Moving Educators is a series discussing the challenges and rewards of focusing on health, wellbeing and getting active – while balancing a working life in education.
Gina Lockyer is connecting with educators across the country to find out why they move, how they move and what gets them moving. Prepare learn some tips and tricks, hear some extraordinary stories and get inspired!
Tell us a little about who you are
Mum. Partner. Power lifter. Baker and cake decorator. Teacher and team leader. In school CoL teacher of Literacy and Science.
Who do you teach?
What are some of your favourite things to do when you’re not at work?
Spending time with the whānau. I have an eight-year-old son and partner of 17 years.
And your favourite way to move/get active?
Powerlifting and boxing.
Do you have a story about how you began getting active? Tell us about it
After having my son, my life revolved around him and school. I had absolutely no balance. My identity was teacher and mum.
When my son started school, I decided I would join a gym in an attempt to get healthy. My partner was really supportive. That was October 2014.
I didn’t really have a goal when I joined the gym. I just thought I wanted the typical – to lose weight and be the supposed size society wants me to be.
I signed up at Snap Fitness Napier and got the usual – some Personal Training sessions. I was paired with was Grego Mawson. Grego encouraged me get a Bioscan which gave my full body make up. Over time, I discovered that I am strong – something Grego knew all along!
Once I realised that I enjoyed strength training, Grego got me started on my powerlifting journey and embracing strength – this was much more important than giving into society’s ideal version of a female.
I was no longer looking for the scales to show that I was losing weight – I was looking for my Bioscan to show that I was gaining muscle.
Since discovering that I have a love and passion for power lifting, I have competed in two novice competitions, and have continued to learn more about my sport and who I am as a person.
Does being active help you have a better working life? How?
Yes! I’m a morning person, so when I hit the gym at 4.30am, I’ve got time and space for my mind to organise and sort what I need to do well before my son gets up or when I head to school.
I swear that I am a much better mum, teacher, and partner because of this time in the gym.
Does being active help you have a better personal life? How?
Yes! I have made it a priority to be healthy and active and I am much happier and I feel more present. That makes me a better mum and partner. It has also taught me to figure out what is exactly important – it’s not the end of the world to leave that paperwork till the next day to go and spend time with my family or go to my favourite boxing class.
I’ve also gained a family and we call each other our SnapFam! I am very blessed that I have a trainer that gets me. He continuously challenges and encourages me, just like I do in the classroom; a renewed appreciation for the children in my class, and their learning struggles!
What gets you moving? What motivates you?
I love that I’m an example to my son that girls can be strong too. I’m showing him what having a good work ethic and clear goals can get you.
This has also had a flow on affect to the girls I teach, and the boys love to hear what I can squat, bench, and deadlift!
One of my boys told me, as he was going out the door for interval, that he wants to be strong like me! The best compliment I’ve ever had!
What are some of the rewards you get from being active, especially as an educator?
I’m strong physically and mentally. There are many struggles as a powerlifter when you deconstruct your squat for the 100th time and having to deal with all the new cues being thrown at you. But when you nail it, and the weight feels light – that is the reward.
Those struggles have taught me to step back and think. Think about the person – my colleague, a whānau member or a student – what we want to achieve and how best approach to them.
What are some of the challenges of being active, especially as an educator?
Fighting the paperwork war! We all have a huge paperwork load which can cause stress. Stress from school can have a flow on affect not just in the classroom, but in the gym too.
Power lifting meets can come at a time when the workload is quite high, so prepping for a meet and trying to get through your work is challenging especially at a time when you’re supposed to be peaking – hitting all your top lifts – and everything goes wrong.
How do you overcome these challenges?
I prioritise all my paperwork and try to ensure I am taking full advantage of my release time and after school to get work done. I try to map out my evaluations throughout the term to make my workload more manageable.
As for the gym, I have a very understanding trainer who knows me. He knows when I’m about to have a meltdown and how to put everything in perspective – even when I’m not ready to hear it. Grego takes all the challenging times and helps me to see the learning it has for us – sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know.
Tell us about a time when you were being active and felt really proud of yourself and your achievements.
During my last Powerlifting meet (competition) in October.
I had my first meet five weeks prior, and everything was going wrong…I mean everything! The meet went terribly. I pulled my calf muscle and my body was really beat up afterwards.
During training for the October meet, I struggled to lift numbers I could do on a normal day. I was coming home and having melt downs, and to top it off the paperwork was ramping up as report writing was looming. Just before the meet, my mindset was just focusing on getting this meet over and done with. I was questioning if I should be power lifting in the first place. So I turned up at the October meet with no expectations.
At this meet, I met some amazing women – two who are going to compete in the Oceania competition. I added to my squat number – the squat was the lift that had pulled my calf five weeks prior. A conversation with a fellow lifter flipped my negative mindset in to a positive one. While I didn’t win – I got second place – most importantly, I walked out of that gym with the reassurance I needed to rekindle that fire.
How do you fit in getting active to your life?
I make it work by having a consistent bed time – no later than 9.30pm – I wake up at 4:00 am to be in the gym around 4.30am.
How do your colleagues support each other’s health and wellbeing?
As a staff, we are a fairly active group ranging from rugby, netball and hockey players to gym goers. We are all different and we all take an interest in each other’s health and wellbeing – we might fill in for games or just have a chat about how things are going.
For some of us, especially in our syndicate team, we ensure each of us are eating well, getting enough sleep, and helping each other manage their workload. I am very blessed to be working with a group of people who care and are interested in what I do. I’m really interested in them too.
What things does your school do to support the health and wellbeing of it’s teachers and support staff?
An important aspect of our team leader roles is to ensure we are aware of the wellbeing of the people we work with.
We run a classroom lunchtime sports competition. It could be non-stop cricket, speed basketball, rippa rugby or volleyball – we a different sport every rotation. The winning class of that particular sport gets to play the teachers. The classes love it! We’re a hard team to beat but they take great pleasure when they do win!
Why is being active a priority for you? Has it always been this way?
Being active hasn’t always been a priority. I believe it was because I was too busy trying to fit into this impossible “box” of society’s expectations as a woman and mother.
Now, this is not a focus for me. I make it a priority to training 5 to 6 times a week. I do this because being happy and healthy means I will be around for my son for a very long time and I can be the very best mum, partner, teacher, and me I can be. I embrace my power lifting body – my strong legs, arms, back. This body is built by me and is strong – mentally and physically.
What advice would you give to an educator who would like to get active but isn’t sure where to start?
Find something you love – it may take a wee while – ask those at your school what they do and try and join in or look at what is out there in your community. Find a time that works for you and turn up – no exceptions! Realise that it’s not the end of the world if you have to make something wait.
Having some “you” time makes you a better person and teacher for the children you teach.