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!

One thing seems perfectly clear!

Hope you like the quick summary!

For the vast majority of us, the school year has ended for 2019/2020.  While it’s impossible to know what experience each individual has had, I feel comfortable saying, “this year has been more stressful, anxiety-filled, and challenging than most of us can ever remember.”  For me, this is year 30 in the field of education! I can’t recall a time frame when so many questions have remained unanswered.  Three consistent ones that I’ve thought about and heard from others are:

  1. When is it appropriate for children to go back to school?  
  2. What kind of grading policies work best?  
  3. How can we make learning equitable for all kids? 

Even with all of those challenges, we often miss that one thing that seems perfectly clear: The Power and Necessity of Building Relationships with Students!

When I was in high school, and even in college, there were only a few meaningful connections that I made with teachers.  Luckily though, those relationships shaped my view of why creating lasting memories for students is so important.  I recall, Mrs. Gold, my college Calculus professor, making learning interesting, fun, and I dare say, inspiring. But even more importantly, she truly loved her job!  No matter what obstacles she faced, (I was part of many of them), she always smiled, showed patience, and was able to laugh when so many other teachers would have never understood the fact that we were still adolescents.  Watching her and other outstanding educators teach, helped me to see the value in building those connections with students. I’m sure many of you feel the same.  We realize the true benefits of connecting with children and teens.

Of course, the drumbeat of how do you measure those positive relationships?  How can you apply data to something as simple as a greeting in the morning? What measuring stick do we use for watching our students laugh and smile is always present. Even though it may be hard to quantify in data terms, it doesn’t have to be!  You see, all the studies that are being done about kids being away from school are showing the deep value of relationships with their teachers.  Here is a great example!

Being with our students, whether virtually or in-person helps to create those lasting memories that are often spoken about when seniors graduate.   Even with that knowledge, we must build social, emotional, and physical skills that we know are imperative for EVERY student.  Covid-19 has helped us realize, and not take for granted the true value of being connected with our students.  No matter what situation we get sent our way when school starts, we need to think about ways we can help our students to love the school experience. While there are many factors that can contribute to this, here are three things that can ensure we all flourish.

First, we have to make those connections no matter what the situation.  Sure it will be harder to make this happen if we are in a virtual setting.  But it isn’t impossible.  Using technology has allowed us to see and hear students and their families over the internet.  While this may not be an option for every school, even sending letters home with a personal message will make a huge difference.  For educators who can reach out personally, those initial chats will do wonders that go far beyond the short period of time spent.  Again, data has shown how much learning and even wellness is affected by the loss of the teacher and student relationship.

Maybe we are lucky enough to go back to some kind of traditional setting.  If that’s the case, the relationships we form will be a cornerstone to how the year plays out, even if we happen to have a second wave where students are forced to go home.  Once we start to get students comfortable in class, the second step is setting those really high expectations around effort, respect, trust, managing time, and other “soft skills”(never understood that term!) that are tremendously important for the building of a successful school year.  Again, this isn’t unique teaching.  You probably do this already!

As of this writing, many states are seeing another increase in outbreaks of Covid-19. That can’t make any of us feel confident about what the immediate future might hold. This is why the third step will be so critical for students, their families, and any person in an educational setting. It’s simply being consistent, with positive messages of praise, positivity, and sharing a passion for teaching. I’m going to quickly go back to Mrs. Gold’s example. While she was very knowledgeable about her content area, organized, and detailed oriented, what made me and others in her class want to learn was her constant praise when work was done well. She maintained an aura of positivity that made us want to be better!. Finally, and what I consider most important of all, was her passion for teaching never wavered.  Each one of us knew she wanted to be the best educator.  All of us are capable of those same qualities.  Our students and their families are counting on us to bring that positivity, passion, praise, excitement, and enthusiasm to school.  I believe we can do it together!

Craig Shapiro

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