Healthy habits and setting a morning routine through habit stacking – StartEdUp Podcast

Have you ever wanted to start setting a morning routine but haven’t taken the plunge yet? Do you need to start creating healthy habits? Listen to my chat with Don Wettrick, the host of influential American education podcast, StartEdUp. Together, we discuss teaching, healthy habits, setting a morning routine, habit stacking and even my side hustle, Why Knot Ties.

 

I had actually moved house that evening before the podcast recording, which was 11 pm Australian time. However, Don is an amazing podcast host and an even better guy. If you’re not familiar with the podcast, I strongly suggest that you subscribe and listen. What he is advocating for and the battle that he is fighting is game-changing for education.

 

You can listen to the episode here, or if you want to check out all the other excellent episodes – which I recommend – you should do that here. Furthermore, you can download the freebie that I offered the StartEdUp audience by clicking on the image below.

classroom habit setting

Turn your three steps into a habit with this ultimate guide to habit setting!

 

 

StartEdUp podcast episode 188 – Habit Stacking

 

Don: StartEdUp

Welcome back everybody to another edition of the StartEdUp podcast a member of the education podcast network; today we have on Vince Massara. Vince is a teacher, but he’s also a guy that wants to increase your overall wellness. He is passionate about fitness, and overall health and this podcast dives deep into that especially if you are a teacher. If you’re not, that’s fine he gives you a lot of great advice as well but he does have a unique perspective on some of the things he does with the students and his own life. So it’s for this reason that I love the podcast because I go into maybe too much detail on my journey of just trying to get healthy again at age 45. Vince was very practical and talked about some awesome steps that I can do, and you can do to start living a life of overall wellness. Alright, without further ado, Vince Massara. Alright, now am excited to join with a big time zone difference, Vince Massara from Victoria, Australia, Vince thanks for joining the show.

 

Vince

No worries, thank you, Don. How are you?

 

Don

You know, just quick enough, and I know that you’re probably about to go to bed so we’re at opposite ends there. Ironically we’re going into some healthy habits and things of that nature and so I’m going to start this off. I get a fair amount of requests and some are from ed tech companies and things of that nature and I usually try to look for things as often as possible, and your email just jumped off the page because you go with what you know, and what I know right now is I’ve been trying to get back into healthier habits. So I’m 45 and when you said you’re a teacher but you also strive to make other teachers healthier, I was like “That’s so cool”. So before we dive into that, explain what you do there at your school, give shout-outs to your school, do whatever, but explain what’s your role as a teacher first.

 

Vince

Yeah, definitely I’m so will start with the shout out to Mackillop college in Werribee. What we do is we’re really fortunate to have a campus-based in 9th grade. The Australian system’s a little bit different. We start high school in 7th grade, and once it comes in 9th grade, the students come to us, and it’s a bit of a tricky one when it comes to welfare and people, *you know, students are fine themselves* So we do an integrated curriculum, its inquiry-based, we focus on welfare a lot as well. A really good thing is, instead of having 6 classes, the students have 3 or 4 so they see the teachers a lot and you just get to build relationships really quickly. So, I teach an integrated class, which is English, Science, Humanities, all the good stuff combined.

 

Habit stacking and teachers

 

Don

That’s awesome, so now let’s dig into what you’re, and I’m sure your passion about that but when you wrote me your email you went into several things. Explain to me, first of all, *what was your origin of the story*? Why did you start identifying with teachers needing better healthy habits? Let’s say.

 

Vince

Yeah definitely, so it started when I was, you know I grew up in a family that we cared about how *both* but at the same time it definitely wasn’t a priority, as in you know exercising and eating healthy, you know, everything like that. And just when you busy it’s kind of can be the first thing to sort of go to the side and it got to the point where I started my teaching career and I was quarter of the way and at the end of the day we want to be the best role model we can be for our students, and I wasn’t happy with myself so I couldn’t really expect my students to be happy with themselves if I’m a bad role model basically. So that kicked me into gear and through some habits settings, I managed to lose quite a lot of weight, and I’ve kept it off so far. It’s been 6 or 7 years, so that’s good, and yeah, now it’s something I want to try and help with. I’ve got to the point where I think I’ve got it pretty good, I’ve got to the point where it’s a habit now, and I want to help other teachers get to that.

