Nanette Cook: Lifelong Physical Fitness Educator

Nanette Simon Cook is a Physical Education teacher at Cathedral-Carmel School in Lafayette LA and has taught at all levels from elementary school to university, in both public and private schools. Known as “Coach Cookie” to her students, she is also a fitness, nutrition, and wellness instructor at the Lourdes Fitness Center and a two-term Lafayette City Council member. Nanette visited with Jan Swift, Host of Nourish Your Health podcast, to discuss how she has stayed in touch with her students during the COVID-19 pandemic and how we can all stay active and healthy no matter what the circumstances.

With a Master of Science Degree in Health and Physical Education, Nanette has dedicated her life to helping people of all ages achieve wellness.  Kind-hearted and full of encouragement, she is a beloved teacher who strives to instill the love of movement in her students so they can be their own “fitness trainer” as they move along in life. During the pandemic shutdown, she, along with the other teachers at Cathedral Carmel, have regularly posted instructional pieces online so that students may stay on track as they learn from home.

“It’s been my mission to make everyone aware of how important movement is. We can get too comfortable sitting on the couch watching tv or playing on the computer. As a PE teacher, it’s my job to make sure my students are out and about, moving around.”

Being home-bound during the pandemic doesn’t mean that you don’t have the opportunity to make healthy choices. As Nanette says, “There are a million and one apps out there that can help you with exercise, start a new eating program, or try new things.” She and her husband, David, have just embarked on a month of prescriptions found in the “The Big Book of 30-Day Challenges” which encourages you to do things such as journaling your food intake, laugh every day, and try yoga. Nanette shared that even though we can’t currently do things in the manner we’ve always been used to, it’s time to be creative and learn new things (or even take up activities that you haven’t done in years, such as her fifteen years of tap dancing during her youth which she has recently picked up again).

It's Fitness Friday CCS students! Watch the video to learn the course, then run through it and send me a picture. Stay healthy, stay active and have fun with this. Still missing you all 🙁

Posted by Nanette S Cook on Friday, April 3, 2020
Nanette Cook in her “Fitness Friday Challenge” posted on Facebook to inspire others to get out and move!

There are an endless array of online apps that can encourage you to eat healthy and stay active. Nanette recommends include Think Light, and Go Noodle.

GoNoodle is an outstanding free online app that gets your kids moving and learning new things. It provides endless opportunities to have fun while working out, watch inspirational videos, or “Think Like a Scientist.” https://family.gonoodle.com/

While 10,000 steps per day is the ideal to shoot for, Nanette averages 15,000 steps per day when school is in session. A full-time PE teacher, she also teaches a 5:30 a.m. fitness class at Lourdes Fitness Center Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Nanette enjoys the camaraderie of group classes and is proud of her long-time fitness class attendees at Lourdes. Anyone can join Lourdes and there is no contract to sign; for $45 per month, you can enjoy pilates, yoga, aerobics, swimming, and much more. Visit https://lourdesrmc.com/services/lourdes-fitness-center/ for more information.

She encourages people to aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily, with three to four times of more intense exercise sessions weekly. She measures the effectiveness of an intense exercise session by reaching 60 to 80% of her maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is about 220 minus your age. For more information on how to calculate your heart rate, visit https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/target-heart-rates.)

Nanette hopes that even after the COVID-19 stay at home order is over that we don’t fall back into the fast-paced lives we were used to before. This has been a time to reconnect with old friends, even if by Facetiming on phone, and it has forced all of us to examine our habits. Some things just aren’t worth it; other new habits will hopefully lead us to more mindful behavior.

One of Nanette’s favorite and effective activities is journaling. She believes this is the best way to accurately monitor food intake and record how you feel after you eat certain foods. She has been utilizing Lose It which provides a free personalized weight-loss tool plan and has you enter all food and drink intake. She recommends that whatever tool you use, select one that allows you to choose foods you like so that you will stick with it over the long term. Nanette has moved away from meats to a more plant-based diet with a focus on quinoa and beans. “Moderation” is the key; it’s better to indulge yourself when you really crave a food, just don’t indulge every day. Sometimes you just really want a certain food. Eat it and enjoy it.”

Councilwoman and fitness educator Nanette Cook was inspired by the example of service provided by her late father, Al Simon, who served on the Lafayette City Council from 1976 to 1992. We thank her for her own inspiring example she sets in our community and for sharing her message with Nourish Your Health at Every Age!