Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Plan for Maintaining Running/Exercise Through the Fall


I've been slacking, as I am sure you can tell. It's August and I can already see that exercise is getting harder to make time for.  As you know, the life of a teacher is a bit crazy. The cycles are very predictable. There are times when we are so busy working and thinking about working that it is hard to be balanced. Then we seem to get a long weekend here or there or a vacation that we just crash for a few days.  I have talked to lots of my teacher friends who have not exercised as much as usual during these last few weeks of summer. It isn't just me.  And it isn't really about time-I think it is more that our work with children is a job that we think about a LOT--not only when we are at school. So the times when we are overwhelmed and consumed are not necessarily because we are working more physical hours. I think it is more that our brain is constantly thinking about what we can do to make learning better for kids. It is hard to justify exercising when you have a kid whose learning you need to support in better ways.

And the Summer Goals didn't go so well. I did the Color Run but pretty much just walked it and hung out with friends. I decided not to do the COLOR ME RAD (although I will be thinking about my friends who are doing it, friends who I let down, cheering them on from home:-)  because the races seem to be a stress for me right now. And I end up getting off of my exercise routine after a big run like that.   I lasted about 2 days on Another Mother Runner's June Challenge. I lasted about a week or two with #bookaday. And I am not sure I've finished a book yet in August. My house is clean enough but there are still summer projects that I didn't get to.  So, my point is, I am not in some great exercise routine that I just need to keep up. I need to actually bump it up for the fall.

I personally define fall as the time between now and NCTE's Annual Convention. The annual convention to me marks the time when the first parent conferences, first grading periods, first units of study are over. It is usually around that time that the classroom is working well, routines are set, there is strong community. NCTE's annual convention is always kind of a turning point in the school year for me. It moves me from "Beginning of the Year Crazy" to the next phase of the school year.  So, to be honest with myself, the beginning of the school year--when it is most difficult to keep up a healthy eating and exercise routine- is not merely the first few weeks.   It is really the first  2 1/2-3 months.  That is the time I am thinking about in terms of keeping a healthy, balanced life-complete with running and exercise.

So, what did I do?
Now that I have been honest about all that I didn't do, I have to think about what I did accomplish this summer. I did exercise and although I am in no better shape than I was on June 1, I am not much worse. (a little, but not much)
I have a different attitude about running. Since reading RUNNING FOR MORTALS, I really try to push myself, but not so hard as to hate running.  I am going slower and that seems to be a good step for me.
I cleaned my closet and found I have gone down about 1 size. I got rid of lots of clothes and bought a few new things ( a size smaller).
I moved in and organized my classroom. A new role and a new space so a lot of time was spent in the classroom getting organized this summer.
I completed the copyedit of my upcoming Minilessons book with Choice Literacy which will be coming out soon.
I did lots with family and friends.
I tried a few new exercises.
My house is more organized than it was in the spring. (not a ton, but enough..)
I did workshops for Choice Literacy and All Write.
I attended All Write and the Ohio Innovative Learning Conference and learned lots.
I participated in the NCTE Executive Committee retreat in July.
I read about 40 books.

Here's the thing. I tend to over plan and tend to think I can do more than I actually can. I like to do lots of things and I tend to say yes to anything that sounds interesting. I am also not so good at not overdoing. I seem to overdo things because they sound like good ideas at the time.  I want to do really good work but not spend time doing worthless things that take lots of time.  In teaching, there is always more than can be done but sometimes I over plan, over think when my first idea and plan was best anyway.

So, I am trying to learn how to deal more rationally with my never-ending TO-DO list. I HATE having things to do that I am not doing. I have trouble relaxing or having fun when I know there is something I should be doing. I cannot pace well--I like to get everything done all of the time.  Clearly, this does not work. Last year, I found a system that seemed to work. I plotted out my to-do things by week so that I could spread out my to-do list a bit. That seemed to help. But with school starting, my lists are again becoming unrealistic.

I do not give myself much time to do the things I enjoy by myself...baking, exercise, reading, etc. Then I get very cranky.

And one more thing--Ialready have a full fall planned:
I am starting with a new class of 4th graders in a week. I am VERY excited about this and having been out of the classroom  for 4 years, I want to give it lots of time.

