Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
12 Oct

How I Would Change Gym Class

tugofwarGym class was not a great time for me.

To understand exactly how painful grade school PE was back in my day, you must experience “Go, You Chicken Fat, Go.” Back in early 1960s, PE was all about preparing for and passing the Presidential Fitness Test, which was JFK’s youth fitness standards. “Go, You Chicken Fat, Go” was a ridiculous song written expressly for the Presidential challenge and sung by a guy named Robert Preston. Every single day during PE class, we did calisthenics as it blasted over the PA system on repeat. We’d do pushups, jumping jacks, squat thrusts, chinups, all while listening to this masterpiece – I think I’m finally realizing why I hated strength training and gravitated toward long distance endurance events for the bulk of my youth! We occasionally got to play dodgeball, and those were good days. Head shots were allowed and even encouraged. No PC stuff anywhere.

My first year of high school gym was rough, too. You see, I placed out of a few of my classes, so they bumped me up to an all-senior PE class as a freshman. I actually don’t remember all that much about the PE curriculum. It might have been great, but I wouldn’t have known because I was too busy avoiding purple nurples and dodging rat tails in the locker room. Oh, and back then we had to shower during gym, so wet towels were exclusively used for rat tail production. Let’s just say that you really don’t know pain until you’ve felt a sopping wet rat tail inscribe itself across your lower ribcage. Fun stuff. Once spring track season rolled around, though, I was the top point man on the team, usually winning the mile and two mile, and placing in the pole vault. That got me some cred and made the rest of high school bearable.

But gym was never great for me.

So today, I’m going to explain what I’d change about gym class if I was given the chance to teach or administer it. I suppose the first thing I’d change about physical eduction in schools is to make sure it still exists! Standardized testing, and all the madness that surrounds and enables it, along with tight budgets, have forced schools to cut the “non-essentials,” including gym, music, and art. I’ve definitely got nothing against math, social studies, science, and English, but being active is just as essential as those subjects. Heck, even recess is getting cut in some places. That’s just criminal.

No, I’m not considering a new career path, and no, this isn’t a policy discussion. I’m not proposing comprehensive school reform (although that’s probably what it’d take to work). I’m just having fun. In the process, hopefully I outline some tangible activities you parents find helpful enough to try. The “revolution,” if there’s going to be one, must start at the local level. You start legislating education from afar and you end up with stuff like the “Go, You Chicken Fat, Go” song playing on repeat over an aging PA system and scaring an entire generation away from pullups. You can’t rely on that. You have to be the change you seek, whether that’s playing tag with your kids on weekends, banding together with other concerned parents for “PE meetups” outside of school, or putting pressure on your kids’ schools to make time for gym and recess. Maybe you could even be a PE teacher and start the change from the inside (though I don’t know how much freedom PE teachers get to construct their own programs).

If I was put in charge of leading gym class, I’d only employ competent coaches with athletic or training backgrounds. No more math teachers filling in because there’s no money to hire a dedicated coach. They’d have to be certified through something like NCSA, and there would be a lengthy interview process. All teachers would have to be physically fit themselves, able to perform and teach (including scaling up or down for all fitness levels) basic strength and conditioning movements, and be willing to go on record against Chronic Cardio (Ok, that last one’s a joke. Kinda.).

For grade school kids, I’d:

Abolish chairs. You ever see a kid squat? They do it effortlessly. Toes pointed forward, nice neutral spine, butt to calves, and they can sit there forever. They don’t need chairs at school. Desks are tall enough and the ground is perfect for sprawling out and getting work done. Yeah, this isn’t a gym class thing, but so what? It’s my post.

Instate a mix of free play and structured exercise, including:

MovNat. This is the prime time to teach kids to move naturally through the environment. Balance, climbing, crawling, jumping, all of it. Their joint mobility is unencumbered by years of sitting and sedentary living (because, well, they’ve only been alive for half a decade), so MovNat will come naturally (get it?). Erwan, you down for a career change?

Strength training once a week. A lot of bodyweight basics – pullups, pushups, squats, planks, overhead presses – plus some light weighted movements, like learning how to hip hinge to pick stuff up off the ground (deadlifts, basically, not for weight, but for the movement pattern). Most kids do this naturally, but that goes away pretty quick. This basic weekly refresher course would keep it. And no, strength training does not stunt growth.

