Last November, what with the pandemic and all, my weight reached a point that made me pretty unhappy. I could usually get a little bit of exercise by walking back and forth from my office to my classroom, but when we moved entirely online, there were days when I hardly moved at all. Truthfully, however, I’ve been fairly sedentary most of my life. I’ve never exercised very much, and I typically gave up when I tried an exercise regime and didn’t see any results. After I had my third child, I developed hypthyroidism, but I didn’t know I had it until a physician ordered routine bloodwork and immediately called me to tell me she had prescribed medication for it. A host of issues I didn’t know were related suddenly improved.
About a year and a half ago, I wondered if I needed a higher dosage of the medication because I couldn’t seem to lose any weight, and I had heard that the medication I was taking was supposed to help with that. However, my thyroid levels were fine, according to my doctor. She suggested I check out Noom, and I was pretty skeptical, but I finally signed up in November 2020. I honestly don’t use many of Noom’s features. The accountability of the coach and the group don’t help me much, but I can see how they might help others. I find logging my meals and water intake extremely helpful, and I also discovered walking because of the app. Noom encourages users to meet a step goal, gradually increasing the number of steps each time you meet your goal. By January, I was up to 10,000 steps a day, which I have maintained so far every day this year. I use another app called Pacer to track my steps because it gives me badges for completing challenges, and that kind of thing is weirdly motivating for me. For the record, I’ve lost about 40 pounds, but more importantly, I’m actually fit for maybe the first time in my life—fitter even than when I weighed less than I do now. I’m happier with my health and body now than I have ever been, even when I was thinner than I am now.
I can usually meet my step goal if I walk for at least an hour every day. I can break it up into shorter chunks of time, but dedicating that hour has become an important part of my self-care routine. When I walk, I listen to audio books, podcasts, music, or whatever is moving me at the moment. I don’t let weather get in my way. If I can’t walk outside, which is my strong preference, I walk on the treadmill at the gym, but I’ve walked in snow and rain on occasion. The cold doesn’t bother me, but the heat does, so if it’s too hot, I tend to go to the gym instead. I find the treadmill extremely boring, but it’s better than not walking at all.
It seems like a really strange thing to have found this outlet so late in life. I remembered my grandmother loved to take short walks, and there was a period in her life when she lost a good deal of weight doing so. I’m not sure if she ever found it meditative the way I do, but when I walk, I just walk. I don’t check emails. I try not to read anything at all off my phone—maybe just an urgent text message. That hour of time is my time to be alone. Sometimes my husband walks with me, too, and we talk about all kinds of things. On a few rare occasions, my son has also asked to go. It’s best when I can go outside. Even though I live in an urban environment that’s not the best for walking, I still enjoy getting outside in that environment. I check out everyone’s flowers. I observe the trees and the sky. I feel the breeze. It makes me feel grounded and alive and perfectly happy.
I had a moment last week, ironically on the treadmill rather than outside, where I was listening to some music I love, and I was struck by how happy I felt to be moving and enjoying living in that moment. That’s what mindfulness is—taking the time to appreciate the present moment entirely rather than thinking about the past or the future. and pulling yourself entirely into the current moment.
In spring 2020, when the pandemic started raging, I collaborated with our other AP Lit teacher to give students an outlet to talk about how they were feeling. We read Robert Burns’s poem “To a Mouse” and discussed the “best laid plans” the pandemic had ruined and how they were coping. Time and again, students mentioned taking walks. Students are wise. I wish I could say they inspired me, but it probably took another six months and change before I started walking myself.
It’s been a hard year and a half living with this virus. I caught it myself in January of this year, and I was so afraid. I think the main reason I managed to get through it relatively easily was the walking. I had become healthier just in time.
Teachers get very busy, and it’s important that we make time for our health. Walking works for me, but you may find something else works for you. In any case, find an activity that works for you to have some meditiative time and take care of yourself. It’s important to find a way to move that brings you joy. Teacher friends: find a way to take care of yourself. This year looks like it might be a challenge, too, and whatever can help ground you and give you some happiness and peace is critical for your wellbeing.