Becoming a Better Educator Through Exercise
Contributing Author: Stephanie Dunlap
Most of us know that exercise has many benefits. Are you aware, however, how exercise can directly impact your teaching career? Let me first preface this by saying that I have not always been fit and healthy. No, quite the opposite. When I first started student teaching 9 years ago, I weighed 60 pounds more than I do now. Comparing myself then to now, it’s easy to see that exercise and smart food choices have greatly impacted my life.
One of ways exercise helps me in my teaching career is that it helps me to find balance. My exercise of choice is running, but this is applicable to any type of exercise. During some runs, I leave my music at home and spend the duration of the run clearing my mind. I sort through my worries in the classroom, my stresses, and return home ready to spend time with my family. I also participate in classes at the gym. This time is spent doing something I love (and that is good for me) and allows me time with people more my own age. We laugh, sweat, and talk — truly, the best combination!
Another way exercise is beneficial is that it helps me to be a better role model for my students. One daily activity my students look forward to is our track time. This is a dedicated amount of time in between my ELA and math blocks in which we all go out to the track and run a lap. Instead of watching from the sidelines while the students take a lap, I go out and complete a lap with them. Although most days I walk the lap since I am in my work clothes, I sometimes wear more casual attire and race them around the track. My students see me living an active, healthy lifestyle which encourages them to do the same.
Lastly, but certainly not least, exercise instills in me a greater sense of determination. This past year, I set a goal of running two marathons (26.2 miles each) in one weekend. Incredibly, throughout my peak training time of March and April, I was still able to keep up with all of my lesson planning, grading, and other classroom duties. I was tired and was spending more time training, but I was able to keep up simply because I was determined to do so. I had my eyes set on a goal, and there was nothing that was going to stop me.
I choose to continue to exercise, no matter how crazy my life becomes, because of all the benefits I see from it. Exercise does not have to be complex or time consuming. Go out for a quick 15 minute walk in the morning, during your lunch break, or after dinner. Find a type of exercise that you love and that does not feel like work. Move your body, get the sleep your body needs, and make smarter food choices. Not only will your body thank you, but so will your students.
Stephanie Dunlap, also known as “Run Strong Run”, went from couch potato to marathoner in 2012. Since then, Stephanie has continued running and has run a total of 8 full marathons. Stephanie currently teaches 5th grade in Northern California where she enjoys encouraging students to live an active, healthy lifestyle. In her free time, Stephanie enjoys pacing races with Beast Pacing throughout the state of California. For more about Stephanie, head to: