Friday Fluff: Dream PE

The Onion had a story about the majority of Americans forgetting their physical education skills.  Naturally, being The Onion, there’s a fair amount of ridiculousness:

Many Americans claimed that once they finished high school, skills such as increasing joint mobility and building muscle strength were no longer necessary.

“If something needs to get from one place to another, I can just use my cell phone, or hop in the car. And I know they say that physical education promotes balance, but that’s what my cane is for,” said Miami, FL resident Keith Monahan, 32. “The only thing I still use from gym class is that occasionally I’ll throw on some sweatpants while I’m sitting on the couch watching television. So I guess I learned that.”

Omaha insurance salesman William Haylor, 43, said that when his 8-year-old son asked him how to do a chin-up, he realized that he had simply forgotten.

“I know I used to be able to do that, but for the life of me I can’t remember,” Haylor said. “They’re really hard to do. I think that’s why I stopped.”

On the other hand, I’m wondering what kind of PE class would encourage people to be active.  I don’t mean “make everyone into the cast of Baywatch” or “everyone should be able to breeze through boot camp”, either — more like reducing things like back pain, increasing mobility within one’s current limitations, and Health at Every Size.

What makes movement / exercise / fitness fun for you? If you’re a parent, do you try to encourage your kids to move?


Here’s a start:

My favorite PE class was in high school. The teacher stated at the outset that he graded on effort and participation, and he restated this after some varsity starters complained about getting Cs.  We rotated through different sports and activities, spending 2 weeks on pickleball, 2 weeks on volleyball, 2 weeks on soccer, 2 weeks on basketball, and so on, so at least we got a good variety.  The teacher also pointed out skills that transferred across sports, such as the similarity between defense in soccer and basketball.  He also used a variety of ways to divide us up into teams, including counting off and picking captains who would pick teams (but always intervening and dividing the last 6 himself).   For sports where he knew some people were very practiced, like basketball, he’d have everyone who regularly played on a team (school or recreational) play together on half the gym and have the people who were new to playing the sport play against each other on the other half.

Most importantly, he told us that he didn’t take the PE job as a way to coach football, but because he loved to play, and he wanted us to play too.   That attitude came through in how he ran his class and made us happy to be there.

How would I have improved that?  I wouldn’t have minded a yoga segment.  :)  But another would’ve been to do some weight lifting and discuss muscle balance and how to prevent things like back pain — it’s a scrouge among desk types, but that’s because crunches are seen as punishment, not as the back equivalent of flossing.

22 thoughts on “Friday Fluff: Dream PE

  1. Actually, I’m probably going to get the Bad Mama Award in most people’s eyes here.

    My son likes only sedentary activities. I told him that if his free time isn’t “run around and play” but is “sitting on his ass writing movies” then he’s going to have to take a page from Mama’s book and Exercise for Exercise’s sake.

    He walks to school when it’s in session. Since it’s about a mile away, I’m all good with that. During the summer? I honestly and truly send him out for a run after breakfast.

    He’s into weight training, though, so we do that twice a week. I wish I could say I’m all wonderful about working natural movement into the day, but I’m not, so I have to exercise for exercise’s sake, too…

    • I dunno. You’re not trying to make him pretend to like things he doesn’t, and you exercise for exercise’s sake too.

      Of course, since they changed the bus schedules I’ve been exercising for exercise’s sake too. ;)

  2. My favorite PE year after I hit puberty and couldn’t blow everyone away on the rings in gymnastics anymore was my senior year, when I got to spend most of the year in the weight room. Boy were the boys surprised at what I could leg press! Also, that was the year that the female PE teacher did her first ever chin-up in front of my class (seriously, she had been talking about not being able to do one, making some of us feel better about it), and I found out that I could do one too.

  3. The only gym class I liked was PT my final year of high school. I had been working at a farm for a few years so I could freak out the football players with my 240# max bench press.
    I just hate competitive sports, I really only seem to like physical activity that allows time with myself.

  4. That sounds like a gentle way to divide teams. In middle school our PE teacher would let the last pair be captain the next day… It was embarrassing. I don’t know that there is any graceful way to let children choose amongst themselves.

  5. I always really liked dodgeball– and when I was in highschool in gym class I was forbidden from participating in most games involving balls because I would invariably get pegged in the face. Hard. Breaking my glasses and/or getting a black eye. I think dodgeball appealed because part of the rules dictated that you had to aim below the waist, so I didn’t have stuff flying at my head/face.

