5 Ways to Get Back into the PE Swing after Winter Break


Returning to school from winter break can be a tough transition into the second half of the school year. With some schools out for 2 to 3 weeks in December and the first part of January, many students forget what they learned at the end of the semester and teachers are forced to spend valuable class time reviewing material they already covered. girls-playing

Physical Education (PE) class is no different. The body, like the mind, “remembers” physical movements and exercises from day to day, but when a person stops exercising the body can “forget” what it was capable of and revert back to a lower physical level. This doesn’t mean all ability to run, play basketball, or jump rope will suddenly disappear, but taking a long break can lead to some “rustiness” in physical fitness.

In addition to this physical component, kids are probably a little apprehensive mentally and emotionally to get right back into the swing of things.

Forcing Kids to Make up for Lost Time isn’t the Answer

When I was a schoolchild, the way the PE teachers got us back into the swing of things after the winter, spring, and summer breaks was with the puke drill. The puke drill earned its name from—you guessed it—its ability to actually make students throw up out of sheer physical overexertion.

The puke drill was the same thing as the “suicide” running drill that many PE teachers and sports coaches still use today, but it involved touching every single line on the basketball court floor in order to make it a much longer drill. The theory was that forcing students to work extra hard to make up for lost time would get them back into shape much faster. But guess what? It didn’t work. And a lot of parents called to complain when their child was injured, became physically ill, or simply couldn’t keep up.

We’re trying to promote physical activity as a fulfilling, healthy habit—not something that makes you sick! Don’t overexert your students and turn them into exercise haters.

Fun and Easy Ways to Ease Back into Exercise

Kids can be difficult to engage when they return from school breaks and holidays. Winter break is often the hardest because it’s the longest, it’s filled with candy, treats, and other junk food, and cold weather may keep even the most active students indoors. Here are some simple ideas to help kids of all activity levels get back into the swing of things after winter break.

1. Prevention is the best medicine. One of the best ways to keep students on track is to encourage them to exercise on their own over the break. The week before break begins, have your students set individual goals and a plan to reach them. The overall goal is to get students to maintain the same physical level while on break, but each student will need to use different means to get there. Work with each student to help them set individual exercise goals based on their unique challenges.

2. Play games. It’s a lot easier to get back in shape when exercise is fun (that’s what SPARK is all about!). Plan to play whatever your students’ favorite PE games are as soon as you get back from break, to help make getting back in shape seem more like fun and less like work. You can even let them vote on the games and activities they’ll do.

Click Here for sample games you can choose from

3.  Try low-impact activities. January can be the perfect time to introduce new, low-impact PE activities such as yoga and Pilates. These exercise routines use the body’s own resistance to build strength and flexibility. They’re perfect for students who may be out of shape because the routines themselves are naturally designed to allow students to work at their own level and build up to more challenging movements, both during each session and over time.

Here are some yoga tools you can use:

Yoga Basic Training lesson plan

Yoga Basic Training content card

4. Integrate mental exercises. Ease back into things slowly with the help of some deep breathing and meditation techniques that can help students mentally and physically prepare for both PE class and their academic classes at the same time.

5. Dance, dance, dance. Get kids moving again for the semester with something they love to do. Hip hop, jazz, and R&B music all have great beats that kids like to get down to. Get them involved by asking class members to teach their favorite dance moves to their classmates. Break into small groups and ask each one to choreograph a 2 minute performance. Bring in a boom box, a mix of appropriate music, and let them wear their street clothing during class. It will be like a special treat at the start of the semester.

Here are some Dance lesson plans you can use:

Louisiana Saturday Night Lesson Plan

5-6-7-8 Dance Lesson Plan

California Strut Dance Lesson Plan

  • Luke

    I agree with this article, you want to get kids involved back into things, but not to quickly. If you do it to quickly the more advanced will run off and leave the kids that aren't as advanced in the dust. Which will lead to the kids that aren't as advanced to just give up, and no body wants that to ever happen.

  • These are great tips but would it be okay for the kids to start yoga and pilates? Isn't it too advance, especially the pilates? Dancing would be fun.

  • Tyler

    I think this is an awesome idea. You seem to really care about your students and that is so cool. Getting back into things by doing dance activities and playing games is so much better than the “Puke Drill” that you talked about. As a student I luckily never had to go through that and I don't plan on making any of my students do so either