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Lessons Learned Running through Portugal in my Basement

Fitness has always been a part of my life. For many years I thoroughly enjoyed running with friends on trails, working out in the gym, or playing a game of volleyball or softball. But, in the last few years, I have not made time to exercise and my fitness has suffered. So, in the last year, my husband and I made a commitment to focus on fitness and one thing we did was purchase a treadmill. This huge treadmill arrived and we lugged it to our basement (that was a workout in itself!). Our ProForm treadmill is iFit ready, meaning we can have virtual personal training when we connect our iPad to the treadmill. Our machine syncs with whatever the trainer is doing -- he speeds up, our treadmill speeds up.

In the past, I really enjoyed running. So, I searched the iFit online catalog and found a 6 week beginning running program with iFit trainer, Tommy Rivers Puzey. Tommy is very engaging and oh so interesting! What was intriguing to me is that many of the messages that he shared over and over throughout the 6 week program, were lessons that have meaningful application to school social work.

Lesson #1. SMILE - - Putting a smile on your face can alter your attitude. This simple, intentional act can make the run more enjoyable (and maybe even help me forget the pain and struggle). In our jobs as School Social Workers, how can putting a smile on your face revolutionize your attitude? How can your smile transform a child's journey? How can your smile alter a family's interaction with the school? How can your smile convert someone's negative experience into a positive one? #smile

Lesson #2. BREATHE - - Breathing is important when running. Often we breathe without thinking about it. But sometimes, when the run is challenging, it helps to focus on our breathing. When you face challenging situations in your work, how would taking a deep breath help you refocus? How could modeling the act of slowing down and taking a deep breath help a student learn self-regulation? How could this intentional act help you through the hills and valleys of our challenging work? #takeadeepbreath

Lesson #3. BELIEVE YOU CAN - - During the 6 week running program, there were days that Tommy led "growth workouts." This meant there was a bit of an increase in the demand of the workout - going farther and longer than any point in the past. As humans, we have the ability to set our minds to something and grow or change. Oftentimes, we can do more than we thought or imagined. That is the transformational power of positive thinking! In School Social Work, this is sometimes referred to as a "growth mindset." What challenge will you face in your job this year? How will you prepare your mind for the task? What positive messages can you speak to yourself to help you achieve? What positive message can you speak into the lives of your students, families, colleagues, and school community to offer them hope and the belief that they can? #believe

Lesson #4. CULTURAL APPRECIATION - - During our runs, Tommy would talk about the physiology of running, the ecology of the region, and the cultural makeup of the area. He would remind us that we were "visitors" there and would talk about the language, the architecture, and the culture of the people and area. The history of the people and the region was presented with great respect and humility. As School Social Workers, we know the value of listening, learning, appreciating, and honoring the culture of an individual or group. How do you show respect when you are visiting a student's home? How are you honoring the culture of your students and families? How do you nurture cultural humility on your campus? #respect #culturalhumility

Lesson #5. TAKE TIME TO RECOVER - - At the very end of the workout, the trainer would have us cool down. We would walk slowly and let our body recover. He also reminded us to eat well, hydrate, get good sleep, stretch, and take time to recover before our next run. The demands of our job are often daunting. Stress, secondary trauma, and burnout are real in our field of work. How will you take time to recover each day? Will you walk your dog, read a book for enjoyment, talk to a friend, write in a journal, or pray/meditate? How could it help your recovery if you take some deep breaths, make a list of "to do" items for the next day, and set your mind to leave work behind when you close your office door? How will you focus on recovery so that you are ready for the next day? #stressmanagement #selfcare

Lesson #6. ENJOY! - - During our runs through Portugal, I was struck by the fantastic scenery. Tommy would lead us in runs along the coast, through quaint villages, and along scenic paths. He would drive home the point that the focus should not be on running so hard and so far that we hurt. He also consistently reminded us to "take in the view" as we ran in these picturesque places. What a shame it would have been to have missed these views because my focus was in the wrong place - on the mechanics of running. How can you refocus and "take in the views" throughout your day? How can you better appreciate every moment? How will you focus on the joy that comes from working with and helping young people find their voice and reach their potential? Please, don't miss a moment! Enjoy your work. I believe ours is one of the most blessed, most meaningful jobs on the planet! #simplejoys


Written by Rebecca K. Oliver, SSWAA Executive Director

Acknowledgement given to Dr. Tommy Rivers Puzey DPT, ProForm, & iFit.

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