I am participating in two sessions at NCTE that I'll need to prepare.

I am doing a one-day Choice Literacy workshop in Maine in October. I'll be gone for most of that weekend.

I will participate in the yearlong Literacy Connection.

I oversee the district new teacher/mentor program.

There are things like curriculum night, Ana's curriculum nights., parent conferences, first trimester school events, etc.

Ana turns 13 this year so there are birthday parties to plan.

So, even if I don't add one more thing, I am busy enough.  So this fall, I am giving myself permission to say no to things I enjoy but don't really have time for. For example, Jack Gantos is speaking in Columbus in a few weeks. I would LOVE to hear him. Cover to Cover has several authors coming this fall who I will want to hear.  There are Saturday local workshops that sound interesting. Writing group is meeting.  There will be blog events and other things.  I have gotten better at saying no to things I don't want to do, but this fall, to keep up with exercise, I am going to try to say no to work/literacy related things that I WANT to do, but just don't realistically have time for.

I also found that adding a 4th run to my weekly goal was too much for me. I actually ran less because I had no flexibility in the schedule. 3 runs is perfect and then if I can fit a 4th in, great.

I find that I like to do the extra work but not on a set schedule..Too many scheduled events make down time and exercise time hard to find.  I am learning this about myself slowly. When I am too scheduled, even with things I love to do--exercise is the first thing to go.

So, here is how I will measure balance each week this fall--these are the questions I hope I can say yes to every week.

Did I exercise 3-6 days per week? (ideally 3 days of running and 3 days of something else.)
Did I do really good work?
Did I have fun? Did I do some things for myself (read a good book, spend time with friends, etc.)
Did I get some non-work things accomplished (laundry, cook dinners, etc.)
Was I organized for the  week?
Did I spend time with my family?
Do I have energy? Did I have enough down time to remain positive?

Originally, I decided that I would schedule fall. I would decide on 3 days to run in the mornings, 2 days to go to Harbor Yoga for a hot yoga class, and one day to do something else. And I would stick with it all fall. But then I reflected. And I realized that every week is different and what worked best for me last winter was looking at my week each Sunday and planning accordingly--it was easy to decide when I could plug in exercise each week. Rather than skip a workout because I had a meeting after school, planning each week as they come up gives me a better chance of exercising lots.

I am still debating on doing the PUMPKIN RUN. My gut says to sign up and make this the 5K that I actually complete and enjoy.  I haven't totally decided yet because I haven't had the best luck with races and since I am still running a 15-16 minute mile, I am worried about being too slow for a race that is really about running.

Ideally, I'll run 3 days (2 in the morning before school and 1 long run on Saturday) and I'll go to yoga twice. And then once a week, I am hoping to walk with friends or  do something low-key.

That's my plan. I'll keep you posted....


  1. Love this, Franki! I have had zero exercise - no running, no swimming - since Sunday. :( But I start school Monday and I knew I needed to really give myself this time. I think I will reflect on what I want my fall to be and write it on my blog so I can stick to it. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. I enjoyed reading your reflections, Franki -- it seems wise to consider balance before things really hit full speed a week from now.

    As for the guilt you might feel about shifting time from your students into time for exercise, I wonder if the time we spend for ourselves (especially on activities that clear our minds) makes the time we spend on others richer. If I've had my morning run, I feel like I have a clean slate for the day and a fresher mind for my kids (and my kid :)) ... I guess I have the bonus of running with a good friend who also loves nerdy teacher talk, so if you find someone like that, you have built in more reflective talk + eased guilt.

    Enjoy your journey this fall!

  3. So admire your perseverance and discipline even in this crazy busy time for teachers! Keep up the great work!

  4. I also really enjoyed your reflections. It captures the experience so well. This fall I will be attending the NCTE annual convention for the first time and am really looking forward to it. I enjoyed reading about how it fits into your school year, how it defines part of your teaching cycle. I also love your checklist for reflecting on the weeks.

  5. Anonymous5:05 PM

    My reaction to what you wrote is that you DID accomplish quite a bit, we don't need to finish everything perfectly to be satisfied, I think continuing to work on it is just as successful. I know for me, having a race (run or walk) on my calendar keeps me motivated to get out there. It's all about doing what you like. Enjoy your 4th graders!


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