Teach a 5k: What my Fitbit told me about teaching

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I always come home from a day of teaching feeling tired.

At first, I thought it was just the lack of sleep, the standing-up-all-day, or maybe just mental exhaustion (from presenting, collaborating, writing documents, and general stress). I also used to think that it was just me, that I was just a wimpy new teacher and would eventually build up better stamina.

Four years later, I'm still tired, but now I have an idea of why and how to fight it. Thanks to fitness trackers, I understand exactly how physical our profession is.

Stage 1: Lessons from the Flex
In October 2013, I broke down and bought a Fitbit Flex. I was attempting to work out, but I had this nagging desire to know what I was doing already so I'd know how much more I needed to do. (I was already exhausted by 3pm, and I wondered if any of it "counted", or if I still needed to go run...?)

Over time, my pattern was walking anywhere from 3,000-6,000 steps in a school day*, depending on variables like my schedule, how many trips I made to the office/teacher's lounge/bathroom, how much I walked around while teaching (as opposed to, say, sitting through student presentations or kneeling next to them a lot). That averaged out to two miles of walking per school day*, not including any morning workouts or going to the gym after work.

(*Please note that my school is small - I don't climb stairs or cross really long hallways, based on where my classroom is in the building. Teachers who do more traveling may have different numbers than me. There could certainly be other variables at play, too.)

This data was/is fascinating to me. I began to marvel - can I "teach" a 5k? If so, could I be more healthy, and maybe lose weight? Would it justify less time at the gym? How many other teachers already are?

And, more importantly: what does an active day reveal about the quality of my teaching? Is it better classroom management to move around the room more, or does it mean I'm doing too much of the work? Is it a sign that I'm reaching more students, or does it mean that THEY are not getting enough active minutes? (For now, my stance is in between: reach more kids, and don't beat myself up about it on days when my step count is lower.)

Have you ever wondered how much exercise or movement you get throughout the school day? What about how much stress you experience? A health and fitness monitor, like a Fitbit, can be a good tool to help you learn more about yourself as you teach! Click through to learn about my experience with Fitbits and teaching.
Stage 2: Lessons from the Charge
When I heard about the Charge HR, the newest Fitbit that also monitored heart rate, I was immediately interested. As a data junkie, I wanted to know how stress was fitting into my day and when (so I could do something about it).

The graph to the left is my first week with the Charge. I got it Monday after school, and I experimented with wearing it at night or not on Tuesday-Friday. (I was also in the early stages of catching the flu, so my average resting heart rate was starting to rise daily!)

I've only had the Charge for less than a month, but here's what I'm noticing so far:

1. Alarm clocks really are evil! The early morning wakeup hurts.
2. I calmed down a lot during lunch, which consists of eating in a classroom with 5 of my fellow teachers and chatting. (They're the best group of people to work with, and they make my day better!)
3. Inconsistency during class periods - par for the course, right? Every day is different.
4. Stress at the end of the day - likely from hallway duty, a chaotic homeroom packing up to go home, and bus duty.

And, the part I often forget: the stress followed me home. Though my overall heart rate was usually lower at home, a parent email or a grading situation made it SPIKE. (It really made me wonder how often I should be checking my email and if I could fairly limit at what hours I do which school-related tasks.)

Stage 3: Ways to Deal
If a runner needs to train for a 5k, complete it using correct techniques and resources, and RECOVER afterward, then shouldn't we give some thought to our endurance factors? Here are the things I'm trying to deal with the physical nature of teaching:

#1: The right vitamins
I already take B12 in vitamin form daily (instead of getting it in an energy drink), and I've recently added a multivitamin that has more Vitamin D and iodine. (These were recommended in an article I read about Seasonal Affective Disorder, and since it's a grey winter in Ohio here, it seemed like a good idea.) I'm not a doctor, but for me personally, I feel a lot better when I get these.

#2: The right amount of water
Okay, we can't drink all the water we want and leave the classroom at will to use the restroom, BUT I did get fun water bottles and train myself to SIP it consistently throughout the day.

Have you ever wondered how much exercise or movement you get throughout the school day? What about how much stress you experience? A health and fitness monitor, like a Fitbit, can be a good tool to help you learn more about yourself as you teach! Click through to learn about my experience with Fitbits and teaching.
Photo Credit: Amazon
#3: The right shoes
I wear Crocs almost every day (usually Malindi in black), but I also broke down and bought the "custom" Dr. Scholl's shoe inserts, and they work like a CHARM. It's the best $50 I've ever spent for school, and they make my boots a lot more comfortable. Not having my feet hurt from low-quality, unsupported flats was a HUGE quality of life upgrade.

#4: The right daily step count
Teaching is not an excuse to get out of exercise. I need to stay in motion. I need movement to be a normal sensation for my body. Even if I don't teach a 5k, I need to walk one every day, or more, if I want to maintain and/or lose weight.

#5: Living more mindfully. I wish I could say I was getting more sleep, doing yoga, or using a breathing trick to stress less, but I can't. However, ever since I got the Charge, I'm at least TRYING to be more aware of the times of the day when my heart rate could go up, trying not to overreact to things as much, and trying to know when it's time to turn off.

I'm going to try to run the 5k, but also know where the finish line is.

What do YOU do to stay healthy, active, and/or energized throughout a school day?


  1. Thanks for posting this! I'm super excited to try to 'teach' a 5k when I return to school next week. I've been using my Fitbit One for several years now but this attitude brings it to a whole new level! I just might need to invest in a charge:)

    1. Thank you for reading! My new year's resolution is to hit a 5k during the school day more often. It's addictive! :)

  2. I just got a fitbit for Christmas this year and can't wait to see how much I walk during a school day!
    Thanks for posting!

    1. Enjoy the fitbit! Seeing patterns over time and thinking about why is super fun. :)

  3. This was a fun read, Sara! I have been thinking about getting a Fitbit and I think your blog finally convinced me. While I am off on maternity leave this year, I look forward to seeing how my heart rate will look when I get back (especially the stress level at different times of the day!)

  4. Hi Sara! I love my Fitbit Flex, and was SO excited to see the Charge HR! How did you get yours? When I go to the Fitbit page, it says it's "Coming Soon." Thanks for this post - I've never thought of how much stress would cause my heartrate to jump around - I think I'm in a world of surprise when I finally get set up, haha!

  5. Well, you've convinced me--I need (want?) one of these. I'm SURE I walk a 5K a day and I'm equally sure my blood pressure spikes far more frequently than it should. Great post!