Why do I love teaching PE?
Last week I spent 2 days at an in-service learning about a new program that we will be implementing in our school’s PE department. While I won’t go into detail about the program (mostly because I don’t hold rights to the program and have no desire to get sued), one thing the program’s designer said really struck home for me. He mentioned that he is a certified trainer who gets paid to teach grown-ups the same principles good PE teachers teach their students every day. Erin, are you saying that everything I need to know about getting and staying fit and healthy I learned in PE class? Absolutely!
When it’s all said and done, there is no complicated formula one needs to memorize in order to get fit. So what do you need to know? I’m glad you asked.
There are 5 basic components to health related fitness: cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and body composition. Cardiorespiratory endurance is the ability of your heart and lungs to work together to get oxygen to your muscles over a sustained period of time. If your heart beats faster and you breathe harder for a long time, you are improving your cardiorespiratory endurance. Activities that improve your cardiorespiratory endurance include running, walking, dancing and biking. Ideally, you want to keep your heart rate in your target heart rate zone.
Muscular strength is the ability of your muscles to produce maximum force. Struggling to complete push-ups or to life a heavier weight? It’s your muscular strength that you need to improve. If you max out around 8 repetitions for an exercise, then you are working on strength. Muscular endurance is the ability of your muscles to work for an extended period of time. Pick up a light pair of weights and hold your arms straight overhead. This is a test of your muscular endurance; you don’t need much weight, but as your muscles continue to work and contract, you are improving your endurance.
Flexibility is the ability of a joint to move through an entire range of motion. When I explain flexibility to my students I refer to how “stretchy” or “bendy” they are. There’s a fabulous article about being flexible here (The author is my favorite writer- shameless plug).
The last component of fitness is one that many of us are concerned about but don’t know a lot about- body composition. Body composition refers to the make-up of your body. Everybody’s body is made up of lean mass (muscle, bones, blood, water, etc.) and fat mass. Ideally, women will have a body fat percentage of 21-33%. While many of us seek to decrease the amount of fat in our bodies, it is important to note that some fat is critical for survival; women with a body fat percentage of less than 21% are considered underfat. In order to decrease fat percentage and increase lean mass one should focus on improving muscular strength, muscular endurance and cardiorespiratory endurance. By increasing strength and endurance, it is possible to build lean muscle and burn more calories.
Trainers make money by teaching their clients these basic fundamentals of health related fitness. I teach my students this information for free. My advice? Seek out a great PE teacher and he or she will show you the path.