    I loved archery and learning to juggle. As an adult I like kickboxing, belly dancing, and lifting weights. I’ve never been a fan of most team sports because I’m fairly uncoordinated/clumsy.

  6. Dance, ballroom dance is correlated with better health amoung seniors; and is an exercise that almost everyone can do. But I’d go beyond ballroom and into others too. I can’t keep a beat and am very clumsy, so if even I can enjoy it, then I’d think most people can.

  7. One word: DDR. Except then maybe i would just hate DDR.

    I think it’s hilarious that the Onion thinks that P.E. TEACHES you how to increase flexibility or muscle strength or balance better. P.E. doesn’t TEACH you anything, it TESTS you on whether you can already do it because they assume ALL KIDS CAN. At least, that’s how my P.E. was. Plus you get to fail in front of everyone and then be graded on how enthusiastic you are about being forced to fail in front of everyone. YEAH.

    • I think that’s part of the sarcasm. See also the bit at the end about wishing government would stop wasting money on PE and worry about real problems like “obesity, arthritis, and chronic back pain” – assumption being that if people exercised those would be reduced.

      And yes, I’ve done the tests for things I didn’t know how to do, and yes, it totally sucked. Of course, just wait til DDR and wii have been in schools for 10 years. There’ll be a whole generation of kids who hate video games. ;)

      • I think maybe you’re reading one more layer of irony than I am, because in that government funding sentence, I just see them mocking people for not using the resource the government has provided (all those things they allegedly learned in P.E.) to not have those medical problems.

  8. I like to dance, and I think just going to a line dance class would be fun. I can’t do any of the country line dances, but The Electric Slide, The Cha-Cha Slide (the full version lasts 10 minutes and is close to about a gym workout you can get on a dance floor), The Booty Call, and one where you just shuffle your feet and turn around I’m pretty good at. You don’t have to have any real dance skill. As long as you know your right from your left, anyone who’s able to do it can, and the best part is, nobody cares about your weight when you’re up there. You just have more to shake.

    Most P.E. during my school years was competitive “you’re supposed to be a mini Bo Jackson already” sports, but I enjoyed ping-pong, weight-training, and soccer.

  9. There need to be more PE teachers like yours in the world.

    That being said, senior year of high school we had to take a full semester of gym (ugh) but we spent a lot of it playing volleyball, which I really enjoyed. It probably had as much to do with the group of people I was with (i.e. people I was comfortable with, for the most part) as the sport, but I understood the logic behind it enough that I could really get into it.

  10. I have real problems with the way the Presidential Fitness Awards are being used in my older daughter’s school. They don’t grade her on them, exactly, but they are using them as the ‘standardized test’ of what a child should be able to do. Her end-of-the-year report broke down exactly how she did on each of the benchmarks. Only one kindergartener met all the benchmarks and she received an award at the ‘promotion ceremony’ for doing so.

    I liked gym, except for the shower part—my hair was all-important back then. But my secret crush (captain of the wrestling team) was in my class, so I’d start the day off right by running the warm-up laps right behind him. I wasn’t particularly an asset to any kind of team sport , though I was phenomenal at dodgeball, at least the dodging part, and was often last on my side—unfortunately, whatever I threw to the other side would automatically be caught, so I never actually won a game . . . in fact, my team would generally lose in this way. The rest has been mercifully forgotten.

    I used to have a lot of fun over the summer, though, riding my bike everywhere and playing water polo at the Y—I was a pretty damned good goalie . . .

    Right now, I lift weights, walk outside, and practice with my custom hula hoop—I’ll be taking a sort of hooping-dance class soon. If my teacher hadn’t retired to take care of her baby, I’d still be taking belly dance, though I never felt comfortable joining any of the local troupes. I guess I’m still a loner.

  11. In 6th grade (my last year in elementary school), one of my classmates told me that there wouldn’t be recess in junior high, and I totally didn’t believe her…I mean, why would they take recess away? Obviously, I was naiive, and she was right; all that was left for grades 7-12 was dreaded gym class, with the competition and the changing in front of others and the picking teams….Ugh, and I still remember my 9th grade gym teacher weighing us and making us take our measurements (!) and writing them all down on a card, along with our “goals” (as in, “reduce thighs by 3″‘ or similar). Yeah, that’s a great project for a bunch of 15-year old girls. Anyway, I still think there should be adult-sized playground equipment; recess was always hella more fun than PE. Also, more non-competitive, non-team stuff like yoga or weight-lifting.