 

Don

Yeah, I’m so glad you said 6 to 7 years, I thought you’re going to say 6-7 weeks. I was like, “Okay”, you’ve obviously kept it all. Because I mean, and it’s funny you said because like in my family, we do take health seriously and I mean we work out together, but I struggle. You know, I’m 45, my wife looks like she’s 25, it’s not fair for her, but she makes health a priority. We eat healthily but it’s been me snacking at night and it came to a habit about 2 months ago. I walked into the kitchen as I was about to go to bed, had my athletic shorts on and no shirt and my daughter was, it looks like she was smirking and she whispers something to my wife and then my wife was like, gave her this look of disapproval but then she started smiling a little bit. I was like, “what? what’s so funny?” And then Alisha my wife said, Don’t Eva.” And she’s like’ “I’ve got to”. I’m like, “What?” She says, “Dad it looks like you’re pregnant.” And I’m like, “How pregnant?” And then Eva looks at my wife and she’s like, “Eight months?” With that reality, my wife was like, “Eva…” And I was like, I needed to hear this, and I go, okay, what did I go into? I went into defence mode, I had just drunk a can of La Croix, which is very carbonated, it makes you bloat because it has a lot of carbonation. So I said, “I just drunk a can of La Croix”, and the Eva looked at me and she was like, “Not that many” I was like, “Alright, from the mouth of babes, right?”

 

And so, I kind of looked at else in the family and I’m like, “Alright” The same thing you had. If I’m a role model for my family and for my kids at school, but I was like, “Haaaa…” Because there’s an age gap, my oldest is 17, my middle is 14, my youngest is 8 and I’ve got 10 more years left in the household with my 8-year-old, he’s going to be around. Let’s get back into it. So, let’s get into it, explain to me why first of all teachers sometimes don’t have the best health habits in the world and then we’ll start going into some solutions.

 

Vince

Yeah, definitely, so when it comes to why teachers wouldn’t have the best health habits a lot of it comes down to either prioritizing time, I don’t want to term inefficiently, but we all have the same 24 hours in the day and it comes to the point where you’re leaving things to after school, I don’t know about you, Don, but sometimes when I leave school I’m pretty exhausted, so going out and getting ready and going to the gym just takes that a little bit more effort. And then, it’s like teaching’s one of the jobs where the work’s never completely done. You can be on top of things but there’s always something else you can be doing and that can get back and way down on you as well like. I know a lot of people feel guilty if they’re not, you know, working at home and doing a lot at night and you know staying up every night and working.

 

Don

I love what you’re talking about here because this can go in two different directions. Direction number one sometimes you just come home and you eat just out of stressing or number two, and I like where this is going as well, like if you don’t work out it’s just that stress buildup, so for some, it may not be waking, it just could be hypertension. Ooh, okay I’m sorry because like this is making too much sense to me. Because, yeah, I mean that was my guilty pleasure. So, when things started to fall apart, sorry this shouldn’t be about me but just do solidify my mind, when things started to fall apart for me physically is because I took on a new job and it was an hour sometimes an hour and 10 away from my home. So the time I used to work out was me getting up and driving an hour and ten minutes to work and then driving an hour and ten minutes back. By the time I get back I was too tired from sitting down all day, and sitting down and driving so I do like your viewpoint that sometimes you just need to work out because of the stress of the day and not just waiting. Sorry about that, keep going.

 

Setting a morning routine

 

Vince

No, your thought, and that comes into it too because I’m definitely. I’ve heard you on podcast before on previous episodes talking about seizing the morning and a morning routine. I think most of that stuff is best done in the mornings. That’s a whole another episode really.

 

Don

No, please let’s take 2 steps backward because that is the golden ticket I found in the last x amount of months especially my daughter is in swim season because she has to be there at 4:30 a.m. anyway, and this is before she drove that I got into this habit, so that was the golden ticket going to winning the morning especially from a teacher’s standpoint.

