As part of my regular job as the education reporter for Daily Herald Media in Wausau, I've been interviewing some of the top academic performers from area high schools.
If you ever get depressed about the future, you owe it to yourself to talk to a teen who does well in school. You'll be able to read about these particular students and more in a special section that will hit the streets April 11.
These Academic All-Stars shall remain a secret until that section comes out, but I can tell you that there are certain characteristics that these kids, high school seniors, share that are relevant to anyone every day. But they seem to be particularly apt for those of us trying to get healthy, fit and enjoy life. Here are some of the lessons I learned from high schoolers:
>>> Be Consistent. Every one of the teens that I spoke to were 4.0 students. And they had naturally brilliant intellectual minds. But that didn't mean every class came easy. So they did their homework. All the time.
As a wanna-be runner, I often go hot and cold, spurting out workouts of 6 miles a day one week, then crashing the next. Lately I've tried to even things out a bit, and increase my duration and intensity gradually.
>>> Be the right kind of competitive. These students aren't arrogant about their brains and their bright futures, but they are proud of their accomplishments. Their sense of competitiveness came out when they talked about their motivations to maintain a 4.0. "I'm not talking about beating others," one student said. "But I want to keep that 4.0"
You can take the same attitude in fitness, I found. Winning in a 5k or a weekend bike event doesn't mean coming in first, or beating the 12-year-old girl jogging along next to you. It's about putting for the best effort you can on that particular day.
>>> Have fun. One of the questions I asked all these kids was, How did you keep going, say studying English when you love chemistry, or working on that project when you'd rather be doing whatever teens like to do for fun nowadays? There were a couple of answers. Some said, "You just gotta push through it." (Yeah, they used the word gotta.)
Others said they made games out of the work. "I will do things like give myself treats after completing an assignment," one student said. "Or I won't go to the bathroom until I'm done." One girl approached her schoolwork as a puzzle to be solved.
We can do this with our workouts too. In fact, we need to do this with our workouts, because exercise should be mostly fun. Yes, there will be times when you just gotta push through. But if you're not having fun, say 80 percent of the time, maybe you need to find another exercise, or reframe what you're doing.
After all, studing for the ACT is likely to be a lot more important in these students' lives than running a certain time in your town's 5k is for your life. Wouldn't it be better to run it 24 minutes with a smile and having fun, rather than 21 minutes with a frown? We're not professional athletes. Let's stop taking everything so seriously, and enjoy getting outside and moving.
Keith Uhligís blog veers toward outdoor silent sports, running, biking, kayaking, etc., but also can be about eating cheese, growing up and living in central Wisconsin and life in general. You can reach Keith at firstname.lastname@example.org.