  12. It’s funny; I enjoyed boot camp a lot more than I enjoyed PE, despite the utterly foreign environment and the screaming drill sergeants.

    Not a team player, I suppose. lol.

    I still do some of the exercises I learned back then. Pushups, situps, running, walking, front-back-go, the bicycle, etc, require no equipment or social skills or special coordination.

    You gotta respect the directness, the simplicity, the aggressive absence of sweetener, in that sort of program. ;)

  13. I can’t recall ever enjoying gym; it was like a bully free-for-all, combined with the teachers getting on my case because they didn’t understand why someone with such good long legs wasn’t a good runner or basketball player. Once I hit puberty, any of these activites were *painful* even with two sports bras (the miracle of Enell had not yet come to pass).

    I HATE team sports, that’s probably a big part of it. Mostly I hate them because of gym and the attendant humiliation. But some of it is just my contrarian bookish nature. Also, I never was naturally strong enough to do a pull up at age 9. There was some girl who did 35, I still remember that. (for the Presidential Fitness thingie)

    My ideal PE requirement? Allow students to opt out if they can show they are doing something on their own. I went to my parent’s gym most days and biked/hiked all through school, and was in marching band. That seemed to be enough to stay healthy.

  14. I’d also find it sweet if health insurance would subsidize gym membership or yoga class in the same way they’ll pay for gastric bypass….fuckers.

  15. I liked archery and swimming and horseback riding. Then I came back to the States, had to attend public school, and all that got taken away to be replaced with running laps. I’ve never been the fastest person, nor even the least bit coordinated, and I don’t like competition. I might have almost been ok with weight training, but they didn’t let you use the weight room unless you were on a team.

    If you remove the competitive aspect of it and turn it into a free for all, I like all kinds of games that involve shooting people with painballs, nerf guns, and water pistols. I’m still not fast, or coordinated, but I enjoy hitting what I aim at.

  16. ooh, marching band. I did love, love, love marching band. Despite the pouring sweat and aching feet, it never occurred to me to class it as “exercise.”

  17. To be honest, I never had a good PE class.
    But I do belong to a great dance class now.
    After taking ballet at a studio attached to a small dance company (and all that entails) as a kid and constantly being told I was too big and not good enough, I refound dance as a grownup in this tiny little studio.
    On Monday nights a whole bunch of us get together and take lots of different kinds of classes (tap, jazz, hawaiian, ballet, etc.) for about 3 and a half hours. The goal seems to be to play and have fun and learn, but of course we work on flexibility and endurance and other sorts of good stuff too.
    But what makes it *really* great is that we all participate in the recital too, alongside the three year olds. ;) This seemed pretty strange to me at first, as I had the sense that that was for kids, but the owner’s reasoning is that if kids see us older people still dancing they will realize that this isn’t something that you do till you finish high school and that if you don’t “go pro” it’s not worth continuing. They will think this is something you can do for life to continue having fun and staying fit and doing something you love.
    That’s pretty awesome, so despite my original embarassment, I totally do the recital every year.

  18. Pingback: QotD: Fat & Exercising « Living ~400lbs

  19. My favorite thing in gym was badminton. It was a sport I was good at effortlessly, and in grade seven I even equally matched the best badminton player in the class. I was SO proud of that. However, I started getting marked down in grade nine for never wearing gym clothes, and I never liked team sports, or sports that caused you to get hurt, like that one where you had to freeze and someone would whip a ball at your face and you WEREN’T ALLOWED TO MOVE. I also remember having my glasses broken playing soccer. Interestingly, I was very happy if I was allowed to be goalie, especially in hockey. I was actually a half-decent goalie.

    However, I’d decided I hated gym class by sometime during grade nine, so I never took gym again. It’s mandatory in my high school now to graduate, but back when I was in high school it wasn’t. And I was so glad. I always felt like the one left out because people chose me among the last for teams; I also began gaining a lot of weight in high school (from comfort eating) and hated any form of exercise, so gym class to me would have been like a form of torture in HS.

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