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No School Sports? No Problem, Thanks to Girls on the Run

If you're struggling to keep kids active, the new, at-home programs from Girls on the Run may help.

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Just as life interrupted was beginning to feel like the new normal, back-to-school time is here, and, whether you’re a parent, a teacher, or a student, it’s a serious reminder that all is definitely not status quo. From in-person schooling and virtual lessons (or a hybrid solution) to canceled sports seasons and modified extra-curricular activity schedules, one thing that remains a constant for elementary and middle school girls, thanks to Girls on the Run International, is running.

“It’s really about how we meet the needs of our Councils and girls right now,” says Dr. Allie Riley, senior vice president of program and evaluation of Girls on the Run International.

Girls on the Run is a nonprofit that aims to help girls develop physical activity habits while also teaching life skills. When COVID-19 swept the country in March, GOTR pivoted their programming, which is based on meeting twice weekly for 20 weeks to train for a 5K, instead of operations coming to a stop. They moved entirely online, creating 16 home lessons plans with video to share with their councils, or local communities.

“Girls need to move, develop confidence, and learn how to connect with others now more than ever,” says Riley. “GOTR serves their whole health needs to help them deal with the world.”

To serve girls and families facing uncertain schedules for the upcoming school year, Girls on the Run has rolled out some new options. Their traditional programs for girls from third to eighth grade are still available, but both programs are also easily transitioned to a virtual platform. And both the in-person and virtual options culminate in a virtual K-Your-Way event that will accommodate a wide range of modality options (from walking, to running, to working out at home). GOTR hopes to include as many girls as possible, even those who don’t have a place to run.

Movement is the cornerstone of all their offerings, and the programming for younger girls offers lessons to foster a mind/body connection and build confidence through accomplishment. Programming for middle-school girls addresses five areas, including body, brain, heart, spirit, and how girls connect with others, as well as goal setting.

Two pink-and-white booklets from above surrounded by colored pencils and a GOTR sticker
Activity book and guide from the Girls on the Run at-home activity kit. Photo: Courtesy Girls on the Run

To help keep girls engaged during quarantine, Girls on the Run created a Home Activity Kit for ages 8 to 11, with 50 activities to involve mind, body, and spirit. The kit ($50) offers the proven GOTR programming, designed to be scalable for your space (from your bedroom to a local track), and includes a t-shirt, activity booklet, physical activity guide, online resources, and more.

Even better, while activities can be done solo, they are also family friendly, because, if we’re being honest, we could all use more movement in our lives these days.

5 Tips for Families During Uncertain Times

Dr. Riley suggests these tips for helping you and your family weather the stresses of modern, pandemic life.

  • Focus on stress-free connections with your family by having a space where you can do something together.
  • Do something active. It doesn’t have to be running—just move.
  • Get outside; fresh air does wonders for your mind and body.
  • Find a way for your children (and you) to connect with peers (virtually counts!).
  • Have conversations about important topics, like managing emotions, social justice issues, and whatever else comes up for you, your children, and your family.