“Why Not 125?” The Question That Helped Motivate My Students AND Me!



Several months ago, as I was going through my normal morning routine, I began to reflect on my previous night’s workout. In an effort to be more efficient with time, I’ve been going to the gym less and using my resources at home. One of my new favorite exercise rituals is performing 100 pull-ups in under 30 minutes on a pull-up bar hanging in the doorway between my kitchen and laundry room. One morning, as I was mentally rewarding myself for completing the above-mentioned workout, my 10-year-old son entered the kitchen with a severe case of bed head and very sleepy eyes.

Continuing my morning routine I said, “Good morning Zavier! How’d you sleep last night?” To which he gave me his regular response, “Good.”

What happened next was NOT routine, and totally unexpected?

In an effort to lead by example and demonstrate to my son that I make no excuses not to exercise, I proudly declared, “Well, I got my 100 pull-ups in last night!”

I was expecting Zavier to give me another one of his subtle head nods accompanied by, “nice job dad.”

Instead he looked up at me and said, “Why not 125 or 150?”

As I snapped my head to his direction in complete shock, I quickly realized his stare as he was waiting for a response.

WOW! This was a serious blow to my ego. This simple question sent an array of emotions spewing through my mind.

When the smoke settled, I realized his question was a stroke of BRILLIANCE. He was right, and his question was completely fair. Why DIDN’T I do 25 more or even 1 more? Why do I stop at 100 every time I “complete” this routine?

His question continues to impact me daily both personally AND professionally.

Flexed Arm Hang


As a physical education teacher, getting the most out of our students is a continuous goal. Especially in regard to fitness, keeping our kids motivated is a daily challenge. For instance, part of our fitness assessments includes the flexed arm hang. Using an overhand grip, students must pull themselves up so their chin is above the bar and they must hold themselves in a flexed position for as long as possible. Following each round, they set a reasonable goal. Using my son’s question as a tool, I encourage my students to attempt to not only reach their goal but fight to stay up even longer. I tell them; “Even when you feel you need to drop, push yourself to stay up just a second or two more. Break the mental barrier”!

The same goes for our timed runs. For example, our 3rd grade students complete a 9-minute run around our track four times per year. Each runner has a partner who writes down his/her time following each lap. In the past, as nine minutes expired, the runners would stop and only get credit for the last COMPLETED lap. However now, we give credit for each additional fraction of a lap. We tell our students that ever ¼ lap counts and could be the difference in meeting or surpassing their goal. It has paid off tremendously. Out students are now sprinting the last 30 seconds to one minute of the run.

9-Minute Run Log

Why not 125 or 150 pull-ups? Sure we can and should set goals, and use them as motivation. Apparently, we can use our children’s comments as inspiration as well. Thanks to my 10-year-old’s encouragement, I have slowly increased my repetitions.   Without setting a limit, who knows what I can achieve! -what YOU can achieve! – what our students can achieve!  Without challenging our limits, we are just limiting our challenges.

We need to continue to encourage ourselves and our students in developing a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset!

“Sprint through the finish line, NOT to the finish line.”


Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

Search #trinitype to see what my amazing PE team is doing with their classes.

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Motivate Your Class With a Meaningful Quote and Image

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 5.11.01 AM


Have you ever needed an idea or a visual to help set the tone for a class, running club, or any other group?  Recently, my colleague, Jedd Austin (@jeddaustin), found the above quote and photograph from American photographer, artist, and director Chase Jarvis.  Following an instant activity during our running club, we gathered our runners and asked them to reflect on the quote and image for 1 minute.  Our more than 100 1st-6th grade students suddenly became very quiet.  You could almost hear their minds at work.  Then, slowly, hands began to go up as our gang wanted to share their insight.  This meeting, although brief, was extremely powerful for our club.  We immediately began to notice increased effort. Students  were less likely to give up during our challenging workout of the day.  At least for this day and this workout, kids were inspired.  It is our hope that both the visual and discussion, will continue to encourage our runners.


