Every Lap Counts: A Simple Supplement to P.E. and Recess

“What it means is that you have the power to change your brain. All you have to do is lace up your running shoes.”
― John J. RateySpark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain



Every Lap Counts. This is the name of the program a colleague and I spearheaded two years ago to give our students an opportunity to walk, jog, and/or run on our track before school. Inspired by the book Spark, by John Ratey, which describes how the brain is nourished by exercise, we wanted to provide an outlet for our students to exercise before school.


Prior to Every Lap Counts, the only options for students who arrived early to school were to go the media center and read, or sit quietly and socialize with their peers. Based on the research regarding physical activity and its ability to enhance students’ academics, we decided to provide a program where elevating heart rates could assist the brain in reaching its peak performance.

Every Lap Counts – Influential Factors:

  • Research indicates that exercise makes us mentally sharper, and also shows that students score higher on math and reading comprehension tests after exercising for 20 minutes.
  • Studies have found that kids who exercise are more confident.
  • Many studies have found that kids who exercise feel happier, are better at managing their moods, and have fewer mood swings.
Students run, walk, and/or jog on the track

Every Lap Counts 

The program is simple. Any student in 1st–6th Grades who arrives between 7:30 and 7:40 are allowed to drop off their backpacks in their classroom and head directly to the track. Students in pre-k and kindergarten are allowed to join us as long as a parent accompanies them. We encourage parents of all students to participate, encouraging lifelong, family fitness. From 7:30-7:50 students can walk, jog and/or run on the track. On some days students have the option to do baton relays and sprints.

Each laminated strip of paper represents 1 lap

***As an added challenge, I recently implemented the optional 1-mile challenge. Students can come out and run a mile each morning. I promised that each week I’d post every student’s name that completed at least one mile in the hallway outside our gymnasium. Honestly, I only expected a handful of takers for the challenge. On Monday, out of the 46 students on the track, 14 of them ran the mile. I was blown away. Amazingly, the number of milers more than doubled on Tuesday and again on Wednesday. By the end of the week 68 different runners ran 133 total miles. More impressive to me was the breakdown.

  • 1st Grade – 20 students
  • 2nd Grade – 10 students
  • 3rd Grade – 18 students
  • 4th Grade – 13 students
  • 5th Grade – 8 students

Students of all ages were motivated to take the 1-mile challenge. Some were inclined to run 2 miles. At the same time students who came out to the track who didn’t take the challenge were still celebrated for starting their day with exercise.

Students receive a toe token for every 5 miles they run.  I’ll also hand out toe tokens once a month for all students who participates in the program.

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Every Lap Counts is about movement, a simple opportunity for students to stimulate their bodies and brains through exercise, and a chance to socialize with friends prior to the rigor of the normal school routine.

Every Lap Counts has become a favorite part of my day. I am in awe and overcome with pride each morning as an average of 60 students join me on the track for this supplement to recess and physical education.

 Perhaps some of you already have successful morning movement programs, and can relate to the pride I exude for students at my school. If so, please let me know! Maybe together, we can inspire other schools to do the same.

***Update:  It has now been 6 months since I implemented the 1-mile challenge.  Our students have logged almost 1,500 miles.  Some runners have posted over 50 miles on their own.  Each Friday, I post the student and class mileage totals outside our gymnasium.  Often, there will be a crowd gathered with students proudly searching for their names.

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Griffin, R. Morgan. “Exercise: Good for Your Kid’s Brain.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2015.

If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more of what I have to say about physical education and keeping kids in motion, follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

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10 Comments on “Every Lap Counts: A Simple Supplement to P.E. and Recess

  1. I love that you started this program Justin. I also love that the siblings of older children that I teach BEG their parents to come so that they, even in Pre-K, can be a part of this wonderful and impactful program!

  2. Awesome! We do a similar program at recess time. Kids earn a toe token with every 5 miles completed, and the kids set lofty goals to reach by the end of the school year. We have an assembly at the end of the year to celebrate every student who reaches 100 miles! Kids have created their own running groups and meet during recess to run together. Parents join their kids, too! This year, we even had a parent of a second grader complete 100 miles with her daughter! In the morning, we have “Early Morning Movers,” which is 30 minutes before school where kids come to practice a variety of PE skills, which change weekly throughout the year. The morning program is only on Tuesdays & Thursdays. The goal is to keep our kids moving, but not burning ourselves out even as we provide extra physical activities before, during, and after the school day!

    • Wow! Incredible programs. You’ve inspired me to strengthen Every Lap Counts. Do you have any pictures of your students in action. Keep up the great work. Our community needs to learn about programs like ours.

    • I had a program just like this in a school in NE Kansas. My roadblock in the winter time was “where do you run when it’s 0° and 4 inches of snow on the track?” Please help me through this. Any ideas? That keep kids motivated?

      • When it gets too cold or rainy, I take the kids into the gym. Sometimes I put an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) on the white board, put long ropes out, set up relays, or fitness stations. I also do what I call the race to 200. I see how long it takes the entire group to jog 200 laps around the gym. I save the time so they have a record to shoot for at a later date. I hope this helps.

  3. Pingback: Top 5 TED Talks for Physical Educators – Keeping Kids in Motion

  4. LOVE this article & program!!! We started a morning movement program 2 years ago named “cardio club”, it’s offered to the entire school k-5. I set up in our field a 400 meter coned track. We start in the gym with a dynamic warm-up & then move outside to the track where students can walk, jog or run trying to log as many laps possible. In the fall stdnts. Track number of laps & in the hallway each class has a poster that they keep track each day. Our PI math stdnts. Figure out the distance each class & grade level travelled at the end of the program. In the spring we use pedometers our home & school got for us through the box tops program for logging steps. Same thing, we have math Students figure out the total distances. Last year I also added another indoor movement option, Dancing (just dance), for those students who might not enjoy walking/running but enjoy dance. Whole idea is to try & reach as many students as possible to help get them moving & raise heart rates before starting their academic day!!! We run the program rain or shine. If we can’t be outside, we run inside. We use a safe route through the halls & gym, dance in our mpr & using Apple TV in the gym “sworkit kids” is an added option on the inside of the track. The only way this program is possible is by having awesome parent/staff volunteers 😃. Sign-up genius is a great way to organize volunteers! I LOVE how the program helps students learn healthy lifetime habits and exposes them to understanding the importance of movement and learning connection. They are so proud to share with me stories of how they have gone for walks & jogs with their families before school on days we don’t have the program.

    • Kim, I woiud love to see the Cardio club in action. Great job giving the kids ownership of logging and recording as well. It sound like you have parents and teachers who are completely on board.

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