|by Hugh MacLeod at Gapingvoid.com|
There are very few days that I feel like I can be everything--a good mother, a good wife, a good daughter, a good sister, a good teacher, a good friend. Add fitness and healthy eating to that list and life often becomes overwhelming. I have been on a quest to learn better balance for years. (In 2007, I committed to "81 Days of Balance".)
It is not an easy thing for teachers and I think sticking to an exercise program or plan is difficult for us because we are teachers. I don't want to imply that it is any harder. I have learned from Another Mother Runner's blog and books that most people are too busy for exercise-especially moms. And somehow people fit it in. I don't want to imply that teachers are busier than other people. I do think however, that teaching has unique challenges that make justifying exercise and sticking with it over time difficult. Our jobs are all consuming at many points during the school year. I know staying healthy and getting fit needs to be a priority for us. But honestly, it is not in my Top 3 priorities no matter how hard I try to force it there. If I had the choice to be fit or to be a good mother. I'd choose good mother. If I had the choice to be fit or a good wife, I'd choose good wife. If I had the choice to be fit or to be a good teacher, I'd choose good teacher. I know deep down that it is possible to be all of these things but in the day-to-day of life a a teacher, it is hard to remember this. It is hard to give ourselves time to take care of ourselves when there are so many others who depend on us. As a teacher, the balance of family and work is a hard one. I miss a lot of my children's events because they are during the school day and teaching does not allow me the luxury to take a late lunch or take a few hours off. And often, those same events are happening in my classroom and I can't often justify leaving students with a sub during these big events. Adding exercise to that balance is even harder.
I guess my point is, there is always something that I could be doing for a family member, a friend, or a student. As teachers, there are always students who we can't stop thinking about, as we try to figure out what to do differently to better support them. And, if I am honest with myself, I think that all-consuming feeling is the one that prevents me from exercising consistently. Even today, on the first day of summer, I am thinking about the books I MUST read because each might be the key to a child's growth as a reader. I am reading for students I have yet to meet because I know from experience that my toolbox must be full before August. And honestly, I LOVE my work as many teachers do. So it is very easy for me to choose work over exercise. And when we do, it seems almost noble because we are doing it for work that matters. We aren't workaholics because of money or promotions. We work hard because of the children in our care. But this really isn't an excuse-we need to fit in exercise no matter what else needs to be done. No matter how important our work is.
When I think about this blog, it is about more than my journey to run. It is really about the constant struggle I have as a teacher to live a healthy lifestyle with the all-consuming work that I love. It is so much easier to see that living a healthy, balanced life is possible during many times during the year. But there are other times when that vision seems like an impossible one. Today is one of the days that it all seems possible. I know during fall parent-conference week, I will not have a minute to myself and I could lose the vision and stop exercising completely. I know this from experience as it has happened many, many times.
I also know how important being healthy is to my life as a teacher. As part of our end-of-the-year tradition at school, a few colleagues and I ate fast food for lunch every day for the last week of school. It is a fun tradition and a fun break in the crazy last days of school, but I quickly remembered how little energy I have in the afternoons when I eat junk at lunch. I have less physical energy and I have less energy to be patient and to give kids what they need.
I also think exercise matters the more I age. Yesterday a first grader was sitting on the floor, sad--having trouble with the idea of the end of the school year. I walked over to see what was up and to chat. As I bent down to chat, I realized that I needed to sit next to this child for the conversation to really matter. But my knees don't make it quite as easy as it used to be. I realized in that moment that I don't get up and down from the floor as often as I used to and that can't possibly get any easier. It isn't that I can't--it is just that I am far less graceful about it that I used to be. I am not quite as flexible. But just the fact that I stopped to decide whether my sitting on the floor was really that important told me something about the importance of exercise.
Our lives as teachers are all about cycles--we work hard and then we crash. We have weeks when we hardly have a minute to do anything but work and other times when we can take a breath. Teachers have no choice but to do this in our work. We start the year off strong knowing that those first six weeks are critical. We put our all into those first 6 weeks and then rest a bit before parent conferences. The cycles of the year are built into our jobs. We have no choice. But do we have to do this in our outside-of-work lives too? That's what I am trying to figure out...how to find balance within these cycles of the school year. My thinking is that summer is just part of this cycle--part of the balance. If I can use the summer to really commit to some healthy routines, I will be more likely to find time to fit those in once the school year gets crazy. And once I get to a certain point, a crazy week shouldn't make a big difference in the big picture.
If you read my last post, you know I've had trouble exercising for the past several weeks. After kind of meeting my 5K goal, I've hit a wall and have had trouble getting moving again. I am not sure if this was because of the running alone as lots of runners experience "Post Race Blues" I guess. But the timing of the race was at about the time that work got to the point that it was all-consuming as I got those end-of-the-year things done. I gave myself an excuse to not-exerise. I didn't have time or energy to focus on a new fitness plan so I've spent the last two weeks being lazy about it. I know better than this, but I did it anyway.
So, on this first day of summer, I am thinking about goals, about balance. How should I spend the summer so that I am energized for the school year? How can I be a good mom, set up my classroom, read all of the books that will help me grow as a teacher, attend workshops, try new healthy recipes for the family AND exercise 5 days a week. I know I can't do it all but I can set myself up to be better balanced and to build in routines to live a healthier lifestyle that includes consistent exercise all year long. It would be easy for me to just hang out, read lots, do fun things with the kids and continue to put my fitness goals last. Honestly, they are the least fun but the ones I know that I can't afford to do without. I know that I have to get to the point that I look forward to my exercise time and that I enjoy finding new recipes. But that won't happen without a commitment to actually make time for these things. And I don't want to repeat past years where I exercised hard in the summer only to quit completely once school took over in the fall.
So, as I mentioned last week, I am committing to Another Mother Runner's June challenge and will exercise 5 times per week. June is about routine. Adding 2 more days of exercise in while keeping with 2-3 days of running will be key for June and that is my goal. I know that in order to do this, I need to eat a good, healthy breakfast and have healthy, energizing food around the house. It is so easy in the summer to stop those routines (like a healthy breakfast) that are so vital during the school year. Small steps but steps that will set me up to continue in August once the school year begins. These are two habits I will work on in June--5 days of exercise and a healthy breakfast most days. And I am hoping to find 2-3 good new recipes that are healthy, yet easy enough to make during the school year. One of my favorite new blogs is Peanut Butter Fingers. Between her blog and Pinterest, I am thinking the recipe piece will be easiest of the 3!
I'll keep you posted!