 

 

Yeah, definitely what it comes down to is your willpower is not some infinite resource. It’s kind of like the battery on your phone that runs out. You will even recharge it every night and you can plug it back in but once you wake up it sort of starts running, make most of that willpower and do it in the morning so if it is getting up that little bit earlier and doing it then you know that helps everything as well. You usually get to school, you already been up for a couple of hours, you’re running around, you’re more energetic in the morning classes and a lot of people say and a lot of people may say that I’ll get really tired during the day and what happens, you know I’m a late sleeper and everything like that and I’ll tell you what. If you’re getting up and especially you would know with the swim season starting at 4:30 in the morning that whole going to bed late only really last one night because when you get it when you get up at 4:00 once in the morning, that night you’re in bed by like probably 9 I’d say.

 

Don

Easily, I had a paper round as a kid and it’s been normal for me to get up at 4:30 in the morning so yes that was easier part for me is that I am naturally a morning person. I prefer to go to bed at 9:00, 9:30, 10:00 is pushing it, so yes I naturally wanted to get in bed at that time, for sure.

 

Vince

Yeah, that’s it so if you can start getting out that little bit early and the *listings* at home, start doing it in the morning. Set that monring routine. You’re going to use that willpower while you’ve got most of it and if you’ve taken you know the whole day and you’re exhausted from a day of work, you’ve had to like in your case drive an hour, or an hour and 10 minutes to and from work every day, you’re exhausted. You don’t want to do anything when you get home, so why put yourself in the situation what you have to do something.

 

Don

Yeah, and just by clearing your day, I noticed how much more mentally alert I was at the beginning of the day. So yeah, by me getting up my brain was going, my creativity was at its zenith, but I will say and this is where people are probably talking to our guest, “Yeah but how did you feel after lunch?” It’s surprisingly not as tired as what you might think. That kind of release of all your, cortisol and everything else the morning and just getting going kind of carried me through the day. Now I will say around 2:00, yeah I started to have a dip again but that when I was doing *whole* duty or wanting to kind of walk around to offset that. But for sure my mental clarity alone was probably one of the biggest benefits of it.

 

Vince

Yeah definitely and if you get to two o’clock and you’re a little bit tired like that it does happen sometimes though what I’ve been doing and what I’ve noticed is, our lunchtime goes from 12:45 to about 1:20 or something like that 1:30. If I’ve eaten my lunch really quickly, instead of just sitting there and doing nothing and just getting tired I’ll go out and have a run and play with students as well and go and chat and get walking around and get talking and it does so much of a difference. If you’re active throughout the day as well, you’re going to keep that buzz going.

 

Avoiding the unhealthy teacher lifestyle

 

Don

Yeah, alright, so give us some other tips and suggestions here on unhealthy teaching lifestyle.

 

Vince

Yeah yeah so probably the best way to it is to just attach these new habits that you want to make, so you’ve got to pick what’s best for you and what’s most important. I know like you know they say abs are in the kitchen and not in the gym and everything like that. But I know that if I’m working out in the mornings or if I’m working out I’m probably going to eat better throughout the day, it’s when I stop being active. So my goals are mainly based on exercise because I know that will lead to better things and that will be sort of a domino effect. So, I’m a massive believer in habit stacking which is just basically attaching new habits you want to set to habits you already have and we all we all like we already have habits. If you get up in the morning and then you, I don’t know, shower have breakfast, brush your teeth and go to work, you do that without thinking about it every single morning, that’s a habit. If we can try and push one of the healthy habits that we want to include, attach it to that. So a good way I say it just put it in a sentence of either before or after, for example, “After I wake up I will go to the gym”. So that attaching a new habit which could be going to the gym to an old habit which is getting out of bed. That’s something you don’t have to do rather than saying I’m going to go to the gym at some time today and it just leaves a lot more option there.

 

Don

So I’m a podcast fanatic, and probably the one that started me off to where I was literally just walking around so I could listen to more podcasts was Freakonomics and they did it, unbelievable; This is 7 years deep so if you’re looking for it on the archives it’s back there always. But they were habit stacking in the title to weight loss and basically they had a lot of people that enjoyed audiobooks, and so they habit stacked the, “Okay, just walk around and finish this book” and in some of the cases they were long books and that was one of the key ingredients, like they wanted to walk around and I think I the longest one was one of the harry potter books and to get through that book, you’re doing some miles.

