best example is flipping out when somebody cuts you off in traffic!  A few weeks ago, I had that happen and was about to say something but then realized, what’s the point of getting upset?  They are driving away, and I’d be throwing a temper tantrum! Instead, I took a breath and remembered it’s a “little thing” that I can’t turn into a big thing.

👍 The second part of wellness relates to how you feel about yourself.  I do an activity where students have to rank their self-esteem and self-worth on a scale of 1-10.  It’s anonymous, but the results are always alarming.  Most students are in the 3-6 range.  You might think that it would be different for adults.  It’s not in my experience.  When I spent significant amounts of time training others, those same results would often come to the forefront.  Just as in finding that proud moment, a great way to start feeling good about who we are is to find time to build strong relationships, hobbies, exercise, or anything that makes us feel better.  The beautiful thing about doing this exercise is you can then carry it over into other things that you may not have thought of before.  Let’s face it; we have times where we feel doubt.  That’s human nature.  But we also have many experiences that we should cherish and realize how special we are.  Another personal example; I never really started to write until about five years ago.  Now I can’t imagine not doing it!  I’m still not where I want to be, but at least I’m writing!

👍Be a doer, not a dreamer!  So often people mention how they want to improve their mind or body.  A few days or weeks later, we will follow-up and reflect on what’s happened.  I’ll often hear, “Craig, I was going to get started, but something came up!” That usually brings a chuckle, followed by a frown.  Very simply, emotional wellness or any wellness for that matter has to start with you doing something to make you feel better about you!  It’s finding a new hobby, making new friends, getting rid of so-called friends, or any other positive inducing ideas.  For example, the simple act of going for a walk can be an incredible physical and emotional wellness booster.  

Even though developing wellness habits will vary significantly from person to person, there isn’t a magic formula.  Every tip, idea, book, or video will give guidance that can be helpful.  This writing is no different.  But for a positive wellness habit to grow, YOU need to start building it.  I encourage each person to begin with a simple goal and allow it to flourish.  Remember to ask for help, be patient, be persistent, look for the positives, and be kind to yourself.  Doing that will make a massive difference in your wellness gains.  I hope you enjoy this and other posts.  The next writing will deal with exercise!  Have a beautiful day!