Community Post–Finding your Sweaty T-Shirt

Happy National Running Day! 

For this Community Post, I reflect on my personal journey—with fitness, running, teaching, and KidFit.  I love that I get to share this on National #RunningDay since running has played such as transformative and important role in my life.  Enjoy!  

🙂 Maggie

 


 

What is your Sweaty T-Shirt? Helping Students Find Their Way

It was fifth grade and I was going on my first road run.  Coming from a family of runners, this was a big deal.  I could not wait to run like the “big kids.”  It was probably only 2-3 miles, but to me, it was my “marathon”—a huge challenge that I had to work to overcome.   The run was tough, but I pushed through it.  And I was proud.

As we were stretching after the run, my Coach all of a sudden got very serious.

He pointed to his t-shirt and said, “THIS (sweaty t-shirt)…this is what you should look like.  If you don’t have THIS, you can push yourself harder.”

Ever the perfectionist, I looked down and saw (with relief!) that I did, in fact, have a sweaty t-shirt. Mission Accomplished!

At the time, I did not think much of it, but the story has stuck with me.  It was not about being the fastest runner, but rather about trying your best—no matter what.  To my coach, that meant working so hard that you had a sweaty t-shirt—a visible manifestation of hard work, showing that you were on path to reach your personal goals.  

I have never been the fastest, strongest or best when it comes to athletics. In fact, I identify myself as an “athlete by choice—not design.” Despite my lack of natural ability, however, I have always had DRIVE—the guts and grit to never give it, despite any physical/mental challenges that come my way.  Growing up, this meant that I often got the often considered less desirable awards at end-of-season celebrations— “most determined,” “most improved,” “most enthusiastic.”  I was never the MVP, but I took pride in my hard work. 

This mindset has stuck with me.  I remember a moment in my first year of teaching when I had simply had enough.  I was stressed, unpleasant to be around, and generally not happy.  Then, I made the decision to truly prioritize fitness and exercise; at the time, my routine had been spotty at best.  I signed up for my first half marathon, joined a gym, and made exercise/fitness a daily routine.  The change was practically instantaneous.  Once I took care of myself and invited fitness back into my life, I was a transformed person.  I was happier, a better roommate, a better friend, and definitely a better teacher.  I made the choice to be an athlete as an adult and have never looked back.

Despite my own personal revelation with the importance of fitness, I was frustrated with the lack of meaningful opportunities for my students to get active. They had PE once, maybe twice a week for less than an hour, a handful of afterschool athletic opportunities, and very little chances to play outside at home due to unsafe conditions. 

This did not seem fair. 

They were in school for 8 (or more!) hours a day with very little movement.  As an adult, I needed to move around and required exercise before or after work in order to function as a happy, productive person.  Yet my kids did not have this chance.  As a teacher, I tried to incorporate movement into my lessons, but the truth was that I did not have the time to plan anything truly meaningful or purposeful, especially as a young teacher.

So, over time, with students and teachers always at the forefront of my mind, the idea for KidFit emerged.

KidFit Academy works with teachers to provide a program that seamlessly integrates purposeful fitness throughout the school day.  We do this by empowering teachers with the materials and support needed to promote health, enhance academics, and improve classroom culture through purposeful fitness education.

This is not a Band-Aid solution but rather a holistic approach to change what the school day looks like by adding meaningful, strategic activity brain breaks at critical moments throughout the day. Our teachers seamlessly integrate the program so that it becomes an integral part of the school day, not an “extra” that is taken away or skipped when things get busy.  In current and past programs, teachers have seen their students and classrooms truly thrive.  KidFit teaches kids to love fitness and view it simply as a part of their day; it is not about winning or being the best, it is about working hard, setting goals, and having fun! 

Through KidFit, teachers are helping kids find their “sweaty t-shirt”— the manifestation of their hard work, the thing that shows them that they are on the way to achieving their goals.

So, I ask (appropriately on National Running Day), what is your sweaty t-shirt? 

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Why I Run

Yesterday was National Running Day. In order to extend the celebration today, I decided to post an essay that I have been composing, in one way or another, for nearly 20 years.

Whenever I am running, my thoughts run wild.  Sometimes I find that my best thinking comes during my runs.  I actually wish there was a way to write and run at the same time since I find myself, oddly, much more eloquent while running.  Throughout the years, I have composed countless blog posts, essays, and letters in my head while running.  Sadly, however, I rarely take the next step and actually put my thoughts to paper.  So here is my attempt…

I should start by mentioning that I LOVE to run.  Some might even call it an obsession. One of my best friends and marathon training partners and I used to say that we couldn’t wait for “I’m sorry…I can’t…I have to run…” season to begin.  I should also mention that running is really challenging for me. Whenever I start training for a race, I am always surprised at how slow I am—how long it takes to get back into the kind of shape where 10 miles is a “short” run.

No matter what, though, running is there for me. Ever since I can remember, running has been a time for me to decompress and figure things out.

Stressed out at school? Go for a run.

Having friend/relationship issues? Go for a run. 

Big decision looming? Go for a run.

In fact, I highly doubt that I would have made it through my Sophomore year of college—living with 8 of my closest friends (2 others in the same room) in a “quaint” dorm room—without running.  It is my “me” time that I believe everybody needs. I often joke that it is my therapy, but it really is a time to be alone with my thoughts and figure stuff out.

Running is also, as I mentioned, a huge physical and emotional challenge. It does not necessarily come naturally to me (see here) but I can literally see my progress as I continue to train.  Some runs are better than others but I always feel better after a run, even if the pace was much slower than intended or I did not reach the distance I set out to cover.  But it keeps me humble. And grounded.

To me, running is also about family.  My parents walk/run. My sisters run. My brother runs.  My husband runs.  My friends run.  We might all run at different paces and distances, but it is a thread that joins us all. Although running is usually a solo act for me, it is also a great way to catch up with friends or family and explore new (or old) areas.

Basically, I know that no matter where I go or what I do, running will always be a part of my life. So I guess, why I run is because I cannot imagine not running.