Fitness pursuits keep teachers healthy, happy and focused

February 6, 2024 — by Jessica Li and Amy Miao
Courtesy of Kristofer Orre
Anatomy and Physiology teacher Kristofer Orre achieves a deadlift personal record of 460 pounds at his gym.
English teacher and yearbook advisor Megan Laws and anatomy and physiology teacher Kristofer Orre find ways to prioritize fitness and exercise whilst balancing their home and work lives.

Amid teachers’ busy lives, juggling work with family responsibilities, personal well-being can unintentionally take a backseat. English teacher and yearbook adviser Megan Laws is one of the teachers who has made a conscious effort to prioritize fitness in her hectic schedule. 

Growing up as a two-sport athlete, playing soccer and doing gymnastics, Laws found her body unable to handle the vigor of both sports. After suffering a knee injury, Laws quit gymnastics at the age of 17 as it was the higher impact sport but continued playing soccer in a club at Saint Mary’s College. 

After quitting soccer a couple years after graduating college due to lack of leagues for her age group, her husband suggested that she start weight training with him, which Laws continues to do regularly. Her typical schedule consists of 1-1.5 hour workouts on Monday, Wednesday and weekend afternoons.

 Laws has four muscle splits that she alternates throughout the week: push, pull, legs and abs/cardio. Push and pull days mostly focus on the upper body and consist mainly of dumbbells, pulley lifts and deadlifts. Her leg days focus on isolating her lower body muscles with squats, leg extensions, hip thrusts, weighted lunges and calf raises. In between the heavy lifting days, she tries to sprinkle in a 10-15 minute ab workout or a 20-30 minute cardio workout that often includes running, spinning or a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout from YouTube.

After establishing a routine, Laws experienced a multitude of benefits from exercising apart from seeing herself grow stronger and healthier.

“I get an energy boost and it helps me maintain my focus while I’m at school or home,” Laws said. “I have ADHD and if I don’t work out, my ability to focus is gone and I often find myself walking around in circles in my kitchen, unable to remember what I’m doing.”

However, even with the benefits, obstacles arise discouraging her to workout. Long days of teaching as well as unpredictable sciatica — pain that travels along the sciatic nerve (lower back to legs) — flare ups from a tense gymnastics career present challenges as she is often faced with the difficult decision of whether to push through the exhaustion and pain, or to give her body a break. 

Laws has been weight training since graduating from college and sees herself continuing in the future, occasionally switching up her workout plan to keep it new and exciting.

“I’m constantly looking up YouTube videos and fitness [influencers] on Instagram to see what their plans are and changing mine when I feel like something isn’t working for me or when I’m bored with the lifts that I’m doing,” she said. “But I still think that maintaining a strength training program is important.” 

Courage from completing marathon powers Science teacher to start CrossFit

Science teacher Kristopher Orre, who is also a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) helping other teachers, also puts his physical activities and fitness life as a high priority, despite being heavily immersed in his career and roles as husband and father.

From cutting firewood to throwing heavy weights in the Highland Games (an international competition held in Scotland), he participates in a wide array of physical activities that benefit his health in different ways. Orre regularly attends CrossFit classes where he trains by using a mix of weightlifting, classic cardio and a combination of gymnastics movements like handstands and ring dips to make up the core of his fitness.

Orre keeps a structured routine of doing at least three days of CrossFit weekly to help him maintain consistency. Typically, his workouts take place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. They last for one hour, consisting of weightlifting and cardio conditioning.

However, this consistency took a long time for Orre to establish. When his uncle challenged him to run in the Santa Cruz half marathon alongside him 15 years ago, he said it seemed unimaginable. Before then, he had never surpassed running more than a mile or two, despite being an active participant in sports like baseball and mountain biking.

Orre ended up signing up for the race, training for it and finishing it on his own. Not long after, his friend introduced him to CrossFit. The new activity intimidated him at first, but Orre used the courage he gained from completing the half marathon to take the leap into CrossFit.

“I really liked the community aspect of working out with other people and being coached, and very quickly started to realize that I was not in as good of shape as I thought despite being very active,” Orre said.

As a result of his consistent training, Orre began to see evident results that he says have not only positively impacted his health, but also improved his outlook on life and shaped his identity. 

“I started to get more fit and feel [a lot of] health benefits,” he said. “My stress levels are mitigated and I become more patient and focused, which influences my ability to do my job and interact with students and colleagues. It’s become a big part of my identity and lifestyle, which led me to start coaching strength and conditioning at SHS for three and a half years.”

Given his hectic schedule involving his home, school and work life, Orre finds that establishing set times every week dedicated to CrossFit classes is extremely beneficial to balancing out all his duties. However, the times aren’t always ideal for Orre, as unexpected conflicts arise, such as extended meetings or concerns about his kids’ health.

“The nature of my job as a teacher, a teacher on special assignment (TOSA) and a father of three kids pulls me in a lot of different directions. Having a dedicated hour session on select days is sacrosanct and is a scheduled part of my day just as much as others are,” Orre said. “I try to juggle it the best I can and sometimes resort to doing my own exercise if I miss sessions.”

Orre sees himself continuing to exercise his whole life and hopes to be healthy and fit for as long as he lives. He hopes to be a 90-year-old who can deadlift several hundred pounds.

Ultimately, Orre feels that pushing himself in his exercise has made him a more resilient person and a key factor in building both his physical and mental tenacity.

“I have come to realize that my strength is one of my greatest assets, and not just physically, but mentally persevering through difficult workouts has trained myself to deal with challenging life events,” Orre said. “That coupled with all the widely known health benefits has given me a lot more confidence, resilience and joy and helps me a lot in my roles as a husband, father and teacher.”

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