There’s something rotten happening to the kids in America. They’re getting fatter by the year, have the beginnings of heart disease, and test out as having the stress hormones of adults. They get driveneverywhere, sit for long periods at school, are chastised for moving and regularly miss recess catching up on homework. At home they sit again, in front of a screen, living in a virtual world where the body is made redundant of all jobs except as a prop for a brain.
I had no idea how bad it was until I started to research it at the urging of Rod Dixon. My fellow Kiwi friend and running superstar in his day has developed a program for getting kids into the healthy habit of daily exercise. Knowing I was a former PE teacher he asked if Lydiard Foundation would like to get involved by writing a program for kids that could be used in schools using the Lydiard Principles as a foundation.
Here’s some terrifying statistics I came across:
* Forty percent of children ages 5 to 8 show at least one sign of
heart disease risk.
* Fewer than 25% of children get 20 minutes of exercise a day.
* The average 6 to 11 year old watches three to four hours of TV a
* Obesity affects one in five children in the USA.
* The number of overweight children (6-11 years old) has
quintupled in the last 30 years, and tripled among 2-5 year
olds and teens.
* An obese adolescent has a 75% chance of being an obese adult.
These statistics are about 10 years old. Things are a lot worse now.
Enlisting the help of my friend Michele Davis from Colorado Springs (who has a lot more experience teaching kids than I do) we sat down and created Lydiard Sproggers Program, made up with 60 lesson plans. It sounds tedious but actually we had a lot of fun doing it, thinking of fun ways to inspire the children to get active. What we found was that the ways in which we made our own training and racing fun are easily transferable to children. We divided the plans into three modules to fit into three school semesters, stand alone if need be but each building on the next. The modules are:
1. Made to Move – Basic Physiology of Health and Fitness
2. Winning Attitudes – The mental skills of good self-esteem, focus, imagination and attitude.
3. Personal Best – How to prepare for an event and get the best from yourself. The last module lends itself well to Rod Dixon’s KiDSMARATHON program or similar involvement in a community event.
Each 30-minute lesson has a short teaching point presented in a way to capture the imagination of the children, a fun activity to reinforce it and very often accompanied by a running game. The emphasis is on re-engaging kids in the excitement of movement through running.
This weekend, under the guidance of Dr Mark Cucuzella, West Virginia became the first state to take the program. About 20 parents and teachers took the training to bring the Lydiard Sproggers Program into their elementary schools. Such foresight on the behalf of these dedicated people should show results quickly.
Children are made to move and respond quickly. Lack of movement is unnatural and ludicrous. What’s more it deprives a generation of the development of their basic infrastructure for using oxygen. We will be lamenting the state of US athletes once more if the talent pool is a bunch of fatties with the aerobic facility of a cupcake. Lydiard demonstrated in his time that one enthusiastic person with a sound program can produce stunning results in groups of all abilities. With Lydiard Sproggers program, we aim to keep that legacy alive and help restore the fitness of America’s children – two feet at a time.