Wednesday, October 21, 2009


My cutie-pie had a fitness test in school last week. The third graders in her gym class had to do a 1 mile walk/run (with as much running as possible). Over the summer she’d been on the treadmill and had walked as much as 2 miles, but she’d never actually run a whole mile.

I could tell that Bailey was a little nervous about it, so we did what you should do in situations like that. The weekend before the test, we went out and practiced it. First, we walked a quarter mile to get warmed up. Then we started jogging. Right away I knew what the problem was. She took off like a little filly right out of the gate. Nice speed, but tough to sustain over the long haul.

So we worked on starting out easy and picking a slower, more comfortable jogging pace that she could sustain. We got about a half-mile when she started getting a little tired, but she hung in there for another quarter mile before we needed to stop for just a minute or so. Then she crunched out the last quarter mile.

We also talked about how to breathe properly while running. Most people wait until they are out of breath before even thinking about it. A better plan is to practice your breathing while you’re still fresh, early in the run. Time it with your steps: In-two-three, Out-two-three. As the run gets harder and breathing increases, it might end up like: In-two, Out-two.

She had a really good start and I was pretty encouraged. By learning how to start slower and pace herself she was able to keep going a lot longer than she thought. Then when it got tougher, she was able to keep the oxygen coming in with better breathing. With a little more work, she’d be able to do it.

The next day we did it again, and this time she got three quarters before she started feeling like stopping. With a little encouragement from her papaw, an easy pace, and by focusing on her breathing, she was able to hang on and keep jogging for the last quarter mile. She did it!

She acted nonchalant about it, but I know she was pretty happy about it, and I thought it would be a big confidence builder for her when she went to school. Last Thursday she told me that they had the test and not only did she finish in 14:20, but she was 10th in her class!

Now she may never be a distance runner in cross country as she seems to be built more for speed and power. She’s pretty fast over the short haul, and man is this girl strong! You should see her swing at a softball. What’s important is that she learned a couple things.

First, was simply that she could do it. That’s a huge thing for kids to learn. Once you learn you can do something, no matter how tough it was, it builds your confidence to try other things. Second, she saw that practicing a thing makes the end result better. Finally, she was getting some excellent exercise. That could lead to a lifetime of better health.

One good example is a boy in our Martial Arts program. His dad’s a teacher and avid bicyclist and triathlete, so Lance decided to try a couple of children’s fun runs. He’s completed a mini-triathlon and a couple 5 K’s too. At just seven years old, he’s already posted a time of just over 31 minutes for a 5 K. I know lots of adults who would have a hard time doing that.

Coming from a household that gives a high priority to fitness, he’ll be set up pretty well for the future. Especially with some success in some activities now, he’ll likely do some of them his entire life. That will keep him fit.

Studies show that if kids are obese into their teens, it is very unlikely that they’ll ever know anything but obesity. Put another way, they’ll always struggle with their weight. The odds are very much against them.

But if you have your kids doing tumbling, gymnastics, martial arts, soccer, tee-ball, football, baseball, running, in other words, staying active, it can make a real difference. As much as I appreciate what the teacher had the kids do at school, at best it’s three times a week. That’s not enough.

Just like adults, kids need to be active every day. Along with watching what they eat, being careful not to eat too much, and avoiding junk food, they need to focus on being more active. They need to be out there burning calories and getting moving. As cool as Wii fit is, they need to be out there doing the real thing. They need to be playing “Me fit.”

Research is showing that it may have more benefits than just in their bodies. A recent article by Bruce Barcott in the November 2009 issue of “Bicycling” magazine showed that regular, intense bouts of exercise can help keep kids more focused during the day.

It turns out that the old strategy of sending the kids out to burn off some energy has some validity. In a study done back in 1978, a researcher named W. Mark Shipman, M.D. had a group of kids at the San Diego Center for Children do some running for up to 45 minutes, 4 days a week.

Back then, Ritalin was a new drug and his kids at the center were among the first in the country to use it to treat ADHD, and ADD. What they found was that the kids who were running were able to receive lowered drug doses. The exercise was providing a drug-like benefit.

Two other studies in the 80’s found similar results. Unfortunately, our cultural dependence on medicines and need for quick-fixes has made Ritalin and other drugs a huge billion dollar industry. But no one profits when the kids are just out there exercising—except the kids.

In the article, the author interviewed several cyclists who’ve been able to keep their ADHD under control with bicycling. And in another study, kids were found to have “enhanced academic performance, decreased irritability and increased focus.” Some were even able to get off their meds.

According to ADHD experts, “Cycling, swimming, and running are tops. At the bottom are soccer, hockey and baseball.” Individual sports with continuous movement seem to be better than team sports that would involve a lot of standing around, if ADHD is an issue.

The trick is picking a sport that has a solid cardio workout along with tasks that require the brain to make decisions, use focus, and other things like balance and timing. Staying in the pack while riding would be a good example. Performing the intricate tasks demanded in gymnastics or Taekwondo would be other good examples.

Some of our Biggest Losers had no problem focusing this past week. First place went to Michelle Nugent, who lost 1.7% of her body weight and 2.6 lbs. She received a $15 gift card from Terry Elston and State Farm Insurance. With her win this week, she moved into the overall lead, losing a total of 10.6 lbs and 6.5% of her body weight in just three weeks.

Second place went to Tammi Hewitt, who lost 1.6% of her body weight and 2.2 lbs. Third place went to Karen Brown, who lost 1.5% of her body weight and another 4.0 lbs. Karen is in second place overall, having lost 17.6 lbs and a close 6.3% of her body weight!

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