It only took seven years, but I think I’ve finally escaped the dreaded “back to school” downward spiral into missed workouts, eating takeout for dinner, and guzzling down Starbucks every morning. Getting back into the classroom is like going into an HIIT workout for your brain (if only that translated to an HIIT workout for your body too). With 5:30 a.m. wakeup time, onslaught of lesson planning, and piles of papers to grade, working out and cooking time are often the first two things to move to the bottom of a teacher’s priority list.
I’d resigned myself to this downward spiral and found myself trying in vain to cook more and to exercise more. However, cooking complicated meals wasn’t sustainable. Neither was going to late yoga or early barre classes in Boston. I just got exhausted trying to drag a yoga mat and backpack home on the T at 9:00 p.m. or more prone to buying breakfasts at Flour or Starbucks after a 6:00 a.m. class. Following typical health & fitness tips doesn’t necessarily spell success under teacher constraints. “Work out in the morning before the rest of your day happens!” is harder to do when your work starts at 7:30 a.m. rather than 9:00 a.m. (and if your workplace doesn’t have a shower). Even when I belonged to Boston Sports Club and aimed to arrive close to 5:30 a.m., I felt rushed trying to fit in the workout + shower + breakfast before trying to beat the early-morning rush to the copier at school. “Eat six small meals a day” works better if you have a bit more flexibility than a typical teaching schedule (in which lunch is only 20 minutes and classes sometimes come three in a row).
This year, I’m simplifying my cooking and workouts so that they don’t take as much effort. No more excuses like “well, I *could* be healthy if I worked a 9-5 job or as a freelancer.”
1) Cook Simply.
Cooking can get very gourmet and foodie real fast, but a school night can’t be the time to start cooking Momofuku recipes. I’m adding to my repertoire of non-complicated meals that will reheat easily and last through the week. I save recipes from my favorite food blogs to my Evernote Recipes notebook and tag them so I can search for them later. I plan out meals on Saturday, shop on Sunday, and prep on Sundays while listening to podcasts or reruns of my favorite shows in the background.
Some of my faves lately are Nom Nom Paleo’s sweet potato hash and spicy tuna cakes, chili, zoodles with meatballs and sauce, Pioneer Woman’s smashed potatoes, steel cut oats with apples sauteed in butter and cinnamon, and lettuce wraps with turkey, sweet onion, and red pesto. Pictured below: 1) fried egg, smashed potatoes, avocado, and tomatoes from our plant 2) chili and smashed potatoes 3) results of a Sunday cooking spree 4) scallops with zoodles, corn, and cauliflower rice 5) sweet potato hash with sausage avocado sauce.
2) Move More + Efficiently.
I still run and go to lots of boutique studios (spin, barre, Pilates, etc.) but make sure that lesson plans are done first or that I allocate enough time to finish lessons in the evening if I do an afternoon workout. Exhale Spa has 3:00 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. barre classes that are way less packed than their early-morning or after-work classes. Going to these early-bird classes makes it easier to get home early to cook a healthy dinner and still be in bed at “teacher bedtime.” I also live near soul.train, so going to a 6:00 p.m. class works for my schedule because I’m home at 7:02 p.m. (not 7:45 p.m.)
Using Pact keeps me accountable to doing five workouts a week. However, that doesn’t mean I’m going to five 90-minute yoga classes or running 10 miles every day. I also try to fit in more walks when I can. Sometimes I take the T a bit earlier and get off at Charles MGH so I can walk a little over a mile to school. I enjoy the peace and quiet of Beacon Hill and the Public Garden in the mornings, and people-watch if I do the same walk on my evening commute. I sometimes fulfill my gym Pact by walking to Kendall Square using RunKeeper (a 30 minute walk counts too!). My husband and I sometimes go for evening walks so that we can have some “us” time, fresh air, and just talk (rather than just collapsing in front of the tv).
Hoping that these simple routines get so ingrained that I won’t lose sight of them by the time the Term 1 grading rush hits me!