With class time more valuable than ever, Lunenburg High School (Mass.) physical education teacher Steve Boone developed a lesson that maximizes every second his students spend working out.
Boone’s “Fit For Life” Tabata workout allows students of all ages to exercise in short bursts over the course of a class period to get the full benefit of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). The lesson he uses with his twice-weekly adult education class as well as his high school P.E. student has been selected as the January Lesson for IHT Spirit.
“I try to incorporate [all] types of exercises in the Tabata workout,” Boone, a 28-year physical education veteran, said. “It changes. It’s very fluid, and it’s all based on what the students want to get out of it.”
Some of Boone’s students are adults who began working out under his direction as part of the Lunenburg Public Schools celebration around the 2016 opening of a new high school campus.
“One of the big things that the superintendent and the administration wanted was for the [fitness center] to be a facility that would be open to the public, for the community to be able to use it,” Boone explained.
When community members showed up, Boone hadn’t planned for an organized workout class, so modified a workout he developed for his high school students. He said his adult-ed Tabata is flexible enough to challenge each participant while allowing them to meet their individual needs.
“It has evolved because of the people in the class,” he said. “They’ll come in and one group really wants to work on their cardio, one group really wants to work on their triceps. It’s nice as a teacher because it really makes me think about things. It makes me incorporate all different levels, so I have multiple modifiers at each station to accommodate the needs of each individual in the class.
“It’s like personalized learning in a circuit. They choose which level they can compete at to push themselves as hard as they want. It works out great.”
His Tabata features eight exercise stations. Whether he’s running the lesson during the school day with his students or at night with his adult-ed participants, the parameters remain the same. Participants complete as many reps as they can in 20 seconds and then have 10 seconds to move to the next station. Stations include but aren’t limited to:
- Box step-ups/Box jumps
- Medicine ball abdominal twists
- Jump rope
- Kettlebell swings
After completing a circuit of eight stations, they get a minute break. Then they begin another circuit. Over the course of an hour-long class, participants must complete eight circuits.
Both the student and adult participants wear the IHT Zone for wrist heart rate monitors as they go through the circuit. This allows them to ensure they are getting the most benefit out of their session by exercising at an elevated heart rate. Many of the participants use what they see on their wrists as motivation and competition.
“It has been an unbelievable motivational thing for them,” he said of the adult education participants. “It pushed them. They check out their results after class. They have competitions between each other. A lot of time I have husbands and wives competing against each other and seeing who works out the hardest, who burns the most calories, making sure they get into the yellow and red zones and stay there. If they aren’t there, you’ll see them working harder.”
As the adults progress through their workout, Boone sees them demonstrate skills he wants his high school students to demonstrate: they manage their effort level to stay in the appropriate heart rate zone.
“Another nice thing working with adults: sometimes when they know they are at their target for max heart rate, they slow down,” he said. “It works on both ends of the spectrum and has been a huge asset for what we’re doing in this class.”
In-school workouts at all grade levels
Boone’s high school students go through the Tabata workout on a regular basis, and he often uses what he sees during the school day to modify his evening session.
“A lot of the stuff I do with the adults in the night program are exercises that we tried during the day with the students,” he said. “If it goes well during the day, we’ll use that workout tonight and see how it works with the adults.”
Though he started using the Tabata workout more regularly in 2016-17, Boone’s been using a version of it throughout his career. He’s found that students respond to this type of class more positively than they do other lessons.
“I think students overall like this type of class better than your traditional, old school, physical education class,” he said. “I think they like individual workouts.”
With more students in class, Boone minimizes downtime by increasing the number of stations. While high school students can do more weight-based exercise, he sees the workout receiving the same type of positive feedback from younger students, whose stations can feature body-weight exercises such as sit-ups and push-ups.
“You can adapt it to any level all the way down to elementary because you can do push-ups and sit-ups, jump rope and box step-ups – a lot of the stuff we do, you can do with any level of age group,” he said.
A background in physical education
A three-sport athlete in high school – Boone spent his winters playing basketball and springs with the track and field team but his first love was football – the former offensive lineman turned veteran teacher knew he’d never get too far from the athletic field.
“I enjoyed physical education and I had some great mentors when I was in high school,” he said. “It just seemed to be the thing that I wanted to do. I couldn’t see myself sitting behind a desk. I wanted to be active, moving. It is enjoyable working with young adults.”
Boone got into teaching after his football career ended at Springfield College and hasn’t regretted a day since. He also serves as Lunenburg’s head football coach and assists with the track and field teams. The various roles allow him to stay involved with his students throughout the day as they learn how to be active, fit adults.
“It keeps me young…it keeps me motivated,” he said. “It’s an enjoyable profession to be in. Growing up and playing sports, I always wanted to be involved in sports.”