At the beginning of March, Brett Salakus (@MRsalakas) and I decided to set a goal for each other: get healthier by going outside and walking. As educational leaders, we are often in classrooms and meetings late into the day; getting exercise is the last thing we have time for. Since we are both from different countries (Brett lives in Australia), we wanted to encourage each other from across the planet. We knew we’d be more likely to be successful if we had someone to hold ourselves accountable to.
Brett and I began by participating in The Conqueror Challenge. This virtual walking event allows you to select a real landmark distance to walk. Your daily progress is tracked for you, as you work towards a specific goal. For example, I walked the 280 miles across the Grand Canyon. It took me over two months, but between Brett and seeing my progress on the app, it was motivating to finish.
During our time completing The Conqueror Challenge, Brett and I built a connection and excitement for walking and getting fit. But in March, when COVID-19 hit, we realized that connecting and fitness were changing on a dime. Parks, gyms, fitness studios, and other public places closed and opportunities for physical activity were significantly reduced for everyone.
Social distancing was negatively impacting educators’ ability to exercise. On top of that, teaching from home to ensure our students got the education they deserved wasn’t allowing us to connect with others as we wished. We were sitting for more extended periods of time. Not being able to be on our feet in the classroom, or simply walk down the hall to a colleague was further reducing our physical activity. For some educators, extensive changes in daily routines — such as caring for children who were home from school, made it even more challenging to find time to exercise. And if any of you are like me, increased idleness resulted in poor dietary habits, more snacking, and further weight gain.
About a month into Covid-19, having already completed my walk across the Grand Canyon, Brett and I started to get out to walk again. We knew there were all kinds of ways to get active at home: workout videos, makeshift gyms, and free streaming or on-demand fitness options. But for us, we wanted to stay connected, set a fitness goal, and work together to achieve it.
We used “What’s App” to text and talk on walks to encourage each other. We realized we were getting energized by connecting and collaborating. We thought, “We are the walking educators, let’s use the hashtag #TheWalkingEd and have others join us to get up, get out, and stay connected.” We started a twitter page (@TheWalkingEds) and threw it out to our PLN. To date, hundreds of educators have committed to walk with us every day and stay connected. We post walking photos, encouraging messages, and have daily connections across the globe.
Walking, cycling, jogging, and hiking can give you much-needed fresh air while staying safely away from others. The outdoors belongs to all of us, with no membership fees. Physical activity, like walking, can provide immediate benefits. It can help boost your mood, reduce stress, improve sleep, and sharpen your focus — benefits that can be especially important during stressful times. And you don’t have to set grandiose goals, it’s important to remember that some physical activity is better than none!
We often hear, “I don’t have time for a full-length outdoor exercise.” But every minute you invest benefits your well being. Educators (well all adults) should move more and sit less throughout the day. Even just taking breaks and walking around your house during conference calls can help. Consider breaking your walks into several 10-minute sessions. You’ll be surprised at how quickly a few brisk walks around the block can add up to a full workout and more miles you thought you could do.
Walking doesn’t require any special equipment, just some comfortable shoes, and appropriate clothes. The outdoors is available wherever you are; walk out your door. Remember to drink enough water. Staying hydrated, especially as it gets warmer, is essential.
Brett and I understand it’s important that we all do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. Our encouragement to limit physical interactions should not stop us from social interactions around the globe, whether on Twitter or any other digital mediums. If you’re walking with someone who isn’t in your household, make sure to avoid all physical contact and keep at least 6 feet of space at all times. However, remember, you don’t have to meet in person to stay active together – #TheWalkingEd is here for you. Check us out at this link
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