 

Vince

I’m assuming you were hooked.

 

Don

Exactly, It was such a unique because people were like, “Huh!”. I was so engrossed in the book I forgot that I was jogging or walking or running that far and then and then they were like looking forward to going to the gym like, “I’ve got to through this next chapter”. If it was a page-turner, and that’s exactly, I remember I can literally, vividly picture the street that I’m walking down right now listening to that podcast because everything made so much sense because to me my habit stacking started to become, “Ooh, when’s the next freakonomics episode going to come out?” because I wanted to be left alone and I love my family but I like to listen to my podcast in solitude, I just put on a pair of headphones and I’d start walking around the neighborhood and/or jogging but I normally would have to walk because I’d love the episode so much. I’d carry my phone, well, I was listening to it with my phone, I’d pause the podcast and I’d read audio notes for myself. So I would walk; I mean walking is still grateful, so I wasn’t exactly jogging but that habit stacking really works out for me. What are some of the other examples you see of habit stacking?

 

Habit stacking in the classroom

 

Vince

Yeah definitely, actually I’ll use an example from the classroom as well because I’ve tried to include my students in this as well. We got to the point where, and with the habits you don’t want to, once you sort of start setting them and you get into it being a habit, you don’t have to think about it anymore and it just sort of happens, we were, this one’s a bit of a story. So we were talking about the school camp we were about to go on, and one of my students came up to me and I asked if she was ready for camp and she’s like, “I am, one of my friends is going to continue with my Snapchat streaks, so I’m really happy”. I was like, “That’s brilliant, I assume”. So we got talking about what a Snapchat streak was, then I went into the staffroom and I was like, “This is what’s happening, I think it’s pretty strange” and all the kids thought it was normal. So obviously I’m the odd one out here. So we tried to attach it to this, and so now there’s a little homework streak thing on the whiteboard and you get a little flame emoji if you get like a little streak happening and we’ve got every student to habits stack, where they’re going to do their little bit of homework. It doesn’t have to be homework that I give them, say for example I’ve given my students a gratitude journal and if there’s no set homework for the night they can fill out their gratitude journal and we habit stack when they can complete their homework. So, a lot of it could be after dinner, or one does theirs before football training, and it’s just setting bad habits. So that’s an example from the classroom we have.

 

Don

Ooh, let’s stop there, you struck a nerve. I have asked my students since some have but keeping a journal that I should check. My innovation class is so cocky and weird, in a great way that it’s the compliance that all of a sudden like, when I make you do something it’s like a shock to the system like, “What!” The class is 90% on what you are compelled to do, and I have a hard time sometimes getting my kids to follow this and that is, I asked them nicely to send an email or DM of gratitude every day. Because when you reach out, number one if you’re looking for good things you’re going to start seeing the world in a different way, and you know that. That’s the reason why you, a gratitude journal. But number two, when you send out those messages, you change those people. I’ll even say things that like I said it can’t be the same person twice like after the 7th or 8th-grade kids, I’m running out of people. I’m like, “Then scan the world for something good”. So I’m like if you’re just walking on the hallway a kid drops of his books, people are laughing, the one girl that goes over there and say, “Hey man, here you go” picks up his books, hands him his pencil, send that girl a great email gratitude. Send an email DM, because you’re scanning the world for what is right, not what is wrong and you’re spreading joy to other people. Some of them hard because you cannot forget, so I love the idea of a journal that you’re checking for a grade. It reminds you, some my students were like, “well then now what he’s doing out of compliance”. Listening to them. But I mean, I probably should transfer that to keeping a journal that I am keeping a grade on this because they’re gone and it’s good for you. So, in your gratitude journal is it like a physical journal or is it just like an online thing, or what do you do?

