Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wellness Update: The Holiday Edition 1

Thanksgiving, heck the whole holiday season, has always been fraught with dangers for me, especially as I have become an adult and moved away from home.  It is a time of relaxation, boredom, family, football, and vastly overeating due to all of those factors.  As the holiday season progresses, the eating continues over a number of holiday events, and my propensity to pack on the pounds increases as well.

This Thanksgiving I was determined to try and avoid that get a good start to the holiday season.  Wednesday started off well, sort of.  My planned day at school was waylaid by the fog and a day of not having to worry about having access, and time, to eat in an unhealthy manner for long stretches became clouded by a day of working in my office, with access to snacks brought in for our staff that would now go uneaten, unless the small group at school all chipped in.  I am proud to say that while I did indulge in some cheese and crackers and some great cocktail meatballs, I avoided the cupcakes arranged and frosted to look like a turkey dressed as a pilgrim.  That evening, instead of heading home when school was cancelled for the day, I stuck around and went to yoga class to kickoff my weekend.  

Thursday morning came, and the eating fest began sensible enough with an fried egg sandwich for breakfast.  Lunch, not so good as I watched my fantasy football team’s defense (Houston) get torched by the Lions, and drowned my sorrows in a small plate of homemade nachos.   Thanksgiving dinner was a better performance for me, as I ate sensible of the turkey, stuffing and other Thanksgiving faire, but the double helping of desserts was probably not a wise idea on my part.  I woke up the next morning, just hoping I had not gained 5 pounds.   Amazingly I lost 1.  I credit the better digestion created by some of the yoga poses Sam Boys had us do on Wednesday night.  

Friday was another odd day of eating, as I did well in the morning, not as well in the evening as I cooked my wife’s favorite meal, Italian Chicken Bake, which is fettucine noodles baked with chicken, onions, and mushrooms that have been simmered and then topped with parmesan and mozzarella cheese and a cream sauce.  It is decadently good, but not really great low in calories.  I had one small bowl, and then picked at my daughter’s leftovers.

Saturday brought the most bizarre eating day.  I had nachos for lunch again, while watching football-notice a pattern yet-then consumed a whole tub of popcorn and a box of raisinets while watching Lincoln at the movie theater.  I rationalized this over consumption fest by having a Diet Dr. Pepper, and the satisfaction that it was a really great movie, with the most realistic portrayal of Lincoln I have ever seen.

Sunday brought dinner at my mother-in-laws, and more moderation in eating, with no dessert this time.  Monday morning I stepped on the scale, be delightedly find I had lost another pound to make it 2 for the week of Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately, I am not sure what I did to do so.  

As I sit eating a salad for dinner tonight, prior to our game against Triton, I am hoping that I can continue whatever streak my metabolism was on last week and continue to lose weight, while I gain great moments with my family this holiday season. The reality though is that it will not happen by mere luck for too much longer. With this in mind I will be back in yoga on Wednesday night, and will be adding a Monday cycling class to my workout regime, as well as looking for a Thursday afternoon class that I can join as well. Or maybe I will take Sam Boys challenge and join him on a Wednesday night for yoga, followed by Bodypump, and then restorative yoga...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What can I Learn from a Rock Star

We had a motivational speaker in for a convocation today.  It was an assembly that I have to admit I was somewhat skeptical about.  I am always nervous when you have someone come in and talk to students about the mistakes that they made in their younger lives, and that they were now fine and had gone through those tough times to come out on the other side in one piece, if not always completely whole.  My fear always is that the students will get the message that the speaker went out and partied and lived it up and was then able to turn their life around and be productive.  I am not a person who doubts that this can, and does happen, but I am enough of a realist to know that the success rates in those cases are a lot less than the rate of failures.

This evening, as part of the convocation series, our school hosted a concert by the motivational speaker's band.  It featured his band, and two other bands that I had never heard of.  We had a packed auditorium as students from around the county came to take advantage of the free show.  The music they played was not overly memorable, I cringed as one of the bands did a metal version of Phil Collins In the Air Tonight, a seminal song of my youth, and did an equally sour face for the rock version of Beat It, but I also noticed something else.

The 2 intro bands, and band leader, who barely knew our students, could elicit from them great expressions of enthusiasm about anything they said or did.  When the son of the lead singer came on stage and lead the crowd in cheers, they responded more vocally and physically then when our cheerleaders exhorted the crowded during home games.  He ran from one side of the stage to another, having the students do a vocal and physical wave as he ran by.  It made me wonder, what do Rock Stars know the educators may not have tapped into?

