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I dedicate my Tuesdays and Thursdays to cleaning my house (mornings) and Foot Patrol (afternoons). The Foot Patrol coaches and runners have been hard at play for five weeks now, integrating fun games (running in disguise) with some distance training. The coaches and I have worked with nearly 40 boys and girls, K-5th grade this season. Some days thinking about it just blows me away. Ten years ago, if you had told me if I’d be a kids’ running program coordinator and coach, I would have laughed.

Across the street from our YMCA is a paved trail around a man-made lake. The entire circumference of the lake is 1.6 miles. For our younger runners, completing this loop is their season goal. For our older runners, two laps around makes for a great challenge. With this program and its acceptance of anyone who wants to sign-up, we really don’t know what mix of kiddos we’ll get until they show up the first day. What a great surprise we had when we found out that eight of them want to complete the full 5K run. They don’t just want to, they WANT to . . . and they want to go FAST.

Another handful of runners beg for us to play more games. They play whole-heartedly and then start suggesting new games to the coaches, or request games we’ve played earlier in the season. When our day’s session is finished, these little bodies are still in motion as they get their fellow runners together to play “just ONE more!” while they wait for their parents to finish signing them out and parent chatter. Their enthusiasm is contagious and I do look forward to integrating some of their game (and stretching) ideas into the next season’s plans. What is interesting about this bunch is that they aren’t at all interested in distance running, yet I’d be willing to bet that they cover more distance with the games than the distance runners do when they work on running around the lake. At first this bothered me because I wanted every runner to complete at least the 1.6 mile run by the end of the season, but then it hit me that this goal is MINE, not theirs. Some of these running gamers WILL complete the run, mostly because their running buddies want to. But some of these great spirits will choose to do what works for them, which truly is the goal of Foot Patrol – to introduce children to running in a FUN way so they will learn to see it as something they can do throughout their lives without seeing it as a punishment. Are they having fun – YES. Would they see running as fun if I pushed them to do the full 1.6 miles? Maybe not. I’d say the goal accomplished and we’ll just let this bunch revel in the joy they’ve discovered in the games.

And what of that last handful of runners? I’m not one for choosing favorites, but I do really like this bunch. Maybe it is because these kids remind me of my own discovery of running, or maybe because I’m a sucker for witnessing “Ah-ha!” moments, but I’m really enjoying my “I didn’t know I could do that!” group. These are the runners who are part of Foot Patrol because a sibling is also running, because on a whim they thought it “might” be fun, or because one of their friends told them about it at school and their parents were happy to have them participate in a low-cost, local fitness program. For the most part, these are 2nd & 3rd graders who are active in other sports, but who have never really paid attention to what their bodies can truly do.

Last week we were blessed with cool, but dry sunny afternoons for Foot Patrol, truly PERFECT running days. Some of the runners had been asking if we could go ALL the way around the lake. Since many of them had covered 3/4 of the distance comfortably the week before, the coaches and I divided the kids into a few different groups to meet their pacing/distance needs. I took a group of 4 boys, 3 of whom were ready to go, go, go. The fourth boy thought maybe he could, but he wasn’t sure. With one last chance to run with another group, he decided to stick with us and off we went. Thankfully there is a bathroom half-way around the lake, for despite the requirement that everyone make a pit stop before Foot Patrol starts, all four boys were happy to make a second pit stop. At this point that fourth boy started having doubts about continuing. The other kids were amazing at encouraging him and I promised to stick right with him so we could choose distances and then take walk breaks if he wanted. Feeling more confident with our newly set plan, we were off for our second half.

About .10 mile from the cross walk back to the Y, the boy looked at me and said, “I’m not sure I can run anymore.” Since he had been pretty chatty along the way, I didn’t share his doubts, but I didn’t argue with him. Instead I had him lift his chin to look ahead and see where on the path we were. When he did, his already big eyes got even bigger. “We’re HERE already? That’s the Y up ahead!”

“Yup! Did you surprise yourself?” I asked.

“Yeah I did. I didn’t think I’d ever make it around. But I DID! That was EASY!” He quickly shook off his self-doubt as he stood a bit taller to finish up his run. That Saturday he showed up for the YMCA’s annual Fall Classic 1.6 mile/5K fun run to run with his parents and little brother. His little brother is a Foot Patrol runner, too, and was so inspired by his big brother’s accomplishment (and his own good training, of course) that he decided HE could do the 1.6 mile run, too. And he did.

What about you? Do you find yourself facing a daunting task and wonder how you’ll ever accomplish it? Put your chin up, face that finish line and surprise yourself. You can do it.

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The snow out here in our little area of Western Washington has been nearly non-stop for the past 4 days. I haven’t left the house in a vehicle since last Wednesday. Our neighboring towns haven’t gotten nearly as much as we have – we’re up to over 20 inches so far, and the snow continues to pour down – so even folks just 8-10 miles from us have only seen 4-10 inches. Ours is truly a winter wonderland.

On Monday morning my son exclaimed, “This is the coldest day EVER!” Turns out he was right. At 17 degrees Fahrenheit, it WAS the coldest day ever in his 4.5 years . . . until Saturday when the temperature dropped to 3 degrees. Not dropped 3 degrees, dropped TO 3 degrees. Brrrrrr!

