How running has made me a better professional

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My wife, Amanda, and I running my second ever 5K!

I am sure, by title alone, you are already wondering how I can make the claim that by becoming a runner, I have become a better student affairs professional.  Over the last 10 months, in large part thanks to running, I have lost over 40 pounds (and counting).  I am in the best shape of my life.  I also feel that, professionally, I have found my groove.  Part of this has to do with experience, but I think is in large part due to my new found health and fitness.  I came to this realization the other day, where else, but on a 4 mile run.  Let me attempt to explain….

Running makes me happier

It is no secret that working out is good for one’s mental health.  Since being active, I find myself to be a happier person.  This is not to suggest I was not happy before, but rather I am happy (and proud) of the holistic “me” for the first time in a long while. This certainly translates to my work with students.  I am more positive, patient, and overall cheerful.

Running gives me energy

No amount of coffee in the world can compare to the energy I have gained from being active.  I would take a morning run over a morning coffee any day.

Running gets me up and away from my desk

With more energy, I am less apt to sit in my office all day.  I walk all over campus and to meetings.  I meet students in various locations for our one on ones.  This has helped me to interact more with folks I did not see as often within my Campus Center bubble.

Running gives me confidence

I was NEVER a runner.  When I set my goal in December of running my first 5k in June, I thought knew I was bound to fail.  The more I ran, the further I pushed myself, the more I believed in myself.  Self-confidence is something that has helped me tremendously at work as I am given more and more responsibility.  That voice in my head that often says “you can’t” is now drowned out by “remember that time you said you’d never be able to run more than a mile…”

Running has pushed me to take more risks

I ran my first 3.16 miles on a whim.  I had set out to run my usual 1.5-2 never thinking I was close to that elusive 5k.  While out on my run, something sparked that drove me to give it a shot.  What resulted was a 34 minute 5k and one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment I have ever felt in my life. This spark has not gone away, as long as I am consistently running.  It has followed me into my professional life and with more self-confidence and trust in myself, I take more risks and, as a result, have been more creative and innovative at work.

Running has helped me to own and accept my mistakes better

Let’s face it; we all hate to fail.  What running has taught me, however is that sometimes, it just isn’t my day and there is not anything I can do about it.  Other times, it is because my will and resolve were not strong enough.  Other times, it is because I have made a poor choice, such as bad nutrition prior to a run.  All of this, professionally, has better helped me to own my mistakes and realize that mistakes are bound to happen, especially as I get more comfortable with taking risks.

Running has helped me be a better role model

I’d always felt like I was a good role model for my students, except when it came to wellness.  I was significantly overweight and not at all active.  What’s worse, is I work in a building which houses the fitness center, and the department, which oversees student health and wellnes..  I was not leading by the example I should have been setting.  Now, the opposite is true.  I chat often with my students about my journey and what running has done for me.  A group of orientation leaders approached me about wanting to run with me.  It has now become a regular, weekly run.  Two of them, having never run more than two miles, ran a 5k our first week!  This is an experience I would have never been able to have shared with students prior.

Running gives me balance

Running, for me, is the greatest form of stress relief.  Instead of getting lost behind a screen or in food as I did in the past, I lace up the shoes and hit the pavement.  I feel rejuvenated and energized afterwards.  Running is my “me” time.  I am fierce when it comes to protecting it, in a way I had a hard time doing before.

I am not suggesting that all student affairs professionals should, or could benefit from, running.  I am simply hoping my story will help others who are in a situation like I found myself 10 months ago find hope.  Whether it is running, lifting weights, yoga, biking, etc. physical activity will pay off for you both personally and professionally, I promise.  If you did not know already, there is an amazing, supportive #safit community on Twitter and Facebook.  It is these people who inspired me and continue to support me throughout my journey.  It is safe to say, without the #safit community, I would not be where I am today.

So, what are you waiting for?  Lace em‘ up!

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Reflections on Penn State

I have been waiting some time for the right topic for my first blog post: something I was passionate enough about and something that I felt would be thought-provoking and would lead to a conversation. I hope that this is the first of many posts that will, if nothing else, elicit some thought and conversation.

Amidst all the controversy and the events that unfolded over the last few days, I am left with one image that I just can’t get out of my brain; Penn State students violently rioting in protest of the firing of head Football coach, Joe Paterno. The image and the sounds infuriate me. How could these students care more about their Football coach than the victims of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse, who were also victims of a system that covered up the abuse. I am probably one of the more passionate sport fans, so I understand the importance of the profound legacy of Joe Paterno and the deep school pride that these students, alumni, faculty, staff and community must have for their Nittany Lions. However, what I don’t understand is how one man, one sport, can be seemingly more important to a community than the 8 (and probably more) children who will always be haunted by the abuse they experienced. Shouldn’t the students be out protesting the abuse, protesting the cover up? Where was this passion when the story broke? Why were the students not protesting for the immediate firing of anyone involved?

Just this morning, I saw something much more powerful amidst all of the news coverage surrounding the story. Penn State Student Body President, TJ Ward addressed his peers with a speech on the steps of an administration building. He spoke out against the protest and urged his peers to remember the victims. He was eloquent and compassionate. Supporting him were several other student leaders. Watching the video footage of TJ’s address to his peers was yet another moment of realization for me about the work that we do as student affairs professionals. It is because of student leaders like him and the impact they can have on a campus community that I come to work every day. Student leaders at Penn State have also decided, instead of a rally for Saturday’s big football game, that they would hold a vigil for the victims of the abuse. Student leadership, amidst tragedy, has shown its true power. It was shown through TJ’s speech, the vigil organized by student leaders, and the professional journalism of The Daily Collegian.

Though they will never be recognized or mentioned on TV, I hope that the student affairs professionals at Penn State know that their hard work and dedication to the students of Penn State has shown through over the past few days. The work we do, though often unrecognized, is essential to a college community and is more evident than ever in times of unfortunate tragedy. Though TJ’s words and feelings were his own and the idea of the vigil was student driven, I can’t help but think of the student affairs professionals who have stood behind and beside them, supported their thoughts and ideas, and encouraged their development as both students and leaders.  I also can’t help but think of the residence life professionals, counseling center staff and the countless number of other professionals who will be hard at work restoring the community, supporting their students, and managing the aftermath of a series of such unfortunate events.

I am now left wondering what the student leaders on my campus would do in this situation.  Would they take a stance?  What would it be?  Would they answer the call to represent their peers and our campus community?  I can honestly say with conviction that they would.  The rioting, and more importantly the message that it sends, would not be tolerated.  I think their reaction, through written and spoken words, and signs of support such as a vigil, would be very much the same as Penn State.

I leave you all with this question. How would YOUR student leaders respond?