Girls on the Run® is . . . a lot more than a running program. We are not your average sports program, or just another fun, after school activity. We have a mission: We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.
To achieve that mission, we have two 10 week, 20-lesson curricula aimed at third through fifth grade girls (Girls on the Run) and one 10 week, 20-lesson curriculum aimed at sixth through eighth grade girls (Girls on Track®). Each lesson in the curricula has specific objectives with “Getting on Board” activities, Warm-ups, Workouts and “Processing” specifically developed to achieve those objectives. The lessons are presented in a particular order to achieve a particular cumulative effect.
Girls on the Run is a developmentally focused youth sport (DYS) program that uses running as a vehicle to influence positive social, cognitive, physical, emotional and psychological assets and development.The curriculum incorporates training for a 5k with lessons that inspire third through eighth grade girls to develop essential life skills. The topics covered during the twelve-week program are based on research which documents problems expressed by students that fall into three classifications: lack of identity, lack of connectedness and feelings of powerlessness over one’s own life. The twelve-week curriculum is divided into three parts that foster healthy growth in each of these areas.The first four weeks provide participants with opportunities to examine their own core values and ascertain what makes them unique, learn about their individual strengths while setting personal goals and explore the importance of being physically and emotionally healthy.The second four weeks provide opportunities to explore getting along within a group, learn active listening and assertiveness skills, recognize the importance of managing conflict with others and examine the components of good decision-making skills.The final four weeks provide participants opportunities to explore their responsibility to the community, analyze cultural messages girls receive from the media and other institutions, define community and their collective and individual roles in it and to recognize the power they have to change the world in a positive way by implementing a community impact project.
Each meeting is structured as follows:
- The session begins with a Getting-on-Board that brings the girls’ focus onto the day’s topic.
- A Warm-Up activity follows and further examines the lesson topic while warming up the girls’ muscles, joints and cardiovascular system.
- A Processing Q&A is next during which the girls stretch while specific questions are asked to bring out the relevance of the warm-up activity to the topic. Processing is designed for the girls to make connections between the lessons and their individual lives.
- A fun Workout activity follows where the girls complete goal-oriented running games. The length of the workout increases throughout the season so that the girls are physically prepared to complete a 5k practice by the eighth week.
- The lesson concludes with the girls answering final Processing questions related to the workout activity while they complete cool-down stretching.
- Each session closes with positive words from the girls’ coaches regarding individual and group behavior.
There are currently no comparable DYS programs to Girls on the Run. The program is designed for 8 to 13 year-old girls because children of this age are still receptive to what adults have to say yet they are beginning to feel the pull of peer pressure. These formative years are the perfect time to address important issues and develop skills. An emphasis is placed on independent thinking, the importance of making healthy choices, healthy group dynamics and problem solving. The curriculum stresses peer support and doing one’s best and rejects defeating others or exerting power over others.The program has been evaluated by Rita DeBate, Ph.D., MPH, CHES since 2001. The behavioral and educational objectives that are measured include improved self esteem, improved commitment to physical activity, increased positive attitude toward exercise, increased motivation to be physically active, awareness of the value of physical activity, satisfaction with body shape and increased days of physical activity per week. Evaluation results are posted on girlsontherun.org.