Sprints once a week. Six or seven all-out sprints with a couple minutes of rest in between. Kids love to run and this is a great outlet for it.

Mile runs every week. If you can run a mile well, you’re in pretty good shape.

Field trips to the wilderness for long hikes. Maybe two or three times a month get kids outside for daylong hikes. Bring along the science teachers and make it educational! This would also be a great opportunity to teach MovNat fundamentals.

A fully outfitted jungle gym with the regular stuff – swings, ladders, multiple levels, slides – and not-so-regular stuff – rings, dip bars, horizontal bars, climbing ropes. Kids would learn how to climb, swing, and play on and around the equipment, maybe even with a gymnastics day every couple weeks, but there would also be free days. I’m thinking epic matches of hot lava monsters, personally.

Lots of free time, with the equipment and space (and some nudging if necessary) to do the following:

Dodgeball. It develops catching, dodging, throwing, spatial awareness, hand-eye coordination, agility, pain tolerance, with just enough healthy competition to teach you how to win and lose.

Tag. This will usually sprout up organically, but just in case it doesn’t, I’ll be “it” first.

Capture the flag. Teamwork, strategizing, sprints. The perfect fusion of brains and brawn. And, it’s super fun.

For high schoolers, I’d do much the same, with a few changes:

Push strength training to twice a week. Bodyweight exercises, employing all the essential movements, with the option to progress to weighted exercises if the student prefers. Just three or four compound exercises each session, two or three sets per. I doubt the school could stock enough barbells and weights for forty kids at once, so we’d have to use a lot of cheaper, more versatile equipment – sandbags, kettlbebells, medicine balls, slosh tubes. Imagine if everyone knew how to squat, deadlift, and press with perfect form that was ingrained at a young age?

Mobility work, daily, as a five to ten minute warmup. Teens are not quite as limber as kids, but far more mobile than most adults, so we can get ‘em before they stiffen up. I’d draw from MobilityWOD‘s trove of movements.

More MovNat.

Wrestling. I remember doing a bit of this in grade school PE. I wasn’t very good (too small and there were no weight classes), but it was fun. I could definitely see wrestling as a great way to teach kids practical self-defense. And wrestling makes for an interesting, visceral anatomy lesson.

Lots of play. Of course, I’d promote Ultimate as the, well, ultimate fun game for teens. Lots of running, jumping, changing directions, throwing, catching, predicting flight paths, orchestrating plays and generally having a blast. A kid who can learn the basic skills of Ultimate can probably play any sport with competency later in life. I’ll admit that I’m having a hard time imagining cynical teens playing without a shred of irony, but maybe if those same teens came up in my mythical grade school PE curriculum, they’d be different. Who knows.

It’s not about burning calories. I’m not overly concerned with seven year olds failing to engage in high intensity interval training or deadlifting their own bodyweight. Kids simply need to move. At their age, they need to jump, leap, and flail their arms as often as possible. They need to twist out of the way of an incoming rubber ball or classmate’s outstretched hand. Bruises, grass stains, and scraped knees need to be part of the normal curriculum, and I want to see some of the more arcane versions of tag unearthed and field researched by our youngest scholars. It is during childhood that the innate human need to move must be encouraged, rather than stifled, because it will set the tone for the rest of that child’s life. Look, kids pop out of the womb wanting to move and touch and grab and experience. You know how babies are always looking wide-eyed and amazed at everything? That’s because they are. And once they figure out how to clamber onto their two feet, they’re off climbing, running, waddling, and yes, falling to explore this interesting new world. We gotta keep that going!

I think my “program” would work (if competent teacher/coaches were widely available and lawsuits were rare) and it would help get kids off on the right track toward a lifelong appreciation of movement. At the very least, it’d be better than whatever we have now.

What do you think? Readers, parents, teens? Is my vision for PE pure fantasy without any real chance? Are things really as dire as I’ve been led to believe? If you could change something about gym class, what would it be? Let me know in the comment section.

As you may know, next Tuesday – just six days away – marks the official release of my new book, The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation. It’s designed to walk you through, step-by-step, the first three weeks of going Primal, getting healthy, and taking control of the rest of your life. Since three weeks is a relatively short period of time, I worked hard for the better part of two years to iron out the details and make sure that it actually works. Well, it does, and I’m confident that this could be the bridge to break through to the mainstream. If you couldn’t tell already, I’m pretty excited. I’ll be releasing more details next week, but I’m gonna need your help. Are you with me?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Wow, I remember “Chicken Fat”.
    Vivid memories of lying on our backs and doing “bicycle legs” in 4 grade.
    “Steal the bacon” is very primal too.

