Walkers Assemble!

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Fitness challenge winners Monette Matela and Rick Salas

Staying fit is difficult. As you get older, several obstacles stand in your way to the beach body you once had and found easy to maintain. Time, opportunity, and motivation sit at the top of most checklists for “reasons not to exercise.” If you add in the recent Covid 19 lockdown, finding the time, opportunity, and motivation grew exponentially worse. So, how do we stay physically and mentally fit during a pandemic?

Sometimes, getting started is the hardest part. You can look at the internet and find quick fixes, 30-day challenges, download fitness apps, but it is taking the first step that some people find the most challenging aspect to accomplish. The teachers here at Weston Ranch stared into the abyss and accepted the challenge. Led by Spanish teacher Roxana Navarrette, the teachers and staff began a fitness challenge and let their feet do their talking.

Navarrette noticed many teachers were getting out and walking. So, she took the responsibility to create a fun way for teachers to stay motivated and accomplish their goals.

“I saw many teachers walk around campus during their breaks, and I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to start a fitness challenge?” Navarrette told The Prowl. “And since most gyms are closed due to Covid, I felt like starting a fitness challenge will bring spirits up, have something to look forward to and work towards a healthier you, and at the same time make it fun and exciting.”

And exciting it was. Beginning on Day 1, 30 teachers and WR staff signed up to participate. The objective of the fitness challenge was to get as many steps as possible from Monday-Sunday. The participants were then ranked based on the number of steps. There were two groups (men and women), and at the end of the month, we had one female and one male winner. Math teacher Rick Salas took the prize as the men’s group champion, and new WRHS Information Technology Support Specialist Monette Matela claimed the crown in the women’s group. Salas, a former cross country coach, finished with an astounding 912,642 steps! Matela came in with a whopping 521,446. Each winner took home a prize of $72.

“It was $5 to join the challenge. And let me tell you, the competition was REAL! Especially the men,” Navarrette said with a smile.

The joy of watching all of this was that the participants were getting out and getting moving. They found the time, the opportunity, and the motivation to stay with it.

“The staff was very positive and encouraging of those participating,” Navarrette beamed. “Within the participants, it’s competitive and motivating. For most of the participants, it’s a personal goal to improve steps from the previous week. I heard from some of the participants that they’ve lost weight, they feel energized, spend more time with their family by walking together, and don’t know they had it in them to get a lot of steps in.”

Salas took the step challenge to the next level.

A sedentary person may take anywhere from 1000-3000 steps a day. An average person takes 2000 steps in a mile and 10,000 to walk five miles. For Salas, collecting over 900 thousand steps meant this: 20 miles per day and over 26 on the last day of the contest, which averages approximately 2,200 steps per mile. Salas’s coaching days helped him figure how to train and what he needed to do. It was a crazy schedule, but those who know Rick know he is a determined individual and capable of exceeding the original goals.

“My plan was 8 by 8 – 8 miles before 8 am,” a tired but happy Salas told The Prowl. “I got up and was walking by 4:00 am to 5:40 am. Once I got to school, I’d be walking from 7 to 8 am to bring in another 3. And then five more during prep and support time, leaving me with 6-7 miles to go. I was beat when I got home with, still, 6-7 miles to go!”

The women’s division champion, Monette Matela, echoed Salas’s observations. Her 521,446 outpaced the rest of the group. Notable for Matela, who not only joined WRHS as an IT Support Specialist two months ago and has been helping our campus navigate technology issues, as she found the time, opportunity, and motivation to keep moving.

“I joined the step challenge because I wanted to challenge myself, and this challenge will give me the motivation to push me further physically,” Matela told The Prowl. “My mantra is ‘Never Too Late.’ Every walks of life, there is something we always wanted to do. As long as we are still alive, I believe that we still have that chance to start on that something. Completing this challenge is my beginning and starting point to achieve much more.”

Clerical assistant Cassandra Hill, who was a close second to Matela, agreed. Hill said, “I was so happy to have others do the step challenge with me! When I started working here in January, I decided to take breaks to walk to try and stay active. Getting to walk with and talk about it with everyone else has been a lot of fun. I am somewhat competitive, too…so it was fun telling Monette(who has been the front runner the whole time!) I was going to catch her. My goals were to increase my steps each week steadily and reach 500K by the end of the month. I definitely did more than I thought I’d be able to do!”

A fitness challenge can be about winning the prize, obviously. But just getting outside and participating seems to be the big winner for the teachers and staff on this campus. There was a joy. There was fellowship. There were smiles–all things we haven’t seen consistently since the campus went on the pandemic lockdown.

Principal Troy Fast, who seems to walk a marathon every day and finished second to Salas, summed it up the best: “This challenge created good camaraderie amongst our staff, and many of us were doing it together at times! It was awesome to see so many of you out and about on campus.”

Navarette said the next Fitness Challenge will take place in April.  Get your shoes ready and assemble.

Boots are made for walking:  Ms. Barahona, Ms. Schuessler, and Ms. Stogner took a break from their stepping for a quick photo.
Mr. Fast presents overall winner Mr. Salas with a new pair of shoes.