They call themselves the “Dreamrunners”. They are teachers, library aides, special education instructors and counselors. They work in elementary, middle and high schools in the Brownsville Independent School District (BISD), and they run together. They didn’t always run. In fact most of the 30 plus BISD employees who have participated in this “5K prep class” offered through the district’s wellness program, couldn’t run half a mile when they started back in September.
But after 6 months of walking, training, and eventually running, they have all finished at least one 5k (3.2 miles) race, most have completed a 10k and 10 of them are scheduled to run a half marathon at the end of the month. Their energetic trainer, Cynthia Shears, spends her days teaching social studies to Middle Schoolers, and her evenings helping her co-workers and other district employees get fit and healthy.
“Back in September I started the group with walking. I focused on safety and form, and just encouraged them to run a quarter of a mile. With each day they walked and ran a little further. It’s a mind battle to run and move when you aren’t used to it. Your mind tells you, ‘You can’t!’ so my job is mostly to encourage. In 8 weeks the group had progressed to running a 5k. After another 10 weeks some of them were ready for a 10K. Now they are moving on to half marathons. I’m so proud of them!”
The running group is the brainchild of Anisa Gonzalez, director of BISD Wellness programs.
“I applied for a small grant from the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation in December 2014 and was given funds to start the program for district employees. It has been so popular and successful we are on our 3rd group and have a waiting list to get into the class. I get emotional about this because I didn’t realize this program would have this success! I was blessed with finding the perfect instructor who inspires and motivates these runners to keep going and who took this program beyond my dreams for it.”
Shears emphasizes the importance of educators adopting healthy lifestyles including regular exercise.
“Regardless if we want to be or not, we are role models to the kids. If students see a teacher” running or even walking for exercise, they are inspired. “Ma’am, I’m gonna race you! They look up to you for doing something like that!”
Shears has been teaching for 26 years and has seen a disturbing trend. “Kids are getting bigger; now 6th graders have diabetes. They are just not exercising as much. It’s more important now than ever we model healthy living for them.”
Gonzalez adds that having healthy employees saves the district money on health insurance and reduces staff absenteeism. “The small investment in these types of programs can go a long way.”
Shears shares that several individuals have especially inspired her. “When Martha started she could barely run, but she kept at it and lost weight, and eventually ran a 10k. Mario started with us in the fall and had been injured. He never misses a practice and is now ready to run a full marathon (26 miles)!”
Social support is the key to the program’s success, explains Shears.
“The best part of the program is the encouragement we give to each other. So often we don’t do what we really want to do because we don’t have support from others. This program provides a network. We develop friendships and we’ve really become a team. We catch each other saying negative things and try to help each other be more positive. We do life together. So many of us are lacking that support and motivation to make healthy choices and I think it is the key.”
Tu Salud ¡Si Cuenta! (Your Health Matters!)