New girls fitness program coming to Peirce School this spring

What is FitGirls?

FitGirls is a non-competitive fitness initiative that inspires active lifestyles, female friendships, personal growth, and the confidence that comes from working toward and achieving goals. Teams of 4th and 5th grade girls meet twice a week right after school for fun and energizing sessions that prepare the girls to participate in a 5K road race as a culminating event of the season. FitGirls is guided by a curriculum being used all over the country (www.fitgirls.org), with two programs operating so far in Arlington — Bishop and Dallin Elementary Schools. Stratton, Brackett, and Pierce are all hoping to run programs in the Spring of 2013.

How does it work?

Each week, FitGirl coaches introduce a theme intended to motivate, energize, and encourage the girls to be their best selves. Books that reflect the theme are shared with the group, along with quotations and poems to encourage discussion and reflection. Examples of themes are:
• PACE (Positive Attitude Changes Everything)
• “Be the change you want to see in the world”
• Dream big!
• “Girl, you’re amazing…”

After warming up through cooperative games, team-building activities, and stretching, the FitGirls run, jog, or walk for progressively longer times each week. They start with just 10-15 minutes of movement, and work up to 30 minutes, recording their distance each time. The coaches track individual and group progress to share and celebrate successes along the way.

Through the program, FitGirls…
• Learn about themselves and the power within them
• Develop a supportive, encouraging community of runners
• Experience the joy that comes from setting and reaching significant personal goals
• Establish a foundation for being active after the program, on their own and with others

How has FitGirls worked in Arlington?

FitGirls has been offered for grades 4 and 5 at Bishop for the past three years, run by parent volunteers through KidZone (Arlington Community Education). Dallin ran its first team (4th and 5th grades together) last spring, coached by a dynamic team of school social workers, and also run through KidZone. Both schools will be offering Fit Girls again in 2013, and we hope to see the program grow to other schools as well.

While each team operates independently – setting their own schedule, weekly themes, and activities – we find a significant benefit to coordinating efforts. For example…
• FitGirl coaches met together to share books, quotes, and activity ideas and to trouble-shoot challenges.
• All teams include a few common themes and activities so when the girls come together as Arlington FitGirls, they have a language/understanding about the program (i.e., all know the FitGirls Roar)
• We order the t-shirts together to take advantage of volume/price breaks, and so the FitGirls share an identity.
• We invite all teams to participate in a trial 5k that is set up just for them; and
• FitGirls from all teams entered the same charity 5K road race/fun run, so they participated as a group and benefitted from a discount on the registration fee.

The FitGirls season runs between mid-March and mid-May, just before the start of spring sports and before the weather gets too hot. For the past two years, we’ve entered the Mystic River Watershed Association’s Herring Run as the culminating event of the season, and have been invited back for 2013. The race director is more than willing to come to the program to talk about the Mystic River Watershed Association and the environmental impacts, adding a nice science and service component right in our backyards.

Are you interested in learning more?

• Please go to survey monkey to take a short survey about your interest level, prefered days/times etc http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PTHVRVM
• Call or email Tami Harrah, 781-316-3738, tharrah@arlington.k12.ma.us to learn about FitGirls in Arlington.
• Check out the national FitGirls website: http://www.fitgirls.org to learn more about the founder, the program, and licensing.

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About tharrah

School Nurse, Peirce School, Arlington, Ma
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