As I sit in our now empty auditorium, and watch the roadies pack up the equipment to head out into the night, I still don't have any real answers.  I know that I watched the motivational speaker be very frank and honest with our students.  I watched as he was able to connect with a large number of them during only a 15 minute talk.  I also know that these are not last relationships or contacts, but could in a large part be the thrill of being out of class for 50 minutes, and seeing a very charismatic individual perform.  But there was something else at work.

Each person on that stage was willing to be themselves, was willing to risk being a little foolish.  They were able to be real in front of our students, to be fully human, and in doing so were able to connect.  One of the skits that the convocation crew did was about wearing masks.  In watching what happened throughout the night, it made me wonder what mask do I wear in my role at school, and what might happen if I simply took it off?

Update to Post:
The morning after the concert I opened my email to find a message from Michael Delp who teaches Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II on our staff.  He wrote what I call a Jerry Maguire message.  Many of you probably remember the scene, Jerry wakes up in the middle of the night and writes a manifesto about how to change their business.  It is a revolutionary moment for him, and it was for Michael.  He was so fired up that he had to email our staff at 2:30 AM before he went to sleep.

The next afternoon I made a point of going to Michael's room and watching him teach his students.  It was amazing, he was unmasked and teaching like a rock star.  He took off the mask, told his students he was standing on a professional cliff.  I confessed that he makes them learn things simply to jump through the hoops that the state has set up.  He revealed that he believed there was a better way and that they would be trying to incorporate those kinds of activities into class.  He also said that they would have to jump through some hoops, but he explained why they had to do this.  More importantly he explained why learning those concepts was important as well.

The response from the students was the best part.  They were engaged, energized, excited to be learning math.  Mr. Delp spent the next 15 minutes going through a problem about fixing a bicycle.  The students continued to be engaged and work through the problem.  At various times he had to remind students to stay with him, as this was a review of the day before, but he continued to hold their attention until they got to the problem for the day, which he introduced by showing this slide and telling the story from his life of how he came up with this problem.

It was math in a real life context, that most of us have never thought of.  It was math that engaged his students.  It was teaching without a mask.  Teaching that took a risk, not of the learners, but of the teacher and then the students as a group.  It was teaching that I believe will make a difference.  It was an example of what can happen when we are willing to take off the mask and teach from the place that we really believe education should come from, our hearts.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Who's your Yogi now?

One of the best parts of my Journey to Wellness has been the opportunity to take some classes at the Fitness Forum.  It has brought some variety to my exercise routine, given me a break from the treadmill, and allowed me to explore other fitness options.  During our fall break at PHS I was able to take advantage of our day off and attend a class that I had been wanting to try, Yoga.

This may seem very out of place for someone who is not at all flexible, but the idea of being able to try and improve my limited flexibility, spend time in an activity that is designed to reduce stress, and learn something new was an intriguing proposition.  It was a proposition that would lead to me find a new exercise that I am beginning to really love.

My first experience with yoga, beyond the Wii Fit yoga program, was at an Indiana Association of School Principals conference when I attended a session on Yoga for Discipline.  The 30 minute session focused on how we can utilize the principles of yoga to help students focus and calm down when in stressful situations.  We learned one position, and really focused on how to control our breathing. This class would be nothing like this.

Class began with the sound of popping cartilage and bone as my sinews, muscles and body bent, twisted and stretched in ways that it hasn't in decades.  The best part, while I was moving into the various positions of yoga and reawakening long ago calcified joints I felt no pain in those muscles.  The instructor was very good at encouraging us to explore the positions, but also to stay within our limits.

The second piece of learning that occurred was that yoga is strenuous.  In my mind I thought of yoga as sitting around stretching and listening to calming music, which did occur.  What I didn't anticipate was how much it pushed my body, how many calories I burned (over 300 based on Fitness Forum's calculations), and how much the warrior pose could make my legs shake from exertion.

Finally my hour of yoga was a fantastic way to get away from all of the daily stresses of life.  Within moments of entering the yoga studio, sitting on my mat and beginning to learn how to focus on my breathing my mind began to empty.  For the next hour, all that was able to penetrate my focus and concentration was the soothing sound of the instructor's voice moving us from position to position and the sound of my breathing as I focused on my practice.  Even the soothing music faded into the background, and no other thoughts from my day were able to penetrate this envelope of calm.  It was rejuvenating and enlightening all at the same time.

Since my first experience with yoga I have returned to class one time (the next week) and it is joining my Saturday morning Body Pump class as a part of my weekly fitness routine.  In short I am learning that while the Fitness Forum is a great place to lift weights, run, swim, or play court games, it is even better when you utilize the structured classes they offer to enhance your exercise routine.  I really can't wait to see what class I can explore next.