It’s that time of year again. You can feel it when you walk down the halls of your school. And you notice that’s it’s a little harder to get out of bed each morning to go to work. Maybe you’ve just noticed a rise in the amount of students asking “what can I do to raise my grade” or “is there any extra credit I can do”. Summer Break is almost here! It’s a teacher’s chance to recharge and refocus before the following school year is upon us. Summer break is also a chance for teachers to improve their health and fitness by getting in shape.
While schools and districts aren’t identical in the length are dates for when they hold their summer break, chances are that your break will be around 7-10 weeks long. And that’s plenty of time to build a fitness foundation if you have never made an effort at getting in shape.
I recommend you keep things simple and consistent during the summer. You may be going on a trip or two, but for the most part you should be able to keep your routine going with the idea of transitioning it into the next school year. My recommendation for both beginner’s and those with more experience is to have a plan with 3 components: nutrition, weight training, and cardiovascular exercise. Don’t worry if that seems like a lot of moving parts. As promised, we are going to keep it simple.
Believe it or not, your nutrition during your summer break is more important than the type and amount of exercise you do in reaching your summer fitness goals. Many experts claim that it’s as much as 80% responsible for your results. From my experience you can’t outwork a bad diet. So even if you are exercising 7 days a week, if you are not making good food choices you will not see good results.
The first step with nutrition is to plan on eating 5-6 small meals throughout the day. Eat your first meal within an hour of waking up to boost your metabolism and then make sure you are eating every 2-3 hours from that point forward. While not every meal is going to be identical in calories, aim for somewhere between 250-400 calories per meal. This way the 100 calories snack pack or the 1200 calorie hamburger and fries aren’t being viewed as appropriate meals.
At first this may seem very unusual considering most teachers barely get time to pee during the school day let alone eat. But it’s not the school year, so don’t worry about it. Later this summer I’ll teach you how to plan your meals for when you are at school and short on time.
Again with the idea of keeping it simple, make it your goal to eat protein with every meal. This could be as simple as a few hardboiled eggs, a small handful of almonds, or 3-4 ounces of lean meat or fish. Adding protein in with each meal will help keep you feeling full even if your meals are smaller than what you have eaten in the past. You also want to be eating 5-6 servings of vegetables a day. Find the ones you like and stick to them. A salad at lunch and dinner would each be 2-3 servings. If you are not a salad eater, make it a goal to add a cup of your favorite veggies to 3 meals during the day and we will build from there.
I know that just by writing the words “weight training” I am taking some of you out of your comfort zone. And that’s alright. Some form of weight training needs to be part of your fitness plan to help improve your overall health. Weight training does more than just help build muscle (which pound for pound, burns 19X more calories compared to fat). It also will help strengthen your bones, improve your balance, and benefit your heart.
Several studies have shown that people who incorporate weight training into their weekly routines are more likely to keep the weight they lose off due to an increased metabolism during their basic daily activities (the things you do during the day when you are not working out). In addition, weight training has a metabolic effect of continuing to burn calories after your workout that is not seen from cardiovascular activities.
Contrary to what you may believe, weight training does not have to be done in a gym. Nor do you actually need weights to begin. You can use your body weight and actually get started in your own home. Push-ups, body weight squats, lunges, and chair dips are all great exercises that can be done with limited equipment. And when you are ready you can either join a gym or purchase a few pieces of equipment and start building your won home-gym.
Many people consider cardiovascular exercise or “cardio” to be a 4-letter word and dread it like taxes and public speaking, but it should be part of every fitness plan in one form or another. Cardio can be defined as any exercise that increases your heart rate and speeds up the flow of blood throughout the body. And all forms of cardio will force the body to burn more calories than at rest because of the energy demands needed to keep the body moving.
Like I mentioned above with weight training, cardiovascular exercise does not require any fancy equipment or a gym membership. At its most basic form running and walking are both examples of cardio that can be done almost anywhere.