Originally published May 7, 2020 in the Daily Press.
By Jessica Nolte
How quickly can you turn on all the lights in your house? Can you turn them off faster?
The light switch race is just one of a series of videos and fitness challenges Poquoson Middle School health and physical education teacher Zachary Baker has posted on his Facebook page since Gov. Ralph Northam ordered all schools to close because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m just trying to give people ideas of how to stay active — whether it’s at their home or a walk down the street — while practicing social distancing,” Baker said.
He’s used Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok to reach people of all ages in the community to encourage them to stay active using what they have at home.
The hardest part of making the workouts is not knowing what equipment everyone will have available, Baker said.
He found an idea he liked for an activity, only to realize that even as a physical education teacher he didn’t have a basketball at home.
So, he decided to get creative and keep his workouts accessible. He only uses items he has readily available around his home.
He’s transformed dog food bags to weights, canned goods to dumbbells and stacks of pillows into hurdles.
He’s using social media to promote physical literacy, which he describes as a commitment to being physically active and motivated while creating positive healthy experiences that boost confidence and self-esteem.
He creates themed workouts for every day of the week — Minute to Win It Monday, Tabata Tuesday, Wacky Wednesday and Fitness Test Friday. He’s still working out a name for Thursday, but Thursday’s workouts often feature dance moves.
“I’m big fan of dancing in P.E. I think it promotes a lot of great, positive social interactions between the kids and it’s great cardio exercise,” Baker said.
To keep his workout videos appropriate for people of all ages, he avoids using songs with curse words or replaces them with the Kidz Bop version. He provides alternatives to suggestive dance moves like replacing the booty shake in the Macarena with moves like the “lawnmower,” “shopping cart” and “surfer.”
His social media presence has connected him with students, parents, guardians and people all around the world. He said he’s noticed other health and physical education teachers taking their workouts to social media and sharing ideas.
“It’s really great to see how many health and P.E. teachers have really stepped it up during these times,” Baker said. “I’ve never seen so many health and P.E. teachers all over social media.”
Baker shares his workouts on Facebook at Mr. Baker’s Health & Physical Education Page and on his YouTube channel P.E. with Mr. Baker.