Students in Massachusetts are using a Physical Education class jogging program to develop life-long exercise skills that will help them remain focused on their fitness.
“We want them to have the appreciation for jogging itself and how much it can help them,” said Kelly Rich, a P.E. teacher at John T. Nichols Middle School in Middleborough, Mass., who developed a running program with colleague Meghan Enos. “We started looking at ways we could make it more realistic and engage them long-term.”
Rich and Enos take students of all athletic abilities out on the trails adjacent to the school campus and deliver lessons that focus on measuring heart rate and moving at a pace that’s both sustainable and health-enhancing.
“For us, knowing that we have kids at all different fitness levels, our biggest goal is that they get out and try their best,” Rich said. “It doesn’t matter if your friend is jogging at this speed, if you need to jog a little slower, all that matters is what you need to do.”
The running program, a winning lesson in last fall’s IHT Spirit Challenge, helps students find outlets other than team sports that they can embrace and continue to practice well beyond their school years.
“We’re trying to get more life-long activities in our classes,” Enos said. “We want to help them find their niche, find activities they can participate in on their own time and develop more active lifestyles.”
To encourage participation, Rich and Enos allow students to do some of the same things they do when they go jogging. Students are encouraged to:
- Listen to music (with earphones at a volume such that they can still hear teacher instruction)
- Run with a partner or a group and socialize
- Experiment to find a comfortable pace
- Use heart rate monitors to gauge effort during rest stops
Listening to music and socializing with friends are crucial, the teachers said, because they make jogging – and exercising – more enjoyable. The more students enjoy something, the more they’re likely to continue with it.
“We let them listen to their own music – both of us are people who like to run with music – so they enjoy that part, and they get to talk to friends,” Rich said.
The teachers also focus on pacing with each student. They should be able to maintain a pace that, while helping them improve their heart health and fitness, enables them to carry on a conversation with their partner.
“We want them to have the understanding that when jogging, you can still talk to your friends,” Rich said. “It’s not getting out of breath to the point where you can’t speak.”
“The only kind of running, other than playing a sport, that they do is the mile run ,” Enos said. “They run so fast that they die out so quickly. Learning how to pace themselves and use their target heart rate so they can be working in their zone is very important.”
And while the program focuses on running, the teachers want students to focus on moving at their best pace, even if that pace is a brisk walk. As long as they can reach their target heart rate and maintain that pace, students are benefiting, the teachers said.
“We understand that not everyone is a jogger, but if you go out and you speedwalk, you’re still getting a good workout,” Rich said. “You’re still helping your heart. You are helping manage your weight. We make sure they understand that it doesn’t matter how fast you are. It is still a good workout for you.”