    Lars T. wrote on October 12th, 2011
    • “Steal the Bacon” is DA BOMB! Love that game.

      cchambers wrote on October 12th, 2011
      • I was good at that one. I had whole groups of people keeping an eye on me if we played that.

        Jane wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • We actually had Go You Chicken fat Go, too, and I went to elementary school in the 70s. I used to sing the song at home, much to my order brothers’s dismay (they’re a lot older than I am and remember it from the first go round).

      Naomi Kuritzky Regan wrote on October 22nd, 2011
      • *older

        Naomi Kuritzky Regan wrote on October 22nd, 2011
  2. Well done Mark, I have been talking to my kids admins to institute these very things…..BRICK WALLS are better at conversing!!!!!

    Robert wrote on October 12th, 2011
    • I hear ya, i guess the old adage still true “Those who can-DO, the ones that cant -TEACH, and the one who cant teach- TEACH GYM”
      My PE thru grammar and HS was pathetic.

      ruben wrote on October 12th, 2011
      • And don’t forget… The ones who believe “the old adage” haven’t a clue about teaching. Thanks for perpetuating one of the biggest myths of our time!

        Mark Robb wrote on October 12th, 2011
      • I agree with Mark Robb here. I know so many talented and earnestly engaged teachers. My girls have loved every teacher they have, and my kindergartener’s favorite teacher now is her gym teacher. He’s fun, friendly, just the right amount of old school, and makes those kids move. Gym is her favorite class, which I never would’ve expected from her. I feel so lucky that she’s beginning her gym experience this way.

        Jen wrote on October 12th, 2011
      • It’s so weird that my high school drama teacher used to say this. He was involved in summer theatre – still is.

        My elementary school teacher was rotund. His name was Mr Marcellus but we called him Mr Marshmallow. He was very jolly, though.

        Naomi Kuritzky Regan wrote on October 22nd, 2011
  3. Surprisingly enough, my middle school PE class was much like what you described! We would ‘run the loop’ which was 3 miles up the hill behind the school, to the ski hill, and back down past the orchard. You got to choose either wrestling or dance once a semester, and capture the flag was popular. However, i grew up in a small town where all of this worked out nicely, there weren’t very many kids to keep track of, and having sports and PE classes run around town for workouts was feasible. I vote YES for fixing PE programs!! I’m sure even my school has changed since I was there.

    Lindsey wrote on October 12th, 2011
  4. Great ideas! I would provide sledgehammers to the high schoolers, and serve bacon in cinnamon at the end of each class. But I despair of ever becoming a PE teacher, because I lack the enormous potbelly that seems to be a prerequisite.

    Timothy wrote on October 12th, 2011
    • HAHAHAHA. Yes, it’s amazing how a gym teacher or anyone that has a health and wellness type job has that potbelly.

      Primal Toad wrote on October 12th, 2011
    • HEY! I was a PE teacher and I do NOT have a potbelly! :) I loved introducing new activities to the students which were fun games that made them sprint and move to work up a great sweat. Honestly, most schools have really good PE programs now even though they’re not daily which is something I would definitely change!

      Iowamom wrote on October 12th, 2011
      • You should write a PE eBook that targets any kid that is in high school or below.

        I’m 100% serious. eMail me through my blog if you want to throw ideas around with me.

        I want to help others start primal businesses, blogs, ebooks and more. I get questions all the time about start-ups and am extremely intrigued.

        Primal Toad wrote on October 13th, 2011
        • I should say that targets any PE teacher that teaches high school kids or younger.

          Primal Toad wrote on October 13th, 2011
    • haha! Come to think of it, all the gym teachers I remember had pot belly’s AND they loved chronic cardio. hmmmm, interesting lol

      Burn wrote on October 12th, 2011
    • Not in my country. Growing up in the 70′s and 80′s all of my Sports Class Teachers (we don’t call it PE in europe) were fit and muscular. Even the ladies. In fact, I don’t think we had a single teacher that was fat. Couple had beer bellies (it was Germany, what do you expect lol).
      We had 5 hours of Sports Class a week.
      Once a year we had Teachers vs. Students games, usually either field hockey or soccer.

