Through my work in health promotion I was aware that some schools were offering run/walk clubs to augment their PE program. As an avid runner and Pinewoods parent, I was hoping to share my knowledge and love for running with Pinewoods families. Walking and running are foundational movements for active play, sports, and a healthy lifestyle. I hope that as children increase their speed and endurance they will develop more confidence and motivation for running and other physical activities.
How have the children reacted?
The children have been very energetic and motivated. They are always eager to try the different running games and improve their number of laps. They are naturally competitive so we have focused on a few themes: (1) compete against yourself (i.e., focus on improving yourself each practice rather than worrying about others), (2) no cheating (e.g., cutting corners) or you cheat yourself, and (3) always be positive with each other.
What kind of activities do you do?
Each practice is divided into 3 activities:
(1) warm-up drills,
(2) walking/running laps
The warm-up includes drills such as high knees and skipping, which strengthen leg muscles and improve running form. These drills are always introduced through fun games such as red light, green light or leap frog.
For the laps, children walk/run for a set amount of time (3-12 minutes) which increases by one minute each week. Children are encouraged to vary their pace (walk, jog, run, or sprint) as needed to be able to complete the designated time. To track their distance, the children receive a popsicle stick for each lap completed (~10 laps = 1 mile).
After the laps are completed, the children turn their sticks in to the coach who records their tallies in a spreadsheet. For every 20 laps/2 miles completed children receive a toe token (a small rubber charm shaped like a foot) to recognize their accomplishment.
Research shows us that physical activity has important benefits for children, from enhancing motor and cognitive development to reducing obesity and chronic disease risk. But children don’t care about these benefits, they just want to have fun and be with their friends! So the activities are always presented as games; and they are sequenced so that children improve over time and acquire a sense of accomplishment, hopefully developing a lifelong love for walking, running, and all physical activity.