For Barbara Smith, the coronavirus pandemic was the push she needed to get her health going.
The 41-year-old Oak Forest resident was already active. Smith has been a runner for more than two decades and completed two marathons in 2019. She even started a running team at Sinclair Elementary, where she teaches math in fifth grade.
But even while eating a healthy diet and running regularly, she has put on weight in recent years.
It wasn’t much – but enough to bother her.
“I just didn’t feel or look like my activity level,” she said. “The year I ran two marathons was the hardest. I had gained 20 pounds in three years. It didn’t suit me well. “
Then hit COVID-19.
Smith was on a family vacation in Vermont for the spring break when everything shut down. Your flight was canceled and later postponed. She returned just in time for a major change: she became a virtual teacher.
“I had to reinvent myself,” she said. “And the teachers had to literally overnight. It was like doing your job very differently tomorrow. There was no planning, no strategy. “
Helping students keep learning and emotionally dealing with change became their top priority.
Smith’s stress levels rose. Already frustrated with her weight gain, she was increasingly afraid to teach online.
“It was like a hard stop,” she said. “I knew something had to change.”
At that moment a friend posted a challenge on Instagram. She put together a team to try a 100-day Beach Body fitness plan.
“It was perfectly timed,” said Smith. She signed up and also recruited her friend Holly Crawford so they could hold each other accountable.
“I thought, ‘This is what we were looking for,” said Smith.
There were about 15 people in the group and they started in July.
“You do it on demand, online, in your own time,” said Smith. “There were 100 workouts that lasted 30 minutes or less that could be done from home.”
She bought some hand weights. “I pushed the game forward on the first day,” she said. “It was tough, but I was ready for the challenge. I wanted to change something. “
That included their diet. Smith explained that Beach Body was a systematic way to change her diet, and she quickly found that breakfast was a weak point in her routine. Before that, she would grab what she could. Now she has a protein shake every morning.
“One tweak made all the difference,” she said. “I thought the change would be harder, longer, and smarter. But it was actually my breakfast, and everything else went together. “
Smith has completed her first 100-day challenge and is participating in her third Beach Body training program. She has lost 25 pounds and 20 inches since starting.
“The habit is there,” she said. “I can easily maintain my healthy lifestyle and don’t feel stuck trying to lose weight.”
Smith also feels more energetic and positive. And that has been a blessing since the teachers returned to campus.
Smith wants to share what she learned during the pandemic to encourage other stressed-out teachers and parents. It was her success with the program that encouraged Heights resident Erin Hasbrouck to give it a try for herself.
Barb said, ‘I do this program and I love it. I think you would love it too, ”Hasbrouck recalled.
Hasbrouck usually doesn’t like running or exercising. She doesn’t struggle with her weight, but she wanted to gain strength. So she decided to give the exercise program a try.
“I was looking for something but I wasn’t sure what it was,” said Hasbrouck. “Then Barb texted me. The timing was perfect. “
Hasbrouck started the 100 Day Challenge in December and is already feeling fit and toned.
Smith provided the inspiration Hasbrouck needed.
“She has so much energy and enthusiasm and it’s kind of contagious,” said Hasbrouck. “She’s a great cheerleader. I knew I would support them 100 percent. “
Smith even convinced her husband, Kyle, to exercise with her.
“He always said,” I would never train from home, “she laughed,” Guess who’s on his second challenge now? “
Kyle was looking for a way to get in shape.
“Seeing the results Barb got during her 100 days of training was the biggest persuader,” he said.
And exercising at home made it easy, he said. Bad weather never ruined a run or he had to worry about how much daylight was left in the day.
“I train from the comfort of my home, where the weather and lighting are always perfect,” said Kyle.
He doesn’t even have to plan which day is arms day and which day is legs. The program includes a timetable. As Smith says, “You just have to show up.”
He admits to being pessimistic about exercising at his house, especially after trying programs in the past and not sticking to them. Prior to COVID-19, Smith also didn’t think working from home was a viable option. But the pandemic changed the way you view fitness.
“You don’t have to go anywhere,” she said. “And you don’t expose yourself to COVID in a gym.”
Working out from home made it easier to sneak into a quick routine, Smith added, even when she balanced her schedule with her husband and two children – Olivia, 10 and Henry, 8.
“I’m so busy, but I always have 30 minutes,” she said. “Exercising from home can be fun and fulfilling. That feels, sees and sounds sustainable to me. I can easily imagine doing this for the next 10 years. “
In a way, Smith credits COVID-19 for opening eyes to change.
“I don’t think I would train from home without her,” she said. “I would do the same old thing.”
This also applies to their lessons. “I will never again hold a parent-teacher conference in person if it is so much easier for them to make a quick video call at work,” she said.
She’s now also recording her classes and posting them on her own YouTube channel. When a student is absent, catching up is easier.
“I had none of this before COVID,” she said. “And at the end of the day I would never have been here without her. It turned out to be my life, not just my year. And I’ll see where this takes me. “
Lindsay Peyton is a Houston-based freelance writer.