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Last week, I drove over to my son's elementary school around noon to watch him take his half mile run in gym class. Parents were sent home notes inviting us to watch and to cheer. The temp was about 39 degrees with a biting 30 MPH wind making the winchill feel like something between the North Pole and a Minnesota January.

Arriving early, I waited in my car for the first graders to walk to the track. I noticed something immediately.....

About a third of the older kids, out at recess, were not playing at the playground, playing soccer, football, or playing dolls; one third of the kids outside were running the track!

These elementary kids were running on a 400 meter track on their own! For recess!

Here is the background: At this school, kids get gym about 1 hour a week. The gym teacher, with the goal of increasing fitness, wanted a program that would last the other days of the week.

In addition to the other sports he teaches, he decided to emphasize running.  He had the kids do shorter runs building up to the 1/2 mile run. The older students do a full mile. The times are all recorded to measure progress. Students are asked to run outside of class. They can record their outside runs. Anyone recording accumulated mileage of 26, 100, and 400 miles is rewarded and their names posted on walls at thew school.

I do have a bias here, having run a few marathons, I welcome teaching kids about the value of fitness. When I was in high school, I remember other students in gym class dreading the running. I know the kids hated getting out of breath, being overheated, and having exhausted jelly limbs.

In running, initially it can be very hard to start out. I found this out when I gained 40 extra pounds after having a couple kids and stopping my workout routines. Over time, once you break through the initial peroid, running is an incredible activitiy to reduce stress, and gain energy and lose weight.

Back to my son's run.... The gym teacher postponed the run for the next week. Too cold.  However, just yesterday, my son completed his 1/2 mile run-  2nd place in the class, with a time of 4 minutes 14 seconds. Not bad for a 1st grader......
Most kids ran the entire distance.

I am a proud father.......... This morning, my son was asking if we could go out for a run today..... Full circle, my son is encouraging me to get back into shape!

I hear from time to time the Limbaugh types poking fun at Michelle Obama and her obesity campaigns. My son's school is at a public school in a primarily republican suburban area.

I see this as an example of something schools can do right. I would love for my son to have phy ed more often, but at what expense of other subjects? He is involved with some other sports, but he already seems inclined to the individual sports like running.

The teacher's next step is to require all kids doing recess to run a lap around the track before playing outside for recess.

I love it!

Originally posted to Intheknow on Fri Oct 12, 2012 at 08:15 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  There are a lot of great things going on in (10+ / 0-)

    American schools that never makes the papers or reaches the larger consciousness.

    That's why most Americans like their local school but think other schools are probably terrible.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Fri Oct 12, 2012 at 08:26:15 AM PDT

  •  Physical fitness = cognitive improvement. (7+ / 0-)

    There is oodles of research showing physical fitness causing cognitive improvement. Specifically, showing physical fitness in kids leading to academic improvement and reduced disciplinary problems. A Google search will turn up a zillion hits, but a good place to start is the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. All those school systems that are cutting back PE to increase academic time are idiots. They need to beef up PE from supervised playtime to real fitness.

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Fri Oct 12, 2012 at 12:17:13 PM PDT

    •  It would be a first in my experience (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Intheknow, JanL

      PE when I was growing up went from supervised play to varsity tryouts.

      into the blue again, after the money's gone

      by Prof Haley on Fri Oct 12, 2012 at 04:02:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  When I coach my kids' soccer teams.... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HeyMikey, JanL

        I try to let the kids play free for the first 10 minutes of practice.  It's fun to see the kids turn into leaders and direct the other kids. Kids should have the experience of playing  by themselves. Nowadays, many kids activites are run on strict scripted schedules.

        What I loved at the school was the kids were running the track on their own initiative during recess.

    •  I would like to see more physical activity (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HeyMikey, Intheknow

      integrated into academics. I think it's especially important for K-3 boys to be able to move around while they're thinking, and you can put a lot of math into it.