With all of this snow, what better to do than get out and play in it! Little sister wasn’t too thrilled with the whole idea, but she is pretty keen on the snow pants and boots. And since the rest of us were interested, she decided to join in a bit for the sledding. That’s my girl – up for the best part of the adventure!

(Hard to see the smile under her coat, but it was BIG!)

Even Albus played for over an hour in the snow on Thursday, running up and down our hilly street, playing with other dogs and the kids. As a lab mix he just ADORES the snow! Sadly his fun came to an end when he me up with a dog who wasn’t so interested in romping. They got into a fight and Albus came out of it with a nasty gash (that we didn’t discover until bedtime). My husband and my dad walked him down to the local vet’s office (about a mile) the next morning for some staples and antibiotics. Thankfully he was able to make the walk there and back without much trouble. Whew!

So, with all of this time on our hands, both my husband and I have gotten in some extra runs on the treadmill. The sledding and hill climbing in the snow are great for cardio workouts, too! He took our son for a mile-long snowshoe trek up the hill to my parents’ house on Friday (and back!), so Mr. Music is getting good physical release in all of this, too. This morning I took him out to crunch around on the icy snow for a bit and we collected big chunks of ice along the way. I can honestly say I’ve never had an ice collection until today!

My parents are the ones getting the best workouts in all of this. They’ve snowshoed down to our place 3 times in the last 3 days. My dad also made the extra trek to the vet’s, so as he puts it, “I’ve worked out more in the last 3 days than I have in 3 months!” I think this is just the experience to get them both back on their fitness paths. Sort of a jump start for the New Year!

That being said, I should probably see about getting my balance ball workout in for the day. I finished the 6 week Bounce Your Body Beautiful plan by Liz Applegate and am 2 weeks into doing the workouts for a second time. I’m really into this strength training stuff and am kicking myself for not giving it a shot sooner!

Have a wonderful Christmas week, everyone!

Oh, and I’ll see if I can add a picture tonight to show you the full 20 inches of snow. All of the photos above are from early in the storm experience.


As we are now full immersed in the joy of the holiday season, I think it is important to remember all of the things that keep our bodies happy – and make it fun for our children to understand why we can’t have cookies all day long!

You may recall from an earlier pre-holiday post, Books for the Holidays, I’m focused on making books an integral part of our Christmas gift-giving. I was going to save this book for a stocking stuffer for my son, but couldn’t hold off that long. Maybe you have stronger will-power than I had! This is a fun book that you’ll want to share with your children (or grandchildren) as you pass along your passion for health and wellness.

The Busy Body Book: A Kid’s Guide to Fitness by Lizzy Rockwell caught my eye at our local Jamba Juice smoothie store. While we weren’t able to purchase anything there that day (turns out the store didn’t have allergy-free blenders like Emerald City Smoothies does), the book’s cover stuck in my mind and I ordered the paperback version from Scholastic Books through my son’s preschool just a few weeks later. I was not disappointed!

Filled with lively illustrations of kids of all ethnicities, sizes and abilities happily engaged in physical activity, this book is a geared for the pre-school/kindergarten crowd. Rockwell brings the workings of the human body down to a youngster’s comprehension and vocabulary level without dumbing down the concepts. For example, when describing how the brain and nervous system work, she writes, “Messages travel back and forth, at lightning speed, along wire-thin fibers called nerves.” That truly is it in a nutshell, right?!

As a former teacher I also appreciate the inclusion of diagrams throughout the book. Well labeled diagrams of the systems of the body (skeletal, muscular, nervous, respiratory, circulatory and digestive) enhance the main content of the book. The earlier kids get accustomed to reading diagrams, the easier school will be for them!

My daughter’s favorite page (and keep in mind that she’s not quite 2, but very interested in books) is one toward the end that is a grid of children involved in 40 different physical activities ranging from leaf raking to kayaking. These simple, but colorful illustrations show children that “There are lots of ways to be a busy body!” My daughter is captivated by the illustrations of a young girl horseback riding and a redhead swinging (we’re all redheads). My son likes pointing out all of the activities we’ve done together and pointing out the ones he’d like to try (namely skateboarding and tree climbing!). The musician in him loves that a marching trumpet player is included in the mix while the mom in me enjoys the depiction of a little boy scrubbing a floor!

The Busy Body Book is a fun resource for teachers to use in their classrooms for units about the body and for lessons about how to read diagrams. Families will enjoy sharing the book before heading outdoors for a physical adventure (or maybe even before chore time!). The bright colors and positive message leave the reader smiling and energized. This book would be fun to pair with mine, We Are Girls Who Love to Run/Somos Chicas y A Nosotras Nos Encanta Correr and if you have two kids for whom you are purchasing books (The Busy Body Book for a younger child (boy or girl) and my book for an older sister, friend or cousin)!

Next on my list of books to review is Rockwell’s other title: Good Enough to Eat: A Kid’s Guide to Food and Nutrition. It will be post-Christmas, though, as that book IS going in my son’s Christmas stocking!