      Arty wrote on October 13th, 2011
  5. Mark – What in interesting time to post this. I am currently student teaching for my Health & PE degree. I’m also certified ACE and ACSM for personal training. I have an old school coop that still does weird stuff and I want to totally turn the class around and incorporate a lot of what you said because I’ve already thought about a lot of it. This makes me stoked for when I someday finally land a great PE job somewhere.

    The only issue I have is – their school lunches. So long our students keep eating such garbage and parents don’t get involved enough to help that, they won’t maximize their growth and potential. It breaks my heart to see the stuff they eat, daily. To know they go from working hard and having fun in my gym class to lunch of a massive pile of processed food is saddening on my heart. I strive to stress eating well, but it’s tough.

    Adam wrote on October 12th, 2011
    • Yeah in high-school I never liked the lunches…so I packed a lunch…for 4 years I ate a big ol’ sandwich (yeah so the grains wasn’t great, but better than nothing) with meat and cheese on it…lots of meat and cheese…lol…but it was very filling and kept me good throughout the day and even after my gym sessions every night!

      Nathan wrote on October 12th, 2011
  6. I would love it if your program would be implemented at my child’s school! Though we have suffered some cuts unfortunately our PE- sorry Kinsiology teacher wasn’t one of them. All my child learns is how to juggle, how to stack cups, and rolling around on a scooter. Not sure how that qualifies as physical activity but the school thinks he is great. Me not so much!

    Michelle wrote on October 12th, 2011
  7. Mark,

    Not fantasy at all – it sounds great. For whatever reason, our local public schools do a decent job with gym/phys ed. I have twin 8 year old boys and they come home with lots of good PE stories. Every quarter, they do something called the “Pacer Test” which to me sounds like “suicides” with progressively shorter times to reach the destination and turn around.

    In a more structured setting, I would think gymnastics work would be pretty valuable as well.

    Tim Huntley wrote on October 12th, 2011
  8. Our elementary school (ok, our old elementary school, since I no longer have kids of elementary age…) has a bouldering wall in the gym. The kids are allowed to climb ONCE per year. Such a waste.

    Otherwise, gym was non-existent for me from 7th grade on. 7th and 8th grade, I “conned” my gym teachers into allowing me to go work as a library assistant during gym period. My high school only required 1 semester of gym (I did weight lifting, and was shockingly good at it.) I didn’t run a mile run from 6th grade til my junior year at university (because I was dating a cross country runner – and thought we could run together.)

    It’s taken me way too long to overcome what I learned in school.

    Lauren wrote on October 12th, 2011
  9. I remember my days of PE, which included lots of dodgeball, sports of all sorts and SQUARE DANCING in high school.
    I have two teens. Both have been lucky enough to have PE since they started school – in four school districts, in four different states!
    Elementary was moving for fun so that even kids that weren’t fast, strong, whatever, could enjoy themselves. Middle school was more about learning different sports and high school has been dodgeball (let’s cheer for the left-handed softball player who can take them all down), additional focus on sports and weightlifting.

    Debdoub wrote on October 12th, 2011
  10. sorry – kinesiology whatever either way he isn’t doing his job to get the kids moving.

    Michelle wrote on October 12th, 2011
  11. In my pre-primal days I was a substitute teacher, and taught Summer School full time. I didn’t incorporate all these concepts, but plenty of dodgeball , long laps around the field, push ups, pull ups, soccer, capture the flag, were part of the curriculum.

    Lars T. wrote on October 12th, 2011
    • That sounds like a blast. Write an ebook and target any high school or below PE teacher. I’m 100% serious. Read my comment just above…

      Primal Toad wrote on October 13th, 2011
  12. Hi Mark, this is a great article. For the past 3 years I have doing all these things you mentioned in the article in my P.E. classes. I totally agree with you on everything you wrote. Movnat and Primal Blue print and exuberant animal is the way to go in P.E classes. But todays kids in middle school are so unmotivated. THey are sitting to long in a regular classroom do acedemics. Encouraged by the school and their parents. It has been a crusade for me to get the same respect for my Phys. Ed. But I am determined! Thanks

    Terence Flynn wrote on October 12th, 2011
  13. Your plan sounds a lot like my elementary school P.E. Everyday from first grade through seventh we started P.E. with burpees, sometimes followed by pushups and situps, then a lap sprint, then games. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized what an amazing P.E. teacher we’d had, and that ours was a fairly unique experience.

