Exploring and Soaring

When you consistently write, you gain a unique opportunity. You see yourself in a different time and place. You can see and reflect on the person that you once were. After all, you are no longer the person that wrote those words, are you? You are someone different, however so slightly. This TED Talk made me think of a version of myself from long, long-ago. A version of myself that didn’t write, read, or even think…if I remember correctly. This video reminded me of a time and place when I was a ‘wild thing,’ exploring and soaring. I loved it!

Did I go to a school like this? No. I didn’t go to a school like this but, I would hope that every child has the chance to. This is an awesome school! Here’s to exploring and soaring!

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Thinking Lemons

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I wrote this poem over two years ago. I came across it today and it inspired me to pick up a pen and write. I’m sharing it with you because I hope it will give you a little inspiration to do something positive today and make yourself a better person for tomorrow. I hope you enjoy my poem, “Thinking Lemons.”

When life throws you lemons you are told to make a drink, when life gives us problems we step back and think. Today my suggestion is to be and only be, fret not the unknown or what we do not see. Take step after step, stride upon stride, walking confidently in your direction, in control of your ride. You hold the power, the choice is your test, no one is better at being you, I attest. If my rambling holds truth than there is one thing left to do, stop blaming external things and be a better YOU.

A Dream of Living Active

Living active is a lifestyle. It is a habit. It is a belief.  This blog has stayed alive because I love to influence people to move and to be active. When we move and are active there are three things that usually happen:

  1. Our heart begins to beat faster.  2. Our bodies begin to sweat.  3. We smile and feel good.

This is the story of this website to date. This website, like many others, has been on an interesting journey that all started with one idea. It has now transformed into a way of life. I hope that as you read this you can relate to the story and I hope that when you are done reading this that you will begin or continue to live active, starting today.

This is my blog. My name is Alex O’Brien. I created this blog in August of 2012 for my job. I was the Quality Physical Education teacher (#QPE) at Washington Elementary School in the Caldwell, Idaho School District. I loved my job and I will never forget the memories and people that made my heart feel so full. I named this site LivingActive.me for two major reasons:

  1. In 2012, at the end of the year, I surveyed my fifth grade students by asking them one question. The question was,  “What does Physical Education mean to you?” The answers I received hurt my heart. I had always believed that I was a #QPE teacher but the vast majority of my students’ responses didn’t seem to reflect that. Some of their answers were: “Physical Education means playing; it means gym class;  it means exercising.” Feeling a bit deflated by the fact that most of my students could not clearly articulate what Physical Education was all about, I figured that I had two options. I could blame the  students for not listening to me and  for not learning from me, or I could make a change and take responsibility. I chose to take responsibility.

I believe that if a person has a desire to learn something, and I am the educator that is teaching that person, then I am responsible for them to be able to understand it. If they don’t learn, then it is my fault–not theirs.

Armed with that introspection, I talked with my elementary school principal, Steve Foley. Steve is an administrator who wants the very best for each and every student under his watch. His passion and his actions to improve things and make them better is something that I respect and applaud to this day. I told him my sob story about how disappointed I was with the survey responses. I told him that I wanted to change the name of my class from Physical Education to Living Active. He listened to my reasoning and he trusted me implicitly. He agreed to the name change. It really meant a lot to me to have that kind of trust and support from my boss.

The name change for the 2012-2013 school year went from Physical Education to Living Active. It was quickly and completely adapted by every teacher, every aide, every administer and every student. We no longer referred to PE class. Or physical education class. It was Living Active class. Before long, even the parents referred to my class as Living Active.

Why did I change the name?  Because Physical Education doesn’t mean anything to most 5 year old kids. In fact, most kids all the way through high school can’t articulate what Physical Education means. But the title, Living Active, is a statement. It is something that any kid can relate to. If you ask a kid, “What are you doing at recess today?” That kid can respond, “Living active!” and that kid will know what he/she is talking about. I wanted the name of my class to be relevant to the kids I was teaching. That was why the website www.LivingActive.me was created.

