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Week Five: R-E-L-A-X-A-T-I-O-N

October 11, 2011

Shannon Foster joins us this Fall as our Girls on the Run of Atlanta Intern. She’s a student at Georgia Gwinnett College and will be shadowing three Girls on the Run and Girls on Track programs in metro Atlanta. 

Even 3rd-5th graders have fast-paced and stressful lives now with more electronic input and more demanding school loads. The elementary girls in Gwinnett and Roswell listed off all of their responsibilities: “homework,” “housework,” “studying for our tests,” and even “learning Chinese.” One of the girls joked “everybody in my family thinks I’m a maid,” because she has so many chores. This week the girls put what they have been learning to practice.

With a calm crisp breeze and cloudless sky, the fall weather provided the idealistic atmosphere for the lesson. While stretching, the girls attempted to unwind, though they still joked a little. The Roswell girls giggled as they did Grace’s favorite stretch.

While over in Gwinnett, the girls laughed as Ashley took the warm-up sheet, while the coach wasn’t looking, and made goofy faces while giving her comedic interpretation of each stretch. Despite kidding around a little during the warm-up, the girls did a good job settling down as they prepared for the run.

Then came the challenge, convincing girls who had been sitting quietly in school all day that it was a good idea to run without talking today. At first, some of the girls struggled to run silently with their friends so close. They walked closely together and whisper back and forth. After a few laps the Roswell girls made a better attempt to run quietly, letting their thoughts overtake them the way their coaches instructed. The field was quiet enough to hear only the noises of water bottles opening, heavy breathing, and the chain link fence as a kid ran his hand along it.

After about 20 minutes, some of the girls asked how much longer. In Gwinnett they asked the same thing, wondering how long they were supposed to run today.  It was interesting to watch how concerned they were with time, even when they were given a gift of free time with this lesson. The coaches told them to just keep running and not worry about the time.

As I walked the last couple of laps with Ashley in Gwinnett, my mind raced with thoughts, “What should I write for this week’s article,” “Wonder what Ashley is thinking about,” “Wow, it is really quiet out here.” Without the noise input that normally saturates our days, the track was quiet enough to hear crickets in the grass and the distant sound of a plane flying overhead.

Tthe coaches called all the girls together and asked them what they were thinking while running. Most of them said “random stuff” and a couple said “Halloween.” The Roswell girls noticed that “it was easier to concentrate and get more laps” without talking.

Afterward the wrap up, Emili from Gwinnett told me that “[Girls on the Run] is downtime…It doesn’t matter what you do or how many laps you do.” She told me that she relaxes at home, by just taking 20 minutes for herself, but that GOTR is a time for her to release all of her emotions on the track and clear her mind.

Reagan from Roswell told me that GOTR has already made a difference in her life. “I eat better things [now]” she said, and from the girls’ feedback after practice, today’s lesson will also make a difference, encouraging girls to relax “so we don’t get too stressed,” as Emili commented.

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