 

Vince

I get it through a physical journal and I have had a few saying that they’re just doing it to get the pass to which my usual response is most of the time because I’m an English teacher as well and I’ve taught English for most of my career. If I’m teaching an essay and a student says, “when am I going to use this as I grow up? When I’m an adult ?” And I say, “Probably never”. What you will do, though, is you will be grateful for things when you’re an adult, so this is the stuff that’s going to stay with you for the rest of your life. This is the stuff you’re going to be using. So that’s my usual sort of rebuttal to that. So yeah, I think physical journal is probably, I find it a good way to go just because it gets the students just riding as well and just doing something and thinking about that day and I tell them if they have nothing to write about, just draw a picture or do a poem or just do something, just some expression or reflection for the day.

 

Don

Yeah, I love that. Alright, so sorry, I do realize you, keep going.

 

Vince

So yeah, that’s about the habit stacking I get my students to do and they write that down, you sort of time block it as well, because once you’d set time aside for it, I tell them all, only set that you know you can keep. There’s no point saying you’re going to do it for, you know, you’re gonna go to the gym for an hour and a half every morning if you can’t do that. if all you can do is half an hour every day then say half an hour because if you say you’re going to go for an hour and a half and then you go for an hour, you’re going to be disappointed because you think you failed, whereas you haven’t but you’re going to think you have. So I said it’s something you can continuously do and build momentum from there, because once you’re getting your half an hour a day, you might push it up to 45 minutes, you might push it up to an hour, and it’s way better and way easier to start building that momentum and move from there.

 

Don

Yeah, with the habit stacking, and I think that’s one of the most crucial things you’re talking about is what is that thing you could pair it with you’re going to enjoy it too? It may be ‘At the end of the week goal’. If you hit your end of the week goal, you get to do this, or listen to audiobooks and do whatever or buy yourself a *blanquette* in the week or whatever. So yeah, I love that. Also, you mentioned earlier though and without a doubt, a de-stressor is exercise. The person that’s like saying, “Hey I don’t want to quite start working out yet, I just want to de-stress. I’m too stressed to work out yet”. And even though the right thing to do is to work out, what are some tips and suggestions you can ease them into this kind of thing to first de-stress themselves from their day to day teaching responsibilities and then think about the exercise.

 

Vince

Yeah, what I would definitely suggest is doing a short activity. If you want to do something guided there’s plenty of plenty of Youtube videos, plenty of resources out there as well but what I would suggest if someone’s really stressed and really time poor, is just to do a minute. Set a clock in front of you, focus on only your breathing for just one minute. So it like for 60 seconds, whenever a thought comes into your head, just sort of see it through, let it go, focus back to your breathing, your mind’s going to want to wander but then try to get it back on track. If you can do that for 1 minute, then that’s a start. So if you can do it for one minute then you can build that up. So to start to de-stress a little bit, get more present, get more in the moment, and then once you’ve got a bit of a habit out of that, then you can start to move on to the gym or exercise like that as well.

 

Don

Yah, or even if you can fit it into a commercial break or I have seen some people that’ll do their jumping jacks and push-ups on their commercial breaks or, there’s a comedian on comedy central and I’m not going to give him too much credence because people are going to say I’m glorifying his *…*. I’m not going to say what they were, but basically he recommended that you do ten to 15 pushups every time you have to go to the bathroom, and he says, so if you drink a lot of water and you want to get in shape, one, drinking a lot of water is good for you and two, if you start doing 10 push-ups,15 pushups every time you have to use the restroom, by the end of the day you’ve done 100 or so. Even though he was a comedian and most of the things he says are kind of absurd, I’m like that’s a really good idea because one, you’re flushing your body with the much-needed water, and two, you’re getting a lot of push-ups. Even weird things like that, have been working.

 

Vince

Well, that’s it, and credit to you too Don because I know a little bit of Daniel Tosh’s work and you did very well then to make sure that was G-rated.

