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Lisa Prejean: Get fit by getting outside

This weekend the weather will be warm. Get out. Have fun.

April 02, 2010

A warm, sunny weekend is forecast. It sounds ideal for some playtime in the park, a walk in the neighborhood or pickup game at a community ballpark.

It has been a long, cold winter, and it's time to get moving outside.

We especially need to encourage our children to get away from their computers, TVs and cell phones -- we may have to text them with this message -- so they can get some fresh air.

These thoughts were occurring to me as my daughter shared about the physical fitness activities in her gym class.

She was excited about the flexed-arm hang, mainly because she lasted for 51 seconds. One of her friends lasted 63 seconds and a girl in another grade held herself up for 96 seconds. Impressive.

For the flexed-arm hang, a student uses either an overhand grasp (palms facing away from the body) or underhand grip (palms facing toward the body). A student then takes a flexed-arm hang position, chin clearing the bar. Students may be lifted to this position, which they hold as long as possible, according to The President's Challenge Web site.

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In most cases, girls are evaluated in the flexed-arm hang, and boys do pull-ups or push-ups.

I always liked physical fitness tests in school because they were a concrete way to measure improvement. If the numbers went up in the flexed-arm hang, arms and backs were getting stronger. If the numbers went down in the mile run, endurance was increasing. Progress can be traced easily.

We all want to feel as if we're getting better, and the benefits of setting fitness goals can be seen in multiple areas of our lives.

The President's Challenge has several facets. In addition to the flexed-arm hang, events include curl-ups, shuttle run, endurance run/walk, and the V-sit reach or sit and reach.

Here's a refresher on the events your children may be participating in during gym class. More information can be found at http://www.presidentschal lenge.org.

o For curl-ups, a student lies down with knees flexed and feet on the floor. A partner holds the student's feet. Arms are crossed with hands placed on opposite shoulders and elbows are held close to chest. The student curls up to touch elbows to thighs and then lowers the back to the floor.

o For the shuttle run, a student runs between two parallel lines 30 feet apart and places two blocks of wood or similar objects behind one of the lines. (My gym teachers always used erasers. I guess those were handy in a school.) The student starts behind the opposite line then runs to the blocks, picks one up, runs back to the starting line, places the first block behind the line, runs back and picks up the second block and runs back across starting line.

o For the endurance run/walk, a student will be asked to run a mile. The student is allowed to walk if he becomes tired, but is encouraged to cover the distance in as short a time as possible.

o For the V-sit reach or sit and reach, a student will sit on the floor with thumbs clasped so the hands are together, palms down. With the legs held flat by a partner, the student will slowly reach forward as far as possible, keeping feet flexed. After three practice tries, the student holds the fourth reach for three seconds while that distance is recorded.

Want to have some fun and delight your children in the process? Attempt some of these fitness tests at home. Perhaps your child will become your own personal trainer.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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