Friday, September 18, 2015

Hill workouts for kids' cross country

Yesterday, I had plans to meet Jessica for a walk. We were going to meet at the State Park, so I decided to ride my bike there (I figured it would be about six miles each way). After I got the kids off to school, I had some breakfast and then headed out on my bike.

I had been hoping that there would be a spot for me to chain my bike while Jessica and I walked, but I figured that I could chain it to a tree if nothing else. There was a small fence post at the start of the trail, so I chained my bike there and just hoped that nobody would mess with it! It was gorgeous outside--a perfect day for a walk.

When Jessica got there, we walked around the 5K loop plus a small detour to make it 3.5 miles total. I hadn't seen Jessica pretty much all summer, so it was fun to catch up with her! She said that she'd be interested in doing a 10-mile walk with me, which is awesome--I need to do one sometime before the Detroit Half. We made plans to do the 10-miler on October 7th.

We are both working on getting back to our goal weight, so we each set a goal for October 7th. We decided that if we are BOTH at that goal by the time we do the 10-mile walk, then we can go to La Pita for lunch after the walk. Reminds me of when we were marathon training in 2012! ;)

I got in over 12 miles of biking and the 3.5 mile walk--it was a good morning!

Yesterday evening, I had cross country practice. I knew I wanted to do some sort of hill work with the kids, but I was having a hard time thinking of a way to make it FUN. Hills are tough! Just asking the kids to run up and down a hill is boring, so I wanted them to want to do it. The problem was, I Googled it a thousand different ways and couldn't find anything online about fun hill work for kids. I decided to go to the dollar store and see if anything inspired me to make some sort of game.

I'm really glad I did that, because I came up with a very fun game that would also be a great hill workout! We don't have a budget for the team, so whatever we buy has to be paid for out-of-pocket--therefore, I had to get creative, but that's a good thing.

The supplies:

Two bags of marbles in different colors--I got one blue and one green; and some sort of containers to hold them (four total--I was able to buy 5 for $1). Total cost of the game was $3.

For the game, I set the bucket of green marbles halfway up the grassy hill, and I set the bucket of blue marbles at the very top of the hill. We divided the kids into two teams, and each of them got an empty bucket, which was placed at the bottom of the hill. Here is a picture of the hill (it's steeper than the picture makes it look, honest!)

To play, the green marbles (halfway up the hill) are worth 1 point, and the blue marbles (top of the hill) are worth 3 points. The object is to get as many points as possible for your team. Each kid can only get ONE marble at a time, and they can choose whether to run halfway up the hill for a green marble, or all the way up for a blue marble. Then they have to run back down, and drop the marble in their team's bucket. All of the kids are doing this at the same time, so there are kids running up and down the hill constantly until all the marbles on the hill have been moved to the team buckets.

When all the marbles had been moved, Renee and I tallied up the points for each team, and declared the team with the most points the winner. The kids loved it! They had been pretty tired from the time trial we'd just done before the hill game, but they were really focused on getting the marbles. It was interesting, because most of the kids decided to go for the blue marbles first, so they ran all the way to the top of the hill. Once that bucket was empty, then everyone went for the green until they were gone. The whole thing took probably 10 minutes, and the kids got a heck of a workout running up the hill multiple times.

I had a couple of other ideas for hill games as well. Instead of marbles, we can put puzzle pieces at the top of the hill. The kids can only bring down one puzzle piece at a time, and the goal is to complete the puzzle at the bottom of the hill. (Again, this could be done with two teams, each working on their own puzzle. I found some puzzles with 50 pieces at the dollar store, which would work well for our group.)

My original idea was to get a bunch of silly clothes and accessories (hats, glasses, etc), and put those at the top of the hill. The kids would be divided into two teams (one for Renee, and one for me). They would run up the hill and grab an item, then run back down and Renee and I would have to put the items on. The first team to get all of the items on us would be the winner.

Another one I thought of was a matching card game. I bought a deck of cards with animals on them, typically used for a memory game to try and pair up the matches. I figured the kids could run to the top of the hill, grab a card, and bring it back down. Then run up again, get another card, bring it down... and keep doing that until they get a match. (Working as individuals rather than a team)

Finally, and I didn't buy this because it was too expensive, I thought of using the game Connect 4. The tokens would be up at the top of the hill, and the kids would have to bring down one at a time. The Connect 4 game would be at the bottom of the hill, and they could make their move as they brought the tokens down. It would help to be fast, because the faster their team brings tokens, the more likely they are to connect four. This would probably work better with a smaller group of kids, maybe 6-8 total.

Yesterday's practice was great, and I'm loving coaching this team!! It's been awesome to come up with ideas to make running FUN for kids. It makes me so happy when the kids tell me that they have fun at practice. Noah told me that he likes our cross country practices better than the ones for his middle school team, so that made me feel good ;)

Well, tonight I'm staying the night in Detroit, and I'll be doing the Tour de Troit tomorrow morning. Please cross your fingers for good weather for me! Right now, it's looking very, very bad--thunderstorms all morning. As long as they don't cancel the ride, I'll be doing it!


  1. The games sound like a real workout and lots of fun!

  2. Thanks again for including the ideas that you didn't use (yet)! I'm definitely using the puzzle idea in my program next week :)

  3. I wish I'd been on your cross-country team when I was a kid. I would have LOVED it.

  4. You are so creative, I absolutely love it! SO wish I had you for a coach when I was young! To be honest, I think these games would fun with adults too. :)

  5. These are great ideas, Katie. Way to rock the creativity! I want to do hills now. I wonder if my trainer will set up a game for me on Wednesday morning (our scheduled hill workout -- YUK).

  6. Fabulous ideas! Those kids are blessed to have you!


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