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Fit for First

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A STEM supporter and the former CEO of Marathon Kids, Christine Pollei counts on exercise to help clear her head.

By Gretchen M. Sanders

Christine Pollei grew up believing she could make things happen. She can.

The recently named president and executive director of the First in Texas Foundation graduated from Baylor University in 1991, and used her design degree to start two successful businesses: an eyewear company in Dallas and an entertainment, marketing and production company in Los Angeles. Later, a spiritual calling led her home to her native state of New York to work for the Dalai Lama. But back to Texas she came when the opportunity struck for her to become the CEO of Austin-based Marathon Kids.

Now at First in Texas, a nonprofit that supports robotics teams and encourages young people to participate in science and technology, Pollei has her hands full. She will have to work closely with the statewide robotics community to get Texas’ 5.1 million school-aged children interested in science, technology, engineering and math. Pollei doesn’t just have to make sure kids want to build robots, but that they also have access to STEM-based programs and events throughout the state.

Some of the money raised by the First in Texas Foundation supports robotics teams at schools, churches and clubs.

“Anyone can start a team and apply for funding,” Pollei says, pointing out that children who participate in First programs are more likely to major in science and technology in college. “I believe that the kids who will be the most successful in the future will know how to grow, build and fix things, and First teaches that in spades.”

Here’s how this head honcho keeps on building her own bright future.

The A.M.:

“I’m an advocate of the slow morning. I slowly and generously engage the day. If I have to be somewhere at 7 a.m., then I’m up at 5:30 a.m. Taking my time in the morning sets my mind in the right place for the whole day.”

The Workout: 

“I don’t really consider myself an athlete. I think of myself instead as a healthy, active person. I do at least 45 minutes of cardio and 20 minutes of yoga five days a week. It’s what I do between the end of my workday and the beginning of my evening at home. I’m a very cerebral person, so exercise helps me get into my body and out of my head. I de-stress by walking or running in my beautiful Hill Country neighborhood or by doing a spin class at the YMCA in Dripping Springs. Town Lake is also one of my go-to places when I want to walk {and} convene business meetings. What I love most about running and yoga is that I can do them anywhere, so there’s no excuse to skip—even when I travel.”

The Diet:

“I have a body that will gain weight easily if I eat certain things, so I tend to consume plenty of protein and very few carbs. I always regret it when I eat poorly because I feel bad. I also drink a lot of water! Friends who have known me for a long time joke that I constantly need to use the bathroom. It’s true, but at least I stay hydrated. Carbs or no carbs, I will eat any meal lovingly made by a friend or family member, regardless of the contents.”

The Gear:

“I came late to the yoga-pants movement. I can embrace them now because I found some good ones, but I arrived very late to the scene. I grew up in New York, where people tend to button up more so than in Austin. I will wear performance pants when I exercise, but I don’t go out in public in my Spandex often. When it comes to brands, I stick with Nike, a major sponsor of Marathon Kids. I used to get all kinds of Nike running shoes and pants, which I still have and love. I also have three yoga mats at home, so I’m all set. I would like to challenge some woman out there to invent a great sports bra. Every sports bra I have is deficient in most areas. Why do sports bras produce that very strange, unattractive, inner-tube-around-the-chest quality? You’ve got to have a good sports bra, so would somebody please step up and help a sister out?”

The Motivation:

“I want to show up for myself and for others. If I’m not healthy and feeling well in my skin, then I’m not there for anyone. Exercise makes me focus on my breath and not on the thoughts running through my head. I will quit everything I’m working toward if I stay in my head too long. Working out helps to keep me from derailing on my goals.”

The Mindset:

“I have confidence that I will be able to achieve, conquer, build or shift whatever I attempt. I have confidence in myself. I had a lot encouragement growing up to try things I wasn’t good at. I’m not afraid of failure. I was raised to believe that failure is integral to success. The process is more important than the end goal.”

The P.M.:

“I have a hard time falling asleep. That’s why I think exercise provides the best transition between work and home. It makes me tired and ready to relax. At the end of the day, I like to gather up my furry children—Chick Pea, my French bulldog, and Walter, my Rottweiler—and snuggle. I go into my bedroom fairly early because I have the same slow roll into bed that I have in the morning getting up. I turn down the thermostat to make it nice and cool in my room, I cuddle up to my babies, and I read and I read and I read.”

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