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Sandy Journal

Five Canyons School District high school teachers compete for $1,000 in healthy heart challenge

Oct 01, 2018 11:43AM ● By Jana Klopsch

Thirteen teachers will take part in the 100-day Heart Challenge. Not pictured is Hillcrest High’s Jordan Hulet. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This fall, Alta and Corner Canyon high school students may be facing off in a friendly, heart-healthy competition, coached by Alta’s swim coach and Corner Canyon’s volleyball coach.

The students’ efforts will be in support of their coaches, two of five Canyons School District high school teachers who are competing for $1,000 for their schools in a healthy, heart challenge. Outside the district, eight other high school teachers in the Salt Lake Valley were selected to compete.

“I have 100 days to improve my nutrition, work outs, overall fitness levels,” Alta’s swim coach Kristina Kimble said. “I plan on winning; I’m insanely competitive, so not only do I want to become more healthy in my lifestyle, I want to set an example for my team and students.”

Kimble said her family history of high blood pressure coupled with heart disease made her realize she needed a lifestyle change.

“It’s scary. I need to take my healthy more serious. I’ve developed bad habits since my 20s and I want to make the change, and I’ll welcome all the school to support me and make the change as well,” she said.

The friendly competition, perhaps a fun run, between the two rival schools is part of the school awareness Corner Canyon’s Mindy Wilder, the volleyball coach, wants to bring with the challenge.

“I’d love to promote heart-healthy nutrition and exercise for everyone,” she said. “I’d love to implement it in PE, establishing more exercises, stretching, bring in yoga mats, involve more weights and use heart-rate monitors.”

Wilder also wants to focus on nutrition.

“We tend to overlook that quite a bit. I figured it’s time I live what I preach, but I want us to do it together,” she said. “Right now with coaching volleyball, I have 12- to 16-hour days, but with meal planning and preparation around games and grabbing a healthy snack, it’s doable. It’s about time management and priority. It already is becoming a big part of my family’s life.”

The 2018 My Heart Challenge is a contest to strengthen heart health and reduce risk of developing heart disease. The teachers were selected after they applied May 1 to participate in the 100-day challenge.

During the contest, teachers receive individual coaching and counseling from the heart specialists at Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, from exercise and diet to counseling and cardiology. They meet for seven nutrition classes as well as a dietician at a grocery store, they log their exercise and fitness and are tested for blood pressure, weight, body fat and other health markers. 

Through the challenge, teachers will record their progress on social media and invite their school to participate alongside through special projects, said Jess Gomez, challenge organizer.

“We did this program with elementary principals a few years ago and their school activities ranged from a walking program during recess to a scavenger hunt involving all the grades,” he said. 

In addition to elementary school principals in 2013, the challenge, in its sixth year, has reached city mayors, firefighters, families and nonprofit organization employees.

Physician Assistant Viet Le said teachers were selected intentionally.

“These teachers are like principals, role models for students and the community,” he said. “We want them to be healthier and then share with other teachers and students and their families to enhance fitness and healthy lifestyles. Our goal is to reach the entire school and community.”

Le said the heart challenge is more than just correcting lifestyles.

“It’s about prevention,” he said. “We want to keep patients out of the hospital and to have an active part in their health care. We want them to lead a healthy life first and foremost.”

That is Brighton High’s Pace Gardner’s goal.

“I was really excited when I read the email inviting us to participate,” he said. “I want to get healthier. The more I teach, the busier I become and in amongst doing more at the school, the less healthy I’ve become.”

Through the challenge, Gardner wants to lower his blood pressure in addition to becoming more fit.

“We took the baseline tests — blood tests, stress tests and already are learning about nutrition. I know I need to eat more veggies and less junk food. The more stress I have, the worse I eat. So I know I need to eat less ice cream, cookies and chocolate we have around the house for our kids, and instead drink more water and eat carrots and teach them from the start how to eat healthy,” he said.