Find a quote and set the tone for your group!

Next week’s quote:


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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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5 Motivating Fitness Ideas for PE – Part 1

Throughout my 20 years of teaching, I’ve steadily grown as a PE teacher through trial and error.  I remember my earlier days when each class was kicked off with a warm-up lap and a stretching routine followed by 3-7 more minutes of jogging around the playground. Day in and day out, it was much of the same.  Eventually, my students would lose motivation with this mundane routine.  Their once steady pace would inevitably slow down before ending up as a slow walk.  Frustration would ensue!  It didn’t take long to realize that the students were just bored –  unmotivated and unchallenged.  As mentioned in an earlier blog post titled,  Keeping Fitness Fresh in PE Class, diversity is what today’s students crave in regard to fitness.  When exercise is viewed by students as challenging, varied, and ultimately FUN, the more positive their experience will be.

Here are my Top 5 Motivating Exercise Routines for elementary school students.  They incorporate a range of exercises that drive the students while incorporating the three elements of fitness:  endurance, flexibility, and strength.  Please feel free to share what works for you, I’d love to add to my repertoire. (BTW – Check out my follow-up post called 6 More Fitness Ideas for PE for more motivating fitness routines).

1. 5-Minute Lap Challenge (Class versus Class)

Prior to the challenge, there’s a discussion on teamwork and how each student has to maximize his/her effort in order for the class to be successful.  Each PE class jogs around our small track for 5 minutes.  I tally the total number of laps the class completes as a team.  After 5 minutes, I take the total number of laps and divide it by the total number of students.   This quotient is the average number of laps per students.  Each of my classes per grade level complete this same challenge.  Following the challenge, I post the results in the gym.Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 9.47.28 PM

The 5-minute lap challenge is repeated 4 times per year.

2.  As Many Rounds as Possible (AMRAP)

Our PE team uses this type of workout often due to it versatility.  We simply list 4-8 exercises focusing on different muscle groups. Each exercise is given a certain number of repetitions.  The students have to complete the list of exercises as many times as possible in a given amount of time.  Often we’ll include skills from the present unit into our list of exercises.  We’ll also add a lap around the gym which includes obstacles for further motivation. You’ll see this in the video below.

Basketball AMRAP.png

3.  High Energy Tag Games (No Elimination)

Often, you don’t think of tag as an exercise routine.  However, there’s no better way to get your heart rate up and activate all the muscles in your body.  Just try playing with you students and you’ll quickly find out first-hand.  Whichever tag game you choose there should NEVER be elimination.  In other words, if a player is tagged, there should always be a quick way to reenter the game.

4.  The Race to 500

Do you want to see your students practically fly around the gym?  This is another class versus class challenge.  Set up a timer so it’s visible to the students.  On the coaches command, the entire class runs around the perimeter of the gym.  The coach stands at the starting line and tallies each student as they pass.  When the class runs their 500th lap, stop the timer.  This is their score.  Once again we post the scores on our white board to motivate other classes.  Depending on the age and number of students and the size of your gym, you can increase or decrease the total number of laps.  For example, with a small class of 20 students in a large gym, you might have The Race to 250 Laps.

5.  High Intensity Interval Workouts/Tabata

Our students respond well to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts.  I feel this is mainly due to the variety of movements and exercises you can add to the list.  This type of workout is sure to get your students sweating and their heart rates up. Simply create a list of 4-8 exercises.  Using a Tabata Timer, students perform each exercise for 20-30 seconds with 10-second breaks in between.   Below are a couple of examples.

Tabata 1   Burpee Sandwich

Finding creative ways to motivate our students is an ongoing challenge.  We need to work together to share ideas.  These are my top 5.  Now I’d like to learn about yours.  Please post your motivating exercise routines in the comments section!  Let’s work together to keep our students fit and motivated!

Read Part 2 of this post called 6 More Fitness Ideas for PE.

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Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

Search #trinitype to see what my amazing PE team is doing with their classes.

Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion!

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