Capitalizing on their combined passion for running and a network of trails adjacent to their Nichols Middle School campus, Kelly Rich and Meghan Enos developed a unit designed to teach students how to find their optimal running pace.
Targeted to seventh grade physical education students, Rich and Enos created a running unit that’s been selected as February’s Lesson for IHT Spirit. Rich and Enos submitted the lesson as part of the most recent IHT Spirit Video Challenge: Lessons from a Superstar.
An Introduction to the Health Benefits of Running
Rich and Enos developed the running unit to their fitness class as a change of pace to traditional on-campus running programs. Working with their administration, the teachers obtained permission to take students off campus to exercise.
“I got permission to be able to take the kids out running on the roads around the school,” Rich said. “Then we discovered all of the trails around the school as well. We started using those so the kids get a more authentic experience instead of running around the fields over and over.”
To maximize the benefit of each run, the teachers focus on two things with the students:
- Understanding heart rate before, during and after the run, and
- The importance of each student finding their own pace to maintain.
Whether the run takes students on a course over the nearby streets or into the trail system where courses sometimes loop on themselves, Rich and Enos make sure that students are taking measuring their heart rate at regular intervals. On days when students run along the streets, the teachers specify stopping points where the group can come back together. Upon reaching those spots, students take their heart rate and see which heart rate zone they are exercising in.
“Our whole year has to be fitness-focused, and now we incorporate heart rate a lot with the running unit,” Rich said. “Every time we get to a stopping point, we take their heart rate.”
The lesson begins with a heart rate measurement and ends with one as well. Throughout, both Enos and Rich focus on what heart rate means to overall health. Many of the lesson’s standards focus on the Rate of Perceived Exertion as well and explaining the difference between running at an all-out sprint, as they would for a fitness test, and running at a pace they can maintain over an extended distance or length of time.
“We work on helping them find their pace,” 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 unit doesn’t cater solely to runners, the teachers said. Some students are just beginning to find their fitness and aren’t comfortable starting off as runners. Walking, as long as students do their best to speed walk, is encouraged.
Pace trumps speed
“We tell them that even if they are going to speed walk, you’re still moving, you’re still getting a workout on some of the hills in the trail system,” Rich said. “For some of the kids who sign up, even if they are just going to walk, they are going to walk a mile or a mile and a half and that’s a huge feat. That’s an accomplishment within itself that they got out and walked a mile or more, never mind if they jogged parts of it.”
By helping students find their own pace, the teachers begin to lay the foundation for a skillset that will serve students for years to come. They help students find a pace they can maintain – one that allows them the opportunity to talk to friends while keeping their heart rate in the target zone for maximum health benefit.
“Learning how to pace themselves and use their target heart rate so they can be working in their zone is very important,” Enos said.
“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.”
Middleborough features a number of distance races, including many 5K events that the teachers encourage students to participate in. They wrap up their unit with an event of their own, including prizes just like the community events give out.
“It’s a fun run so they know it doesn’t really matter if you’re first, second or third,” Rich said. “As long as you finish, that’s the important part.”
The prizes befit 2018 middle school students. The teachers celebrate the event, and the winners, on the school’s various social media accounts.
Teaching their passion
“We try to show them how enjoyable running can be,” Enos said.
Enos competed in her fair share of team sports but excelled in a karate studio, where she found her passion for teaching. Rich grew up playing basketball and dabbled in football and softball and knew early on that sitting behind a desk didn’t suit her personality.
“I love sports and being active, so I want to pass that on to others and light the same fire in them,” she said. “Teaching physical education is right up that alley.”
Together, they are working to share their passions with their students.
“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.”
“I was thinking about how much I enjoy running, how much Meghan enjoys running and how we want the kids to enjoy it a little more than the way they do now,” Rich said. “We want them to have the appreciation for jogging itself and how much it can help them.”