Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 6, 2013

New lunchtime fitness program at Boyd County High School swells

Mike James
The Independent

CANNONSBURG — Halfway through lunch period at Boyd County High School, the crowd at the cafeteria tables is thinning and students are drifting toward their usual lounging spots in the commons area.

Except for a few who choose to use their precious remaining leisure minutes for something a bit less leisurely. Climb the stairs at the end of the gym and there they are, circling the walking track that rings the arena at mezzanine level.

Some step briskly along, some stroll, still others plod with grim determination. Two girls lock arms and skip, a couple of boys cavort and cut capers.

Some walk alone with their thoughts, some with their best friends and some in chattering flocks.

It’s part of a new fitness program at the high school, and English teacher Christy Ford hopes the ranks of lunchtime walkers will swell with more students and teachers making mid-day laps part of their daily routine.

“I want to make some lifestyle changes, and I think a lot of kids do too,” Ford said. Walking for fitness can be a great start, but teens often don’t have a good place to walk or the time after school to do it, what with homework, part-time jobs and household responsibilities, she said.

So she has been recruiting her fellow teachers to monitor the track during lunch periods so students can use it for walking. An average lunch period will bring around 40 students to the track, Ford said.

They average about 15 laps, which is more than a mile.

Ford refers to the post-prandial walkers as “giving up their social time,” but that’s not really the case, according to Myla Sullivan, a senior who makes the track a daily part of her schedule. “We all come in here after we eat. When we’re walking, we get closer to each other instead of spread out at a lunch table.”

She never was much of a walker until Ford launched the fitness program, but since then she has been walking about 12 laps every day after lunch. She feels better, less tired and more alert during her afternoon classes, she said.

A few laps around the gym also effectively burns off excess energy, especially in some of the livelier boys. “The other teachers ought to thank me,” Ford joked.

Sullivan’s friend Robyn Opell is not a dedicated walker — yet — but she is an enthusiastic organizer, and she is helping Ford with arrangements for a 5K run/walk Feb. 16 at the school, with entry fee proceeds to be used for fitness-program incentives.

“I have family members who run in 5Ks but I’ve never run one. It sounds exciting to me and I want to try it out,” Opell said.

The run will start at 9 a.m. Most of the course is flat, but it starts and ends at the top of the hill in the high school parking lot, so runners will have one uphill challenge.

The entry fee is $15 for Boyd County High students and $25 for everyone else, or $40 for couples and pairs, $25 if the pair are Boyd students.

Ford plans to use proceeds to buy incentives for walkers to walk more. She hasn’t worked out the details yet, but the reward for walking, say, 500 laps might be a pedometer, or a T-shirt for 1,500 circuits.

The program’s fitness emphasis is not on weight loss but overall healthfulness and wise choices, she said.

She has noticed the students who walk are making other changes. Their snack choices are turning to water and fruit, for instance, instead of pop and candy.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.