 

Don

I try, he’s not easy to censor, is he? So, what is the number one source of things; you see people but especially teachers kind of fall into a trap, what is the trap so we can avoid it

 

Vince

I think the biggest traps would be, first thing is focusing on your sleep. A lot of teachers, a lot of people general stay up that little bit later and just sort of daily stress that away or watching telly and the thing is if you’re watching television or if you’re getting a lot of screen time at night, it’s stimulation and you’re not going to want to sleep. Sleep is so vital to all relevant health, and that’s physical and mental and emotional health as well. Well, that’s the first thing, is make sure you are getting your sleep in, especially if you’re going to start trying to get up early and everything like that, make sure you’re getting that sleep. The second thing is to; I’ve done some surveys in Australia and I’m just interviewing random teachers from all around the country and 90% said they were too drained after work to focus on their health, so that comes down to either how we’re prioritizing our time. if you’re leaving things to do, and that’s the thing. Like in the classroom we kind of get that feeling that if we’re away or if we don’t do this the whole world’s going to crumble and sure enough if we have to take a sick day one day and we get back the day after, and I was like, “What happened? Did anything go wrong?” and the kids are like, “It was fine, it was still good, we did our work” and the load goes on. So just knowing that just because you can’t do it doesn’t mean you have to do it straight away so by just prioritizing what’s important.

 

Don

People that want to start at level 0, they’re like they’ve just started to get build up on this, do you recommend like creating a journal for yourself, having a goal sheet putting it up on a board?

 

 

Yeah, I would definitely do that. So start with the goal for the future, it could be a number, so if you want to lose x amount, if you want to just be generally fit and active, just put the goal there and sort of work backward from that. What do I need to achieve to get that goal? It doesn’t have to be something huge, it could only be starting really really small and it could be like you said, doing some jumping jacks during the commercial break of a television show, something along those lines, but make sure you write it down. I think that’s the biggest thing when it comes to just goals or anything in general. When it comes to goals, you kind of lose them with the lips and your gain them with fingertips so if you’re writing it, you’re solidifying it, you’re putting it down. And finally, if you talk about it with people, you kind of get that almost self-satisfaction and then you’re less likely to act on it, so write it down, write your goals down, write what you’re going to do to achieve those goals, and then block your time.

 

The side hustle

 

Don

Very good, alright, before I get into all the places we can find you let’s just briefly, and I still want to fit it in, tell me about Why Knot Ties.

 

Vince

Oh yeah, cool. So, that’s a cool little plug, thank you. A lot of the stuff came from a sort of *genius hour* and that I know you’re right around it and everything like that and I want to do it as myself. I just wanted to add something on the side and I know you’re really big on having a side hustle and I think it’s something that everyone especially teachers should do.  Just putting your mind and you’re solving different problems; I think it’s great. So I started a bow tie label in Australia which is going pretty well at the moment and it’s something that I’m just sort of learning as I go, solving new problems every day and connecting and networking and doing all that fun stuff.

 

Don

So, for the record, you sell designer bow ties and you can find that at whyknotties.com. So, yeah, you help me at a side hustle in solving small problems. So I wanted to fit that in. I definitely wanted this to be the focus of empowering teachers in health, but I had to squeeze that in because I love what you’re doing and by the way, good luck in your website too.

 

Vince

Thank you.

 

Don

And then also tell them about your other personal website?

 

Vince

Yeah cool so you can find all of my health stuff and my teacher related health things at vincemassara.com and if you don’t mind, you can book at vincemassara.com/startedup and I’ve got a habit setting guide prepared for you all.

 

Don

Cool, I appreciate that. That will be awesome.

 

Vince

Not a problem.

 

Don

Yeah, Vince has been this great. One, I love some of his practical things that the teachers can do. That’s obviously where my heart is, and if you’re listening to this and you’re not a teacher, it still works for you. I’m sure there are other high-stress occupations out there. But the mindset you’ve got and the facts that you’ve gone through this journey, you’ve kept off the weight for 6 to 7 years, you obviously aren’t stressed anymore, these are all things that I really wanted to share with the audience, and so I sincerely appreciate that. Also, they can follow you on Twitter at?

 

Vince

Yeah, so its just @vincemassara I think.

 

Don

Yes, it is, that’s what you said. Alright, Vince I sincerely appreciate it and really also love the fact that you’re giving them some free resources there any website, love that, also you’ve already branded it /StartedUp, thank you. I think this is kind of an important thing for educators take seriously because we have the world’s most important job and you might as well happy and healthy when you’re living with your children, so I sincerely appreciate it, man.

 

Vince

Not a problem, thank you so much for having me

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