“We rock! We know it! And this is how we show it! Girls on the Run is so much FUN! Woo!” This is how we end each of our Girls on the Run sessions. If you are not familiar with this non-profit program, it is a “character development program designed to teach girls in grades 3rd grade – 8th grade life lessons through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games. The goal of the program is to unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness.” When I first volunteered to coach I honestly thought it was a running program for young girls. I had no idea it was so much more and I am glad to have continued to coach for the last 5 seasons. I am ecstatic that my now third grader was able to participate this past fall. We even ran a 5K alongside one another at the culmination of the season!
While there are many great after school activities and programs for children, this is the only one I know of that focuses on healthy living inside and out.
We meet twice a week for an hour and fifteen minutes and each lesson is broken down into the “Getting on Board”, “Warm Up” and “Workout”. Each section consists of a discussion plus running games followed by a time to process and discuss what they thought or learned from the activity. Our lessons include a range of topics from positive self talk, nutrition/healthy habits, emotional health, gratitude, cooperation, peer pressure, gossiping and bullying, the negative impact of media and advertisements, community and giving back, and honoring yourself and others. The girls learn to empower themselves through their freedom of choice. We encourage them to choose thoughts and actions that enhance themselves, rather than ones that bring themselves down.
One strategy we employ is called the SBLR method. “If you feel pressured to do something STOP, take five deep BREATHS, LISTEN to that voice that you have on the inside that tells you when something is good for you or not and then RESPOND.” This teachers them to stand up for themselves and to spend the time thinking before doing, rather than making an impulsive choice that could lead to a detrimental behavior. SBLR has even been a great way for me to get my emotions under control when parenting!
Another of my favorite lessons is teaching the girls that emotions are neither good nor bad, but comfortable and uncomfortable. It is important they know that showing emotion is a good thing and can help them communicate. We give them four key phrases to use when they are feeling an uncomfortable emotion or want to stand up for themselves in an uncomfortable situation. The four phrases are: “I feel, When you, Because, and I would like for you to”. My daughter and I have even employed these strategies at home with each other, or she has used them to communicate with her younger brother. It has given her confidence to talk to me and her dad when she is feeling angry or sad. Both the SBLR and these four key phrases have allowed my daughter to speak with her brother in a more calm and kind manner when he does something to anger or hurt her. I am proud of my daughter for remembering to employ these strategies and using them to communicate in a more effective way. She has grown tremendously from Girls on the Run, and I hope other young women who have participated in this program have as well.