May 2, 2014

Our New School Running Club

Ever since I coached Girls on the Run with the fabulous Lauren a few years back, I've been dying to start a running club with my students at school.  This year two other teachers and I finally did!  We ended up purchasing Fit Girls instead of going with Girls on the Run for a couple reasons.  First, while Girls on the Run offers scholarships, it packs a hefty price tag for girls.  Second, the Girls on the Run 5K is in Chicago, making travel there a bit of a logistical nightmare for many families.  We did some research and decided Fit Girls would be a good match for our school and got the program rolling back in March.
My friend Katy and I ready to run the GOTR 5K as running buddies!
We decided to open our club to girls in grades 4-6.  Every Tuesday and Thursday, we meet for an hour after school.  Here's how our meetings typically go:

1. Snack & Read Aloud:  One unique feature of Fit Girls is a literacy focus.  We have a "lending library" (aka a bin) of books about strong, brave girls that the kids can sign out, and we are also reading aloud Moon Runner by Carolyn Marsden.  I'd never heard of this book--Fit Girls sent it over in our starter kit, and I love it.  Great messages about running and trying new things!

2. Warm Up/Stretching: We will spend a few minutes warming up with a game or activity like freeze tag, relay races, hula hoops, etc., followed by some gentle stretching.

3.  Workout:  Obviously, the bulk of our time is devoted to running.  We started with 15 minutes of run/walking and have been adding on each week from there.  This part can get tricky--a lot of the girls are super gung ho at the start, but rapidly taper off and fall into a leisurely walk.  It's important to find a balance between remembering that these girls are actually little kids, not high school track stars or Olympians in training, and trying to get them ready for a 5K.

4. Closing Circle:  We always end by sharing celebrations for the day and with a closing huddle--everyone puts their hands in and shouts Fit Girls! on 3 before giving high fives all around.

We've been trying different things to spice up our workouts.  A few weeks ago, we gave the girls chalk and had them draw a little "tally box" for themselves and write some "words of encouragement."  Most of the teachers in the school do Quantum Learning, and one popular piece of Quantum is using positive affirmations with kids, so this was nothing new for them.  As the girls ran around the blacktop, they drew tally marks in their box for each lap.  Also, they were allowed to stop and write kind words for their friends near the other tally boxes.  The girls loved this!  Hugely motivating.

Another day, at a friend's suggestion, we paired the girls up with a buddy they didn't know very well.  We instructed the girls to stick with that buddy the whole time, no matter their pace.  After each lap, the other teachers and I had the girls tell us a fact they had learned about their buddy.  Halfway through, we had the buddies join with another pair to form a small group of 4.  The girls had a blast, and it was awesome seeing them make new friends!

We picked a local 5K to run as a club near the end of May, and have worked with race coordinators to get our girls and teachers a discounted entry fee.  Also, our school is planning to use funds to cover the registration for any girls who need financial assistance to make sure all of our girls can be included.  We are pumped!

I'm absolutely loving this club, and for so many reasons, too.  Our PE teacher came up to me after school the other day and shared that he was explaining the push ups fitness test to a group of kids, and one of the girls in the class said, "Oh, I can do this--I'm in Fit Girls!"  Heart. Melts.  Among other things, this is what I want my students to understand--anyone, anywhere can be an athlete.  Anyone can run.  No matter how fast or how slow you are, you can be a runner.  You can run for joy.  For fun.  For friends.  For yourself.  It took me 22 years to fall in love with running.  I hope that some of my girls have already fallen for it.

Have you had the opportunity to encourage your students to get active?  
Ideas for spicing up the workouts for our Fit Girls club??


  1. This sounds like such an amazing program to have at your school! I love it! :)

  2. That's a cool thing! We are doing a summer running program here this summer. I hope it goes as well as yours!


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