    JT wrote on October 12th, 2011
  14. “Chicken Fat” – all through my grade school PE!! ha!

    Check out this book – “Spark” by Dr John Ratey from Harvard. He worked with the PE department in our school district to show how well done PE makes kids smarter.

    FastEddie wrote on October 12th, 2011
  15. I completely agree with the remarks about school lunches. If diet is 80% of the cure, then a pretzel with cheese as a main course for lunch is NOT going to hack it! Makes me sick, and my kids refuse to eat those lunches. I am slowly revamping their lunches to primal, got a long way to go, as they don’t want to give up the easy to eat sandwiches (got as far as sprouted Ezekiel bread).

    I have a son in high school who was able to put in for weightlifting instead of frosh PE. Low reps, heavy weights, and some sprinting was the curriculum, so not bad. He had to take regular PE for a semester this year, so chronic forms of cardio, mixed with different skills like archery, shooting, rope climbing, skiing, golfing, etc. We also have an elective called Lifetime sports, which looks to me like a year’s classes in play: some of the above, skiing, golf, shooting rifle and bow, and stuff like rappeling, hiking, etc. They are constantly on field trips into the mountains for this. My daughter took this and was always missing other classes to do this for a couple hours 2-3 times a week, and I wasn’t bothered by her missing the sitting in school!

    Amber wrote on October 12th, 2011
  16. What a flashback hearing Go, You Chicken Fat, Go”! Gee I feel like a nut since I actually liked it, would sing it at home and do the exercises. Most likely because my mother was NOT an active person and I liked to find any way I could to get up and move around. (plus I always liked Robert Preston…Music Man anyone?)

    I think we are lucky that my son’s school does a fair job of having variety in PE class. They play dodge ball, floor hockey, lacrosse, some weird scooter racing, and many other things as is age appropriate.
    I would like a new gym teacher though, as ours is very condescending to students :(
    I find it troublesome at our Annual School Board Budget vote that so many older residents want to do away with gym class and the school athletic teams (well along with art, foreign language and Tech class). Some children need the motivation to be active, as they do not get that at home.

    mary b wrote on October 12th, 2011
  17. On my first day at a new school the register was called. When my name was called I said that I had moved to another school. My name was crossed off the register and thus I never had to go to another PE/PT class! Smart eh? I had a moped and a boyfriend and every Wednesday afternoon (Games afternoon) I was nowhere to be seen. I got away with it. All my school reports said “C+ average” because they could not admit that they didn’t know who the hell I was. My attitude has not changed much since then – although I do now go to the gym once or twice a week.

    Jan wrote on October 12th, 2011
  18. Everything you mentioned is exactly what I had in gym class growing up in CT during the 80′s/early 90′s. We had tons of sports and dodgeball was for when it was raining or simply too cold to be outside. Monthly physical fitness tests (elementary and middle school) included pullups, situps, pushups and the old shuttle run. We also had dedicated gym teachers (no double duty unless it was a sub). Good times.

    Jeff wrote on October 12th, 2011
  19. Had to post this… I posted this on the Facebook MovNat Alumni private group after I participated in the 5 day workshop over the summer:

    “After spending time at the 5 Day Reawakening and thinking about getting kids moving according to MovNat principles I changed my list: MovNat would be the best thing for kids until they needed to specialize for a sport, if ever.
    Our K-12 PE classes would serve our youth much better were it based on MovNat principles.”

    I do believe Erwan has plans…

    Timmers wrote on October 12th, 2011
  20. Great post. Whenever I see kids I’m amazed at how naturally they move, play and act, uncorrupted by society. I agree that the sooner good habits are instilled in children, the better. Unfortunately I don’t see a gym class revolution happening any time soon! hehe
    Grok on.

    Mauricio wrote on October 12th, 2011
  21. I think the picture you painted is wonderful and I wish that had been the way of things when I was young! I do remember some dodgeball, I remember fitness tests but I don’t remember the chicken song, maybe it had petered out in it’s use by the time I was testing.

    I’m encouraged to read comments of some of these things being done already. That’s awesome! Little by little these changes will come. I hope.

