By: Adam Marshall
I grew up in small farming town in north central Montana with a graduating class of 16. Growing up I loved competitive sports and almost 20 years later I still do. Fact is, in my school, probably 90% of the students engaged in some form of sports. Because of that love for sports and physical activity I stayed active and enjoyed exercise through my college years while pursuing a degree in exercise science. I don’t ever remember a time when I felt intimidated or discouraged by participating or engaging in physical activity or fitness. I’ve probably taken for granted how easy it is for me to pursue a lifestyle like this because it really is all I know.
My first job, after receiving my degree, was as a personal trainer in Spokane, Washington. I didn’t really know what I was in for. Because of where I grew up, and the activities I liked to participate in, I didn’t realize how bad the obesity epidemic was. It was definitely a fair portion of my clientele. However, the people who I remember the most during my days as a personal trainer were the young people (16-25 years old) who came to me for help. Whether they already had a severe weight problem, were starting to gain weight, or just felt the need to exercise, there was one common denominator: They had no idea what to do or where to start! Again, coming from my sheltered little corner of Montana, I couldn’t understand how someone could know literally nothing about fitness. I was starting from scratch with these kids. This got me thinking. Surely this information has been shared with them before? They had to have heard this at some point in school? Maybe in physical education? I’m not going pretend like I learned about health and fitness in school, because I didn’t. My PE classes were as ‘old school’ as they come. The three things I remember from my PE were: dodgeball, floor hockey and being “turned loose” in the weight room. However, I didn’t have to be taught or motivated about physical activity; I just did it because I liked it. That’s all I knew.
I’m currently an activity and curriculum trainer for Focused Fitness. I work with PE teachers all over the country on what it means to teach Quality Physical Education (#QPE). The four areas of #QPE are: academic content, fitness, motor skills and social/emotional content. I know a lot of teachers who have no problem incorporating some degree of fitness and motor/sports skills in their classes. After all, I think a lot of PE teachers have a similar outlook as me when it comes to fitness. They’ve always done it and it just comes natural.
Many teachers are realizing that kids aren’t participating as widely in sports these days as they used to, which may mean we need to shift our focus from sports and competition to preparing these kids to be fit, healthy and active for a lifetime. Of course, sports have a place when teaching kids about lifetime fitness, but it can’t be the sole focus. We have a saying here that pretty much sums up what our goal for students is: “Gain the essential knowledge and tools necessary to become their own personal trainer and nutritionist.” When we say, “gain essential knowledge” a lot of what we’re talking about is the academic content portion of #QPE. Chances are, the kids who love sports and being active are going to find a way to play sports and be active. Now, think of the rest of the kids…An 18 year-old should never have to pay for health and fitness information. Could your students be their own personal trainer and nutritionist?