In the world of Physical Education, we often romanticize the idea of empowering students to LOVE fitness and exercise. Our hopes are noble as we dream of setting students up to have the skills and passion for regular physical activity they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.
But there seems to be a disconnect between our hope and reality. Take a look at just about any national statistic, and most adults do not get the recommended weekly activity and exercise.
So, where lies the disconnect? Instead of asking why people aren’t working out, the best answers may come from those who do routinely workout.
Jeff Russell, a PE teacher and coach at Wethersfield High School in Connecticut, talks about it with his students every day,
“A small percentage of people actually love working out. Even the professionals who do it for a career are just finding ways to motivate themselves. A lot of days, you probably are not going to want to workout, and that is normal.”
The Intrinsic Motivation Factor
Just because you might not always want to workout, Jeff looks to instill the intrinsic motivation in his students so that they do continue exercising past high school,
“To exercise for the rest of your life, you are going to have to intrinsically motivate yourself to exercise a lot of times when you don’t want to. So when you show up to a class early in the morning, or right after lunch, being able to motivate yourself to have a good workout is a really powerful tool. That is a lifelong fitness skill.”
Past just making sure they were teaching fundamentals and technique, Wethersfield needed to set the entire 1,200 student school up for success. Jeff and his colleagues worked to accomplish this by restructuring their class format and incorporating technology.
Restructured Class Format
Wethersfield’s PE historically had a grade-level structure. 9th graders were in the pool, 10th graders did fitness, 11th graders did team sports, and 12th graders did individual sports and cooperative games.
The PE department discussed and elected to shift their class format to have all 10th through 12th graders into one class block. With the transition, teachers would work together to co-teach, while students could have more options each year,
“We took the lifelong fitness approach and looked to create units that allowed students to get exposed to more options, and still always be participating in some form of consistent fitness education.”
By doing so, Wethersfield saw an opportunity to help students explore different fitness opportunities. This structure would replicate the same choice students would eventually have out of high school when choosing and selecting from a myriad of exercise options in the real world.
But Then Covid Came
With the new class structure in place, Wethersfield had set the course for facilitating a PE model that more closely aligned with their goals. But then Covid came.
Like most schools, Wethersfield had to navigate the hybrid model. With half of the students at home and half the students in school, Jeff looked to incorporate technology they had already been exploring,
“I had heard about PLT4M for PE and Athletics, but when Covid came, I dove in and found it to be an excellent resource. We knew we would be able to use it in the hybrid setting, but also once things were back to normal.”
Check out how you can use PLT4M in-school for both PE and Athletics.
The Remote Resource
At first, PLT4M was very much a remote resource for Wethersfield. Each day, students would gather virtually, and Jeff would review and go over the PLT4M workouts.
Students started on the Intro To Fitness Program, and then transitioned to the more advanced Fitness Anywhere Program. For Jeff, the videos within the programs provided the right launching point to get all students onto the same page,
“The workouts were well thought out and designed for students to follow. We would all get together and review the instructional videos and discuss appropriate and safe modifications based on where the kids were and what they had at home.”
Jeff saw this as just one of the opportunities to foster the intrinsic motivation that was a staple of the Wethersfield program. With students having to modify at home, they had to take ownership of their own training.
And because it takes time to build and foster intrinsic motivation, he also used PLT4M to address and work with students who struggled to take that same level of ownership at home,
“The PLT4M tracking and activity monitoring helped me to see when students would maybe be cheating or gaming the system. Those insights allowed me to have those conversations about finding a way to self-motivate for the students struggling to do so alone at home.”
And while the at-home system was working well, everyone was excited to start getting back to school!
Back To School
As restrictions got lifted and more options were on the table for PE again, Wethersfield was excited about continuing down the path of choice, opportunities, and technology.
“With the block schedule of 90-minute class periods, PLT4M lends itself to all of our different options we work to offer. If we have one group on an ultimate frisbee unit, they can still spend the last 20-30 minutes on a PLT4M program, modified for time. And our students on the strength and conditioning unit can get through a full-blown workout.”
With many fitness and exercise options being offered throughout Wethersfield PE, PLT4M has complemented the continued goal of expanding students’ horizons. Each student at Wethersfield is able to get a taste of the fitness terminology and teachings of PLT4M, while still getting to explore and expand into different interests throughout the year.
“We have a great weight room and fitness center. There is a lot to still tap into for our classes and for how we use PLT4M as we get fully back to school. I am excited to see what we can continue to do.”
As Wethersfield works towards helping students develop the intrinsic motivation for lifelong fitness, the class structure and technology are in place for whatever comes next school year.