  1. I wanted each student to take responsibility for their self. A ‘.com’ or a ‘.org’ or a ‘.net’ wasn’t going to do it for me. I wanted them to take this personally because when a kindergartner goes all the way through the school system and graduates from 12th grade they will no longer have anyone to tell them to live active except themselves.  (This statement makes the assumption that a student who graduates from the public school system shouldn’t have to pay a nutritionist or personal trainer to help them lead a happy, healthy, active lifestyle. They should have received proper education from their K-12 teachers). So, LivingActive.me was a perfect fit! When a kid logs onto LivingActive.me they can say, “This website is about me. It’s about me living active!”.  And they would be right.

After the 2012-13 school year I surveyed the fifth grade students again with this question: “What does Living Active mean to you?” I don’t have to tell you what they said, right? I got responses that did not hurt my heart. I had responses that talked about diet; about food groups; about the components of fitness. Overall, I read pertinent answers to my survey question about students meanings of living active.

I’m not suggesting that Physical Education change its name. I’m simply telling a story about a teacher who learned from his mistakes and who took responsibility for the educating of the kids he loved. (I use the word ‘loved’ as in past tense. HA! Who am I kidding–I still love those Washington Wildcats!)

My life changed significantly after the 2012-13 school year because I decided to take a job with a company called Focused Fitness. Focused Fitness was the company that was in charge of #QPE professional development in the Caldwell School District. All Caldwell #QPE teachers, K-12, used the Five For Life curriculum which was created by Focused Fitness. Focused Fitness trained Caldwell’s #QPE teachers several times each year. It was incredible to see an entire district of physical education teachers working together to transform how we helped our students become healthy, active, movers for a lifetime.

I am often asked if I like my job with Focused Fitness more than when I was a teacher at the elementary school. My response is the same each time I’m asked. “I do not compare the two, because they are not comparable. A teacher is the best job in the world, period. Nothing can be compared to teaching kids day in and day out because the rewards and emotions involved in that job cannot be put appropriately into words. That being said, I love my job now and I feel privileged to be on the Focused Fitness team. I am privileged because the Focused Fitness team bus is going in the only direction I want to take #QPE…the right one.

In September 2013 I left Caldwell, Idaho and headed for Spokane, Washington. Before I left I helped the teacher who replaced me get settled. I set her up with the original blog that I had created five years prior. I am proud to say that she has taken the blog over over and kept it up to date! Check it out for yourself www.WildcatPE.wordpress.com.

I have a new job and a new life, but I still have this LivingActive.me blog that you are now reading. I didn’t want to quit on this blog. It has changed into a more personal blog for myself. It has been that way for the past year. I try to stay steady and post regularly, but I don’t post as much as I would like.

Since I left Washington Elementary School in Caldwell, the class name ‘Living Active’ was changed back to ‘Physical Education’. That doesn’t bother me and I actually think it is great! As I said before, I’m not out to change the name, I am out to change the game.

Living Active is still alive in me. I base my life on living active every day. In my job I have a unique opportunity to help teachers across the country do the same. Every time I think about this website I think about the reasons that I created it. I created it to teach something to kids. Today the name continually reminds me that I must be a beaming beacon of light that shines each day, with a belief in Living Active.

Living Active is not about how far or how fast you  can run, or how many times you can throw a ball and hit a target…it has never been about that. Living Active has always stood for the bigger picture–the idea that moving your body ignites your mind, and when the body and mind are working together, we have no limits. We have no limits. Whatever level of fitness or activity that you are able to do is all that Living Active asks of you.

All too often we are tired, exhausted and bored. As a result, to relax , we usually sit down and turn on a screen of some sort and stare at with dull cow eyes. We must be better than that. We were built to move. We are movers. The mind and the body feed off of one another. Serotoninnorepinephrine, and dopamine are neurotransmitters that are released during exercise, or when someone is Living Active. Simply put, these 3 neurotransmitters are really good for us.

