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From the School Building to the Race Course, Robert Nacario Steps Up for Child Health

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A former college wrestler who competed in the 1976 Olympic Trials, Robert Nacario agreed to run a charity Turkey Trot with his two sons on Thanksgiving morning in 2005. After the race, he felt pain in his knees and noticed the joints were swollen. Thinking he must’ve aggravated an old wresting injury, he went to his doctor for an MRI. The doctor broke the news: Robert had arthritis and his blood sugar was spiking.

This revelation helped Robert re-examine how he was taking care of his health. While he was still working out often, his busy schedule as a principal made it tough to eat regular meals, which was causing his blood sugar to fluctuate. After attending diabetes education classes, he improved his diet to compliment his workouts and dropped the excess weight to relieve the pain on his joints.

Now, at age 60, Robert is a competitive runner and triathlete. Next up: he’ll be running for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Team Healthier Generation in San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers Race in May.

A commitment to fitness transcends personal and professional life

Robert’s attention to his health was what prompted his colleagues at the Galt Joint Union School District to volunteer him to lead a partnership between the district and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation in 2012 ‒ the first time he learned about the organization, which works to combat childhood obesity. At the urging of his Superintendent, Robert met with California Healthy Schools Program Manager Dru Bagwell, who explained the benefits of working wellness into the district’s policies. It wasn’t a hard sell.

He took on the job of getting Galt’s schools enrolled in the Program, and after that, he turned over implementation to each school principal or wellness champion to carry out the individual action plans.

Robert remained involved with the Program by ensuring that schools were making good on their commitments. The California Department of Education mandates that elementary school students receive 200 minutes of physical education every 10 school days, and some schools were either not meeting the mandate or not documenting that they were. He started a tracking system to hold the elementary schools accountable and as they increased their minutes, he noticed that their FITNESSGRAM scores subsequently improved. “Now all of our elementary schools are meeting or exceeding their state fitness goals and our partnership with the Alliance is written into our district wellness policy,” he said.

Leading by (a healthy) example

Robert believes in walking the talk, and his passion for fitness has had a positive effect on his students and staff. Before working at the district level, Robert was a principal and challenged his students to beat him in a timed one-mile race. He ran the mile with each physical education class – five times in one day – and only one student beat him over two years!

He says that as he gets older, it takes more effort to be competitive in races, but he’s determined to keep trying as long as his legs will carry him. His secret weapon? “When something’s not feeling good while I’m running, I just smile,” he said. “I smile during races and I think about how thankful I am to have a body that enables me to do what I love to do.”

Robert will be among 20 Team Healthier Generation runners at the starting line on May 15. It’s his second time running the race, but he isn’t planning to match the 43-minute time he achieved in college. “I’m looking forward to testing my fitness,” he said. “I want people to see me and know that I can make it up that hill!”

 

 

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