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Virtual Exercise: P.E. At Home

Kamryn Washington

“Some work harder than they would normally do in class,” says Coach Brentzel. 

In the midst of this crazy, unprecedented Covid-19 era, our classes have now taken to the screens. As they say, the show must go on! Even for classes like PE. A little apprehensive myself, I seriously questioned how they would pull together a way to teach us physical education through a computer. Like seriously?!?

Well somehow or another, the PE teachers pulled it off, especially with growing concerns that the “kids would be sitting on the couch all day,” according to Coach Ricky Davis, who I interviewed over a computer of course! Turns out the students weren’t the only ones with their doubts. “Classes are going really well…” he says. “Definitely better than expected.”

But other students like me predicted that PE was going to be a walk in the park. After all, how much exercise can you actually do in a house? JC, a freshman girl, expected it to be easy. Not only would it be easy but also “awkward because your teacher is just staring at you while you work out.” Which more or less is the case when you have to do a class on Google Meets. 

As a student in PE myself, I’d normally be getting my grind on in the weight room. Doing back squats, pulldowns, and everything else to get my heart rate up and moving. But to go from person-to-person interaction to working out in the comfort of your own room is completely different. 

It's been a seemingly effortless transition. “I think it’s been as smooth as it can go. It’s hard to elicit strength when you can’t actually do things like a pullup on a bar at your house,” says Coach Brentzel, who happens to be my own teacher this semester. 

Considering that not everyone has the same equipment, like treadmills or dumbells, for example, the challenge arose on how to have a productive class period. For starters, how would the effort levels of the workouts hold up? Well, both Coach Davis and Brentzel have noticed that there hasn’t been a drastic change. 

Like everything, it varies. “Some work harder than they would normally do in class,” says Coach Brentzel. “But in the earlier periods, especially the ones that are first, they just go through the motions.” Well, with this schedule I have class first period and I can personally say that I actually try with the fear of getting called out in front of the whole class motivating me (it still has happened though...unfortunately). 

But for others PE is a highlight of their day, or at least not a negative part. For some, it's “keeping them sane” like it does for JC. And for some like Coach Bretzel, they enjoy teaching through the screen because of the shorter days. “When we were going to school, I’d be getting there around 6ish and leaving twelve hours later. But now I have more free time which is nice.” 

Both teachers and students alike are realizing how much they valued having interaction with each other, especially Coach Davis who misses face to face interaction. “I miss being able to joke around with the students and just the daily interaction,” he says to me through his computer. He loves being around his students.

On top of all the newness of the situation, Coach Davis created a fitness competition for the upper school students and faculty to participate in. His motivation? To keep people from being behind a screen, he says. “As we (the teachers) were preparing to go virtual, I was in an admin meeting with the other PE teachers. We all had a common nervousness about how the students were going to be getting benefits to the brain.”

And then the competition was born in order to “get as many people moving as possible.” (So if you were wondering, that’s why there is a health and wellness time slot built into the schedule.)

In just the first week alone, there were 58 participants. 119 completed Johnson & Johnson workouts, there were 26 participants in Coach Brentzel’s morning workouts, and 2,128,585 steps were logged. 

It’s quite simple. There are many ways to get entries into the competition. For two entries faculty and students can log into a workout led by Coach Brentzel during the health and wellness slot. Or for every 3,000 steps taken one entry will be rewarded. And finally, for every two Johnson and Johnson seven minute workouts, you will gain one entry. 

“It’s going well- better than expected,” says Coach Davis. “Of course I’d like for there to be more participants given the size of the upper school, but it’s a start.” As for the ratio of student to faculty contestants, it’s the same. 

But according to Coach Davis some students have taken over 100,000 steps. At first he thought there was something wrong with his computer, he says. “When I saw that number I emailed the student in response to make sure I was reading it right.” But turns out with all the extra time some students have been running a lot in order to get their steps in.

Overall, Coach Davis has had nothing but good challenges with the competition. “I’ve received 10-15 emails from people asking if such and such workout can count as an entry. But I’ve just kept with what I had said earlier. I can’t keep up with it all, it’s too overwhelming.” 

For extra motivation there are prizes included for the winners, up to $1,000 worth. So far there have been 8 winners each receiving twenty dollar gift cards. Who doesn’t love a little moola? 

With the extra hours now available in the day, students (and faculty) look for ways to be active. For the freshmen, they have to do two two-mile workouts on top of a new “spring project” involving ten 2-mile runs by the end of the year. For some like JC, doing the runs are the only time to get out of the house. Or others may lean toward the new competition. But whether it be doing virtual PE or fitness competitions, it’s important to stay active and find creative ways to “not let this be an excuse,” like Coach Davis says.
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