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Houston running club keeps students in shape mentally and physically

Houston Elementary third-grader Brady Fleitman runs during a recent practice
Ask an elementary student what his or her favorite subject is and two common responses are recess and P.E. To take advantage of students’ interest in exercise-related activities, several Denton ISD schools offer running clubs that provide benefits beyond simply improving physical fitness.

At Sam Houston Elementary School, running is used as a tool to build cardiovascular health while also fostering positive relationships. The school’s running club, which was founded in 2007, is open to fourth- and fifth-graders and focuses not just on staying healthy, but also having fun and socializing. In addition to Houston, 10 other Denton ISD elementary schools have running clubs: Adkins, Blanton, Borman, Cross Oaks, E.P. Rayzor, Hawk, Newton Rayzor, Ryan, Savannah and Wilson.

Jessica Dean, Houston Elementary counselor and coordinator of her school’s running club, said one of the club’s biggest benefits is how its exercises can positively impact someone’s day.

“Studies have shown that when you’re physically active, your mood is elevated,” she said. “We exercise all our students each morning at our school to get them primed for learning, and we’ve noticed a positive emotional improvement. Our running club is really a continuation of that – we want our students to feel good throughout the day, and we want them to have a sense of togetherness.”

To promote that socialization, Houston’s running club trains toward a goal of completing a group 5K. In both the fall and spring, the club trains twice a week – on Mondays and Fridays – completing a variety of workouts, from distance runs in a local neighborhood to stamina games such as capture the flag.

The training methods have already proven successful, with multiple Houston running club members placing near the top of their age division in recent 5K races.
Jessica Dean, Houston Elementary counselor, hands out Skip-It exercise toys

As a counselor, Mrs. Dean said, seeing relationships built within the club is one of the most rewarding experiences. Houston’s running club has attained as many as 70 students in the program at a single time, with its membership hovering in the mid-50s most years. Those dozens of students work together throughout the year and encourage each other to succeed, Mrs. Dean added, which helps students as they prepare to transition to the middle school ranks.
“This club goes beyond just physical healthiness and really helps students work together,” she said. “Running may be individualized, but seeing your friends succeed and working to succeed together is a big part of this club. We talk about setting goals, for example, and the students love to cheer their friends on. It helps that we have a lot of parent support, which sets a good example. We’re blessed to have such great parent involvement at our school.”

Students in the club agreed, with the majority saying they enjoy running, but their favorite part of the club was being able to enjoy their free time in a group setting with peers.

“I love playing games and hanging out with my friends, so this is a really good way to do that,” said Nick Aiai, a Houston fifth-grader. “I play sports but didn’t run 5K races or anything like that before, and now I’ve done a few with my friends.”

Fellow fifth-grader Sarah Wood also emphasized the dual nature of the club, which allows her to stay in shape and have fun at the same time.

“I’ve definitely got better at running with the club, but I like the fact that it’s not just running – you also get to play games,” she said. “My first 5K was challenging but it was fun to prepare for and see how well I did. I didn’t really focus on time for my second 5K, but I know I did even better.”
For more information about Houston Elementary’s running club, visit its webpage by clicking here.