Gardner also is tracking his exercise — swimming, golfing and walking around the neighborhood.

“I’m making changes that can be sustainable,” he said.

Gardner plans to expand his efforts beyond his family and is looking into ideas for the entire school, such as establishing a community garden in the atrium.

“It’s a little tricky now as our school is being rebuilt, but I want to encourage others to be active in the lifestyle change,” he said.

Brighton Principal Tom Sherwood said he’s already on board to support Gardner.

“We’ll talk to the faculty to see what we all can do to increase our healthy lifestyles from watching what we eat to exercising more — even opening our weight room to staff before school so they can do more cardio and weights,” he said. “Canyons School District held an (employee) healthy lifestyles campaign over the summer and we shared our activities — hiking, waterskiing, sightseeing — to bring balance into our lives. We can do the same to encourage our students to become more healthy.”

Hillcrest High’s Jordan Hulet also knows how becoming involved in school can consume much of her free time, but with family members having had heart attacks and heart disease, she wanted “to break the cycle and get more healthy.”

“I’m keeping a food journal and it’s been fun learning to look at foods differently. When I grew up, I learned fats were bad and to eat low-fat foods. But sometimes those are high in sugar, so they could be worse for you. The answer is to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less processed food,” she said.

Her lifestyle change also revolves about going to the pool either before or after school.

“I know with exercise, they say do the activity you love. I don’t love any of it. I don’t like being sweaty and gross; it’s not fun. But I was on the swim team and I loved that so I’m back in the water,” she said.

Hulet was away when the challenge began Aug. 10, but independently, she increased her walking to five to seven miles daily, and made conscious efforts in her eating, in hopes she’d be on track when she returned when school began.

“It’s about being more mindful, choosing what I eat and not just absorbing any calories. I know I can’t be weak or use excuses. Making a change is difficult,” she said.

She has goals for herself: to escape from Alcatraz, more commonly referred to as Swim with the Centurions, swimming from the prison in the middle of the San Francisco Bay to the city’s shoreline. 

Hulet also is setting a goal for her students.

“I’m exploring ideas, but it would be really great if the Hillcrest community could support a team in the MS (multiple sclerosis) walk,” she said, adding that this way, students also are participating in a heart-healthy activity.

Jordan High’s Nicole Manwaring wants not only Jordan High students to participate, but the little Beetdiggers in the school’s preschool, as well.

“We are making plans for them to stretch their whole bodies into the shape of the letter of the week and eat healthy snacks,” she said. “And we’re looking at holding a mini-Olympics, with trike races and an obstacle course so they’re using large motor movement and learning to be healthy and work together.”

Manwaring also is talking about other ideas with her administration, but greeted her own classes with a heart-healthy snack, informed them about the challenge and welcomed them to participate.

“I do better when I’m challenged than if I just try to do it myself. When I first saw the email about the challenge, I thought about it and decided I didn’t want to do it. Then, I realized I want more energy and applied. I’m really grateful I’m getting the push and support to get going,” she said.

Manwaring said she has fibromyalgia, which comes with chronic fatigue. 

“Exercise makes it hurt less and makes me feel better, but I lack the energy I need to exercise. This is challenging me to do it,” she said.

In addition to having a work schedule at school, Manwaring knows her challenge will be to find time to exercise. She and her husband work opposite shifts so they can take care of their children, as her grandmother, who often watched the kids, died unexpectedly last summer of a heart attack.

“I’m needing to take care of myself so I can take care of my family and set an example for my students,” she said. “I’ve been biking to school and walking briskly around the building. I’ve stopped munching and I’m eating healthy snacks. I’m getting great support from my family and coworkers. Together, we’ll make the changes and meet the challenge.”

Intermountain Medical Center CEO Blair Kent appreciates the teachers’ enthusiasm in sharing their knowledge.

“Our goal is for everyone to manage their own health and become passionate about it,” he said.