      My daughter's gymnastics teacher always integrated counting and math into the preschool gym classes, as well as the challenge of memorizing patterns as part of any exercises.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Fri Oct 12, 2012 at 04:24:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  There are behavior benefits as well. When my H.S. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Intheknow, elfling, suesue, qofdisks

    students would spend their homeroom time, lunch time or break time playing pick-up basketball, they returned to class more focused on their work, and less likely to act out.

    Please donate to Okiciyap food pantry. . If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.

    by weck on Fri Oct 12, 2012 at 01:44:42 PM PDT

  •  My 1st grader only gets PE 3 days per week (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    weck, Intheknow, qofdisks

    That really sucks. All the emphasis is on reading and writing, and everything else gets shoved to the background.

    His school has no music teacher neither. Imagine that.

  •  This is great! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    weck, Intheknow, elfling, suesue

    Our (public) school has a Friday running/walking club at recess (we don't have a space for a track), a girls-only running club, and we're doing our first "fun run" fundraiser soon.

    And good on for you for participating in something that's good for your relationship and for your bodies!

    •  I glad your school is thinking about this (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I know many schools don't have "tracks". My son's school
      happens to be attached to a middle school. That way they get the benefit of the track.

      Schools don't need official "tracks" for running programs. You can measure a distance around a ball field and make a makeshift "track".That way progress can me measured and goals can be made and acheived.

      •  Yep (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        They go around the neighborhood block (I think it's 3 circuits to a mile) and they give little ribbons or something for each mile. It's pretty cute to see them all out and it doesn't take a lot - a few parents each week who can take a long lunch on a Friday and spend an hour.

  •  Interesting (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Intheknow, kurt

    I've often tried to reduce stress with exercise, and from what you say I guess I've never got past that "initial period". How many years does it last?

    So far away from stress reduction, exercise has always made me feel like one loud noise would break me. I felt the same after yoga, every day for six years. I tried to run a mile a day back in college, and my muscles got so tight I couldn't stand up straight. I stretched before and after, and nothing was enough.

    Speaking as a person who was and is an absolutely terrible athlete [tall, skinny, weak, uncoordinated], you would recognize me as a person who hated running for the reasons you describe.

    It's a little better if there's a clear boundary between fitness and competition, and everyone is free not to compete. To run without being timed, for example. To all those who champion [no pun intended] athletics as character-building, I ask them to consider what the experience is like for the kid in last place, who does not know winning.

    into the blue again, after the money's gone

    by Prof Haley on Fri Oct 12, 2012 at 03:49:18 PM PDT

    •  Thank you for this reply (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Prof Haley

      If I could guess, you are probably are sick of hearing from experts who say- "just push through it. "

      Carrying the equivalent of a 40 pound suitcase around my waist, I now know the pain of running.

      The key for me in training is incrementalism and cross training.  Bike ride or swim, or playing with the kids.
      Starting back with running , I am running and walking , then running. A couple days later, I will try to run a little farther. One day I will run up a couple of hills. All of this will help to gradually increase distance. is a great reference.

      Also, I think the school does a good job at keeping the times low key, except for between the gym teacher and the student. This way, progress is an individual goal.

      One of my biggest thrills in life was spending 5 hours as a bicycle escort for a lady with a prostetic leg running a 20 mile training run while training for a marathon.

      •  You clearly have (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        a much better relationship with the whole exercise-sports-sweating thing than I do. I'll run if my life depends on it. Biking and swimming don't work for me. I've tried walking about 40 minutes a day, in my hilly neighborhood, and after 10 I just want it to be over. I've tried walking with friends, and I resent them for keeping me out there. And I'm beat at the end, wishing I hadn't done it. I do this for about a week, then chuck it for a year or so.

        I did yoga for six years, and there was never a day I felt better after practice than before. That yoga didn't make me feel better is still one of the most crushing experiences of my life. It sounded so good.

        into the blue again, after the money's gone

        by Prof Haley on Fri Oct 12, 2012 at 05:34:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I dont think kids are supposed to run so much. (0+ / 0-)

    In my town kids wait until age 14 or 15 to start track or long runs. They do not start weights until well into teens. I think it has to do with growth plates. Otherwise they play and play soccer and some sports. They use their own body weight for strengthening.

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