    Jessica wrote on October 12th, 2011
  22. Although my school gym classes were dreadful for social reasons, one thing our grade school had that was awesome was this:

    A big hill
    Several large oak trees
    A creek
    Rocks to build dams with
    Sticks and limbs to build forts with

    Guess what we did all recess? Climb the hill and roll down it, build dams in the creek by moving rocks (unbuild the dam when the teachers told us we had to take it down), climb the trees, run around and hide in the tall grass. Make forts with sticks.

    That’s all you really need to provide for kids: a natural environment and the ability to move around in it. Maybe some monkey bars and tractor tires for good measure. Of course, nowadays the environment has to be sanitized and lawyer-proofed. Back then breaking an arm was a rite of passage. These days it’s a lawsuit by a parent.

    One thing I have also noticed about kids sports is that they universally reward sprinters: soccer, baseball, football, track, swimming, even dodgeball and tag. I was always considered “slow” when I was a kid. What I didn’t know is that I was an endurance athlete. I might not be speedy, but I can go forever. If teachers understood that kids built primarily of slow twitch muscles could be athletes too, just a different kind of athlete, there might be more outlets for this type of kid to feel confident.

    Myself, I homeschool my kids. Here’s what they have outside our house for “P.E.”:

    A hill
    Several large trees
    A creek
    Rocks to build dams with
    Sticks and limbs to build forts with

    Robin wrote on October 12th, 2011
    • You just reminded me of the hill in the playground of my kindergarten. Me and my best friend spent every recess for nine months straight riding a red wagon down the hill then running back up the hill, over and over again. We experimented with various different ways to increase our wagon speed. In retrospect, it’s a shame neither of us became race car drivers – we would both have been pretty good at it.

      I hated PE, but I sure loved dragging that wagon up the hill as fast as I could.

      Miss Brooklyn wrote on October 12th, 2011
  23. I think I just missed out on the “Chicken Fat” song, thank goodness.

    All of these ideas are great… love the idea of making play a “required” part of the younger kids’ day, since they may not be doing enough of it on their own!

    Something interesting to me is that the basic components of the Presidential Fitness test (pushups, jumping jacks, squat thrusts, chinups) actually weren’t so bad – but the boring, forced repetition certainly undermined their utility.

    What about abolishing chairs in the work offices of adults…? One at a time, I guess.

    Mark Ellis wrote on October 12th, 2011
  24. The biggest thing I think I would change is to make the PE class more frequent. In my highschool we only have PE for one semester, and four weeks out of that semester you were in the classroom in Health class.

    Great blog as always.

    Deidre wrote on October 12th, 2011
  25. PE Teacher/Crossfitter/Dad
    I incorporate as much of what you list as I can on a daily basis in my high school classes. Unfortunately I have to go “around” the curriculum in order to do it. Our area has gone as far as to ban dodgeball and require machines in the weight rooms for fear of liability resulting from injury. So we play a similar game called “modified team handball” and outfitted an “athletics” weight room that we use for our classes.

    PK wrote on October 12th, 2011
    • That’s how the district was where I first taught. Everything had to be in code, Dodgeball was termed “Turkish Handball” but no one actually checked what we were doing in person so it worked.

      Jake wrote on October 12th, 2011
  26. I wish you were my gym teacher!! Totally agree with you. We homeschool so my husband teaches PE. In Indiana, only one year of PE is required for high school which is sad! We teach PE every year (K-12 at home). Summer we do cycling, swimming, basketball, walking, boxing, weight lifting and working core. We do this year round except some obvious stuff you can’t do in snowy weather.

    Winter we hit weight lifing and wood cutting (hubby and boys)…my daughter and I help load up when they come back home.

    Printing this out to give to my hubby who could use this information to beef up our PE program here at home.

    Holly T wrote on October 12th, 2011
  27. What a great topic, Mark! I wish our school would consult you!

    I remember the “gym” classes where we sat at desks learning the rules of basketball, volleyball, etc. While sitting. At desks. How ridiculous.

    The most fun–and beneficial–classes were the active, freewheeling ones–dodgeball, tag, ultimate frisbee–and my favorite, bombardment. (SO FUN!)

    Anne wrote on October 12th, 2011
  28. Yeah! Capture the Flag and Steal the Bacon are our Boy Scout Troops favorite games!

