By: Sara Russell, 2016 National High School Physical Education SHAPE America® Teacher of the Year
I don’t know about your students, but students often enter my class with a predetermined negative view of the word “fitness.” Fitness to them means running, repetitious exercises, and a lack of creativity. While fitness workouts such as Tabata, AMRAPs, and others have increased variety and interest in fitness, there are still many students that get to high school, craving something new and different.
Most secondary educators would agree that a major part of the job is to prepare our students for the “real world,” and by doing so, teach them how to be independent in their health and fitness. Let’s be honest – even for many of us who teach the subject, making healthy decisions and staying physically active can be a challenge. So, how do we educate and encourage our students to value and stay motivated with their fitness?
First of all, students need to know the “why” behind the fitness they are doing. Fitness should be comprehensive and hit all components of health-related fitness and areas of skill-related fitness, and be taught in a way that students can see the benefits of each. Our young adults need to know what cardiorespiratory endurance activities versus muscular strength/endurance activities can do for their health.
One of my favorite fitness activities involves students creating their own workout that addresses the health-related components of fitness. Rather than me creating a circuit for the class, I let them create their own circuit (click here for an example). Seeing students take ownership and develop their own fitness circuits, that often help address their own personal fitness plans, makes fitness fun and meaningful. In addition to designing their own workouts, I have also found it very beneficial to teach and allow students to modify exercises or extend fitness activities to meet their own fitness level and needs. Many times, I observe students who think exercises are too difficult or too easy, and as a result, quit trying. If a student doesn’t have the strength to do a push-up, do they know how to modify the exercise in a way that can make them successful? And what about the students that are talented in strength, can easily do push-ups, but don’t feel pushed by the exercise? Do they know how to make a more challenging push-up so they can continue to develop their strength? When students are creating their own circuits, I also have them determine multiple levels of each exercise to challenge each individual. Allowing students options, choices, and ownership can truly make fitness more engaging and meaningful.
So, why not try something new and bring a change to your fitness routine? Finding ways to make students own their fitness, know the benefits of fitness, and allow them to find success, no matter what their level, will continue to provide positive fitness experiences that can encourage them to stay active for a lifetime.
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