Mpls. principal is tops in her class

  • Article by: SHEILA MULROONEY ELDRED , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 24, 2011 - 8:47 AM

HOW I GOT THIS BODY: Carol Markham-Cousins, principal of Minneapolis' Washburn High School, says, "Energy creates more energy." She shares her twice-daily workout routine.

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Carol Markham-Cousins trained for the cross-country ski race season on roller skis near Lake Nokomis.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

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Carol Markham-Cousins, 56, competitive triathlete, cross-country skier and Washburn High School principal

Carol Markham-Cousins, principal of Minneapolis Washburn High School, can glimpse the school's track from her office. When school isn't in session, she joins a group of local runners for a 3- to 6-mile workout, doing mile intervals while the football team practices on the field. During the school year, she stays inside, bundled up in her vintage Washburn sweater, wishing her schedule allowed her to sneak out for a few laps. Instead, she wakes up in the dark to get in a workout before the school day starts -- then often heads out for a second exercise session after work.

She shared her daily workout routine for How I Got This Body.

No sweat: "I had an active family, but we couldn't really afford anything but dance. I did modern ballet, tap and acrobatics at a local place, and I loved it. In high school, I had the opportunity to cheerlead, but I thought, "Why would I cheerlead when I want to be out there playing?" I had a desire to be physical, but not really the opportunity for competition or going all out. I tried to play basketball in high school but the director said they didn't want us to sweat."

Running for two: "I didn't start doing any competition until my final year of college when I roomed with a woman who participated in the Boston Marathon. She said, "Carol, you can't dance for your whole life -- get out and run with me!" It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I also started swimming. Then when I was pregnant with my first kid, the doctor said, "You can't run -- it will hurt the baby." I didn't believe it, so I did run. Running pregnant around Lake Harriet in those days was shameful."

In the genes: "I'm a decent swimmer, but I consider it like cross-country skiing. I've been skiing for 15 years; I started slowly and then got much more competitive when my oldest son, who is a fabulous skier, taught me. Both sports require strength and skill. My boys started skiing when they were really little -- I riveted together two plastic sleds, lined them with sleeping bags and tied a rope around my waist to pull them. My husband also skis and bikes. He will fix anything that breaks, always waxes the skis, is willing to travel wherever the snow is and has a great attitude."

Let it snow: "When I worked in St. Paul and on the North Side of Minneapolis, I commuted by bike. Now, I live too close; it's not worth the change of clothes. I started doing triathlons competitively 12 to 13 years ago. I taught for 15 or 16 years; I've been a principal for 18. This is my fifth year at Washburn. I love my job. I love it even more because I create balance with working out. I've been getting up at 5 or 5:30 a.m. for 25 years -- ever since I had kids. That's when I squeeze it in. Part of it is just being outside; my work is primarily inside, and living in Minnesota, being outside is really important. We had some rough years when there wasn't any snow, but the past three years have been remarkable."

Inspiration: "I go to Washburn sporting events as much as I possibly can. I love to watch these kids."

Lifelong pursuit: "Now that I have no kids at home, I get up at 5:30 and either run or swim or bike and then after work I often roller-ski or bike-commute to go someplace or run around the lake. I do yoga, too. Energy creates more energy. For women who typically hadn't been allowed to do that, I just embrace it. I'll do it till I can't."

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