    Laura wrote on October 12th, 2011
  29. I often wonder, especially with boys, how much easier school would be if they were allowed to sprawl instead of being forced to sit for long periods of time. My four boys are constantly moving and I imagine it’s torture for my 9 year old to be at a desk all day. He is give the option to sit on an exercise ball during the day though.
    To their defense, our school is very proactive with gym class in grade school. They also have an amazing playground with several climbers, balance beams, etc and a large field and hill for the kids to play on. I don’t see as much innovation in jr high, although the gym teacher is meeting my son after school to help him weight train (he needs to pull 40lbs on his compound bow to be able to hunt). We are also lucky in that we have a small YMCA right in our jr/sr high school and the jr/sr high students are given a free membership.

    Melisa wrote on October 12th, 2011
  30. I love this article and I’m passing it on to my principal now. Yes, I am a PE/Yoga teacher at a private school and I have the freedom to make up my own programming. I’m also a level 1 crossfit cert holder and I incorporate one strength training activity each week (bodyweight only). I’ve found that as long as I present it as a “game” they will do anything. Also, just do ultimate frisbee to upper el yesterday and they loved it.
    As far as the chicken fat song, I use it 1x a year for a rhythm stick dance lesson. Kids love it!

    Fit Mommy wrote on October 12th, 2011
  31. As the mother of two young ones and someone still recovering from miserable gym class experiences in her own day, I love this post. I completely agree about more emphasis on the outdoors and MovNat type exercise. More obstacle courses! More choice! More games and real-life exertion! And I’m totally with you on standing at the desks. When I was in high school, I at least got to choose classes. Although I’m a total non-athlete, I opted for the swimming and weight-lifting classes every time just because they seemed useful and individually-focused instead of another boring team sport in which non-athletes were ignored by the coach-teacher.
    Happy to join the gym revolution!

    Jen wrote on October 12th, 2011
  32. Ugh. I remember gym class. Imagine being the artsy, clumsy kid in gym class. Yet, I was the first girl to finish the mile, ran XC and can squat all day.

    A group of us in this small town are trying to develop a school based on the work of Dr. Montessori and creative movement. Kids don’t have to sit if they don’t want to. Movement is encouraged. Art is done with math, science with music, civics with movement. All things are interconnected.

    Plus, lunch will be made by the students, eaten family style and be made from wholesome ingredients. There will likely be grains, but as a board member I’m pushing to eliminate gluten especially.

    There are people out there who are making this happen!

    Unshod Sarah wrote on October 12th, 2011
  33. Mark, if you ever opened a school, or a camp that was like this, my kids would be the first to sign up (assuming I had kids at that point). Hell, I’d even switch careers and become a teacher just to be a part of it all =)

    Mike B wrote on October 12th, 2011
    • Great idea! How about a Family PrimalCon!

      Jen wrote on October 12th, 2011
  34. I’m an art teacher in TN (it sounds silly to have to specify state, but each state’s curriculum varies) and try my best to keep in contact with the PE teachers I work with. I think your ideas are wonderful, and they probably would too! Wonderful and at the same time not very plausible (but doable). And I think a number of PE teachers are trying their best to make sure students are as active as possible and be as creative with it as possible to worm around curriculum guidelines(at least the ones I know). But I think before reforming exercise we need to take a look at the food! You can’t expect children to do half these things when their breakfast consists of pouring strawberry milk on Trix. And maybe they eat a crusty pizza with ice cream for lunch. It’s deplorable. I can’t stand watching the madness during breakfast duty…

    Sara wrote on October 12th, 2011
  35. “Heck, even recess is getting cut in some places. That’s just criminal.”

    -This is absolutely absurd. It’s not hard to believe in today’s world!

    “Kids simply need to move.” – This says it all!

    There is always hope. But we need to take action. We need MORE PRIMAL/PALEO BLOGS. I’ll be writing a couple of posts on why people need to start a primal/paleo blog. And, I’ll be helping anyone get started that wants too.

    I sometimes liked gym class and sometimes hated it. If gym class was exactly what you just laid out then I would have always loved it. Seriously!

    Primal Toad wrote on October 12th, 2011
    • I’ve already started a blog, and I’m only 3 weeks into PB =)

      Siren wrote on October 12th, 2011
  36. Couldn’t agree more, don’t even think we did as much as you did in our PE Lessons here in the UK!! Funnily enough, as someone who’s suffered badly with her back and now attends Alexander Technique lessons to correct my posture, the part of your post which stood out to me the most was the fact that the western world needs to do away with chairs and tables!! I seriously believe this is what has caused us all to sit so wrong when writing, typing, eating, driving etc and that is what has put us in a world where backpain is so common – when I see elderly African tribesmen/women squating as you suggested it makes me laugh that nobody in our culture would ever expect an elderly person to sit on the floor like that, it’s polite to “offer them a seat” – the irony is that’s what probably made them stiffen up so much in the first place!!

