“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. Ratey, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain
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, students who arrived early to school would go to the media center and read, or sit quietly and socialize with their peers. Given the research regarding physical activity and its ability to enhance students’ academics, we decided to SPARK a morning running program. Now, before school, students have the opportunity to elevate their heart rates while they run or walk, helping the brain reach its peak performance.
Every Lap Counts – Influential Factors:
The program is simple. Any students in 1st–6th Grades who arrives between 7:30 and 7:40 are allowed to drop off their backpacks in their classrooms and head directly to the track. Students in pre-k and kindergarten are allowed to join us as long as a parent accompanies them. In an effort to foster lifelong fitness, we encourage parents of all students to participate. 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.
***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.
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 also hand out toe tokens once a month for all students who participate in the program.
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.
Griffin, R. Morgan. “Exercise: Good for Your Kid’s Brain.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2015.
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