In short, I do not want to leave you guessing about what the purpose of my LivingActive.me story is. My purpose was to move you. To motivate you. To inspire you to do what your mind wants and you body needs to do…to live active. Living Active makes us smile. It makes us think. It helps us concentrate. It helps us lead healthy lives.

I would like to leave you with a quote and a question. The quote: “A body in motion stays in motion”. The question: Have you lived active today?

Wakeboarding

I grew up every summer on Camano Island, Wa. Roughly 26 years ago I touched the water out in front of my family’s property for the first time (I was about two years old). To this day, that water makes me want to be active. I love that water…any water for that matter. Without diving into a philosophical reason for my love of water…the human body is comprised mostly of water.

To not love water, is a lot like not loving yourself. If there is one thing I love to do in the water it is wakeboarding. Wakeboarding has always been a release for me mentally and physically. The first time I tried wakeboarding is a memory I won’t soon forget. I had bought a new board and bindings (with hard earned lawn mowing money), and the guy at the ski shop gave us the basics on how to get up. I think he said something like, “Relax, let the boat do the work, and you will pop right up!” About $300 later we were out of the store and off to the beach. I strapped on my board, slid into the warm water, and waited for the rope to get tight as my ‘Jazz’ Bayliner Jet Boat idled away from shore, with Ma and Pa at the helm. Once the rope was tight I yelled, “Hit it!” About five seconds later with my Mom and Dad as witness, I was up and boardin’. Party on.

I still have my first wakeboard. A Hyperlite-Honeycomb-Drifter 136 that is hanging on my wall at our beach cabin. The decal on the board is a little kid looking to the horizon, with his little suitcase packed…As I reflect on that decal now, I remember how that board made me want to rule the world. What a little hellion. Guess some things don’t change much.

This past Labor Day I was home with my family on Camano Island. I was swimming, jet skiing, and boardin’ every chance I got. What’s crazy is, that I still felt the exact same way as I did when I was younger on that beach, or in that Livingston Bay water…untouchable.

There are three things I would like to explain when I use the word ‘untouchable’:

  1. I know how ignorant and silly it sounds to say
  2. That is truly is how I feel
  3. The ability to walk dangerously in a direction is seldom done but always remembered

This is a video we recorded with my phone and then I edited it that morning. I love living active and I trust you do to.

Spokane Hoopfest In Reflection

My First Spokane Hoopfest started when I landed at Spokane Airport at 11:55 PM on Friday night. I gathered my belongings from the overhead compartment, walked out of the airport, and boarded the shuttle to my car. I was excited for the upcoming weekend, and exhausted from a long week in Anaheim, California. I was in Anaheim building a stronger PE program thanks to Anaheim City’s PE department head, Tammie Bernal, and the company I hang my hat on, Focused Fitness. The shuttle dropped me off; I tipped the driver, and headed for my ride only to find my window broken out. I was upset for two reasons. The first was because I was raised to respect things, and breaking out a window is not respect. The second was because there was nothing to steal…literally. There is no use crying over spilt milk though. I reported the incident, and got on with my night. I was tired, and I needed my sleep. After all, game one of Hoopfest was in less than 532 minutes, but who’s counting? Down the road I went, window broken, and rain coming down (can’t make this stuff up). I got home and went straight for bed.

As my head hit the pillow I expected a REM cycle to kick in immediately. No such luck. My eyes wouldn’t even close. I was giddy. I was like a young child at bedtime Christmas Eve. I was so excited for the day to come I could hardly stand it! Instead of waiting for Reindeer paws and a “Ho Ho Ho,” I was waiting for the dribble of a ball and the crisp ‘snap’ of twine as it splashed through the net. Hoopfest is the largest 3-on-3-basketball tournament on earth, and this was the 25th anniversary. Instead of counting sheep, I realized the only way I was getting some shuteye is if I counted ‘mid-range J’s’ (a jump shot from a middle range). It worked, and I woke up ready to go. Hoopfest was upon me. A few stats for your mind to digest: 6,905 teams; 250,000 people rolling through the streets of Spokane, Washington.