    I have a 4 and 3yr old and since researching so much into my health (inc the happy day I found MDA!), I have watched them in awe how they move so freely and think it’s so sad that I had assumed that I didn’t move/squat like that cos I was an adult now and we’re incapable!!!! Nooooo I say!!! I’m gonna try to get back to that, it’s gonna take time but I reckon if I can try sitting on the floor for a portion of each evening then I might start loosening…. think of the prospects – a larger lounge once we get rid of the sofa’s, lol!!!

    H x

    HJC wrote on October 12th, 2011
  37. I remember the song. I was the “chubby” girl in school and have been all my life…55 years! I was made fun of so many times. I hated school, I hated P.E., I would hide in the bathroom at lunch and eat my sack lunch in there where no one could see me and call me “Pig”. I have never told that to anyone before. That was 1972…I quit school after I failed the 10th grade. I failed mostly because my tormentor was in the majority of my classes that year. And the one class that he wasn’t in was Math…I made A+ all year in that class. The only part of school I enjoyed. I see all these kids today and they are so much heavier than I was back in the 60′s. It is because of the choices of our government…The FDA in allowing so much crap into our foods! Stay away from Processed Foods Is The #1 Rule of my shopping list now! Gym classes being cut out of schools. Video games…so much has contributed to the obesity explosion over the last 50 years!
    I love reading your posts and books. We all need to help each other and work together to get our young kids on the right track and get some of us old schoolers back up and moving again…I am doing so much better than I was 10 years ago! I wish I could go back in time and change a few things…sigh…but, all I can do is make wise choices from now on for myself and my family. I do the grocery buying and cooking and it is in my hands to do right by them! Thank you for all that you are doing for our children and their future!

    Deb wrote on October 12th, 2011
  38. Robert Preston was The Music Man! “Chicken Fat” was composed by the same songwriters.

    Our high school boasted one of the first ropes courses. We crossed monkey bridges, flew down zip wires, balanced on tightropes, belayed each other up and down climbing poles, and climbed up a double rope with an ascender on each limb. I wowed my classmates by climbing halfway up the light tower at the football stadium and then letting go, and hanging by the rope. Figure 8′s and carabeeners.

    oxide wrote on October 12th, 2011
  39. That sounds like my Jr. High PE class. We even had a big universal weight machine for strength training. We also had ropes to the ceiling of the gym and climbing pegs on the wall. We also had square dancing. Everyone had to participate!
    What was really cool was in high school we also had archery! Can you imagine these days giving a class full of kids bows and arrows? We sure had fun with them though. I can recall kids shooting the arrows high up in the pine trees behind the science building. Those trees were full of arrows!

    Dave, RN wrote on October 12th, 2011
  40. For me PE was absolute misery. I was a klutz and the slowest runner(found out as an adult that I had had asthma all my life). I was the skinny pencil neck geek. Team sports were nothing but humiliation for me. The only PE class I had that I liked was one called individual-dual PE my senior year where we did things like archery, tennis, bowling, weight lifting(I was good at that) and running. I would have taken a dance class for PE in a red hot minute as would have most of the girls I knew. As an adult I like camping, backpacking, kayaking and just simple park walking. I occasionally do target sports such as archery and sling, but I can’t hit the broad side of a barn(I am very very nearsighted), but it is fun just to try. I still hate team sports with a passion. I personally wish they would encourage and explore more solo and noncompetative sports in PE. As adults most of us are not going to have a team to exercise with and if kids are already aquainted with solo sports they may have a better chance to keep it up as they get older.

    Ingvildr wrote on October 12th, 2011
    • I’m with you, Ingvildr.

      Dodgeball was a great way for the bigger kids to abuse the scrawny ones like me.

      We are all so different. I hated competitive sports as a child, but loved “killing” my friends at Scrabble.

      Once I was able to take Modern Dance as my gym class, life was much more fun!

      Probably why I am a big fan of homeschooling–one size doesn’t fit all…

      Sondra Rose wrote on October 12th, 2011

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