If you have read this far, you are a trooper, and I won’t bore you with the details that don’t entertain. Such as, my personal play in the tournament, the play of my amazing teammates, or the results of the teams I followed religiously…You are reading because you want to feel something, you want to be moved, and if this doesn’t do it for you, you won’t hesitate to close the link and check a social media status of some sort. 😉

This tournament (Spokane Hoopfest) creates smiles, memories, and relationships. This tournament is a stamp of fitness on society, and a vehicle for an Old School Social Network (OSSN). An OSSN is a network of people that can communicate and interact without technology. Now, I understand that the entire tournament is online and has Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, Apps, #’s, etc. However, I’m calling Spokane Hoopfest an OSSN because it would still happen without all of the technology. Would it be as big, as widespread, or as interactive? No. But, the Hoopfest show would still go on. People would come to Spokane, and play 3-on-3 until the cows came home.

My team made it to the second day. We played early, and lost early. Life goes on. It was an absolute blast, don’t get me wrong, but there is more to this event than playing in it. It is a culture. Dare I say, a religion. Hoopfest makes you feel like a kid again!

I met up with friends, new and old, watched games of all levels, and most importantly…I exercised.

That is what this all comes down to folks…exercise. Hoopfest is not about how good you are at basketball. Hoopfest is an OSSN that promotes exercising. I’m enamored by it.

Even though playing and losing in the tournament was a great workout, my exercise for the day had just begun. I walked well over eight miles after my tournament life was over.

We need to create more OSSN based on exercise. I could ramble on about why Hoopfest stands for so much more than just basketball but, instead, I would like to pose a challenge to you.

THE CHALLENGE:

Schedule a time with friends or family to play and exercise this week. Once you have planned the activity, don’t mention it again (technology wise). Assume, just for a moment, that you can count on the people you are suppose to count on, without sending them a text five minutes before said event…

I wish you smiles, health, and plenty of exercise!

 

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Stop Doing What You Are Currently Doing…kinda

Two reasons for posting this video:

Reason One: This quote, ‘give people your love, not your like’

Why: I have a joke with my buddies. I’ve been known to post a video or two on Facebook. Each time I do I inevitably get a text from one of my friends hinting that it won’t get any  ‘likes.’ I always reply, “My favorite posts are the ones that don’t get any ‘likes’ because then I know that someone saw it and went out of their way to not click the little thumbs up button.” Are those really my favorite posts? No, they aren’t, but I’m trying to spin a positive out of the situation.

Reason Two: It made me remember why I made this blog in the first place.

Why: LivingActive.me was originally created as the blog for the Physical Education Class I taught. I changed the class name form PE to LivingActive. My reason was simple. I taught Elementary PE and the vast majority of kids didn’t know what PE meant. But, they knew how to live active, case in point, I changed the name to LivingActive.

I created LivingActive.me because I knew that kids were going home and jumping on social media, regardless of age, and I wanted them to go home and exercise instead. So, I thought I would try to trick them into exercising. I thought that if I encouraged them to go home and check out LivingActive.me they would be more inclined to get up, get outside, and move after visiting the website… It worked! I had kids talking about the blog, and about what they did the night before. “I made my whole family walk to the park with me.” “I played fetch with my dog and tried to race him to his ball.”

In short, take the time to watch this amazing video below…but after you watch it, shut down your phone, tablet, or computer and interact with this wonderful world. Live active my friends!

Direct, Open, and Honest

This post is dedicated to Numero Uno.

In as few words as possible, I’m going to talk about taking responsibility… It simply makes life easier.

When it comes to my health, I am responsible for it.

IE: If I set my alarm to get up and work out, then when the alarm goes off, I need to get up and work out (snooze alarms don’t build muscles or endurance).

When it comes to how a feel, I am responsible for it.

IE: If I have something on my mind, it is up to me to speak it. I must be respectful and versed on the subject, but it is up to me to speak my mind (close mouth doesn’t get fed).