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To feel forcing cross county on children can be counter productive in enjoying fitness

(170 Posts)
rabbit12345 Wed 02-Nov-16 09:00:46

Debate with my DH this morning . DH is a keen runner. He discovered his love of running two years ago after always being a big sedentary child/adult. He now runs 15k a day and loves running.

Today I gave DD a note (first time ever she is in year 9 and PE is a core GCSE subject at her school) so that she did not have to do cross country today. There was a good reason for her not to do it but DH thought I should be forceful in encouraging our daughter to take part.

I should say that we are a very active family. My DD in question dances 5 x a week for 2 hours a time.

My argument stems from my childhood. I remember having to run around a muddy school field in the freezing cold, gasping for breath (some girls were physically sick). You had the naturally sporty girls who would fly around the field and it only led to feeling more inferior and ultimately I ended up bunking off from the lesson or forging notes from my parents. I believe that this has led to a lifetime aversion to running. Every time I think I would like to try, I remember the muddy school field. In many ways I feel that being forced into it as a child, led to my general aversion to physical activity as an adult and it took me years to look at this differently and start finding activities that I loved.

So my argument is to encourage physical activity for the children but in areas that they love and not to worry if she decides that she does not enjoy running around a muddy field. (I told her to walk it if she wants) I feel by putting pressure on her could be counter-productive. I just feel health and fitness is so important and should be approached in an enjoyable way and I do not understand why the school do not make nutrition/lifestyle an important part of the lesson.

DH says that there are things in life you just have to do and we should take that view with DD. But surely this relates to paying bills etc. As an adult if she realises she does not have to do it then she will not if she has been forced through childhood. Surely it is better to educate a healthy lifestyle in it's entirety?


Selfimproved Wed 02-Nov-16 09:04:30

Mildly BU. I wouldn't write a note to excuse my children from maths / English so I wouldn't write a note to excuse them from sport unless they actually couldn't do it. I tell them its the trying that's important, not the end result.

EmzDisco Wed 02-Nov-16 09:07:48

Interesting question, I really enjoy running and other fitness now, but PE at school really put me off. Especially running. I wish someone could have conveyed the pleasure you can get from running, that you can find a distance and pace etc that suits. But it was all about this horrible long muddy torture session!

I think I'm probably on your side, especially if your DD is already doing things to support good health and fitness habits.

thecolonelbumminganugget Wed 02-Nov-16 09:09:17

Think the experience depends on the teacher. i have quite fond memories of cross country. The ones who wanted to run did and those that didn't had a nice walk around the field chatting to our mates. Teachers weren't bothered as long as we kept moving

MilkTwoSugarsThanks Wed 02-Nov-16 09:09:20

From my own personal experience - YANBU.

Encourage kids as they might enjoy it, yes. Forcing kids who hate it and are crap at it, no. It's school, not the army.

Let those who want to do it. Offer an alternative to those who don't. Surely as long as it's a physical activity it doesn't matter what it is.

Knottyknitter Wed 02-Nov-16 09:09:46

I agree that secondary pe can be a great way to put people off exercise, especially girls.

If taught well, I would have no issue with cross country, but the muddy field rings too many bells.

Age 37, I finished a coached couch to 5k course yesterday which couldn't have been more different. 8 weeks in, I've signed up for a 10k in spring and am loving it!

Why can school running not be taught in a similar way eg run/walk intervals and build up rather than "run run run and I'll scream at you if not fast enough". It's not the subject but the teaching that needs overhauling imo.

Same with most pe for those outside First Team though, precious little actual coaching/teaching aimed at the lower achievers, and I'm always left thinking they never got away with that in Maths classes.

Seeline Wed 02-Nov-16 09:10:18

YANBU - I too have a dislike of physical activity stemming from school PE lessons. I was shouted at, belittled and ridiculed. I had asthma, but that wasn't 'counted' in the 1980's so I was forced to sprint round hockey pitches to warm up - and then spent the next hour hardly being able to breath, whilst being yelled at. We were never allowed to just enjoy doing a sport - it was like military training grin
I hear things from my DCs now about PE teachers not understanding/appreciating that not everyone is sporty, or may not even like sport. That they get shouted at and ridiculed. I cannot see how PE teachers think this is going to instill a love of sport in those that are never going to make teams etc.

TheCatsBiscuits Wed 02-Nov-16 09:11:07

I agree about the negative experience of cross country running when you can't do it. I went to a very sporty school, with lots of compulsory cross country and I just couldn't. I felt stupid and unfit and it started a lifelong loathing of my body, despite the fact that I was still doing over six hours of hockey/netball/aerobics a week. It was only when I tried Couch to 5k as an adult about twenty years later that I realised I could run - I just had to learn how to do it, the same way I had to learn how to swim. Looking back, it seems weird that no one bothered to take aside the kids who couldn't run and teach them how to build up their stamina. It'd have only taken a term, if that.

So YANBU at all about bad experiences of running having lifelong repercussions for some people, but YA maybe BU to project your own experiences directly onto your DD, and making a problem before there is one? It's not clear from your OP whether she's done it before or whether you're anticipating her hating it.

AllPowerfulLizardPerson Wed 02-Nov-16 09:12:32

I think YABU, because your memories are not the key thing here.

Now, YANBU to write an off-games note when there is a good reason to reduce physical activity, but of course that would apply to all PE.

I think your DH is right to be encouraging. Cross country may or may not be her choice, but getting her to see that it's potentially enjoyable is a good thing. Your settled decision that you don't like it is simply not the point as your DD is not you.

PansyGiraffe Wed 02-Nov-16 09:12:37

Well it depends what the good reason is, doesn't it? The rest of your post reads as though it was just she doesn't enjoy it (in which case I am firmly on the Suck It Up, Buttercup side of things) but you start by saying she had a good reason. Broken leg? Doctor's appointment half way through? I wonder if it's period pains. I had terrible period pains as a teenager and did throw up sometimes but getting out of PE wasn't the answer. (And I was the unsporty child who hated PE you describe, and now I voluntarily go running.)

If you say you're an active family anyway then I really don't get your point about putting her off exercise by making her do PE at school.

TheNaze73 Wed 02-Nov-16 09:13:49


ScrubbedPine Wed 02-Nov-16 09:15:34

I bunked off virtually every PE class at school, because, frankly, ridicule, belittlement and half-assed equipment and instruction, weren't appealing. In adulthood I discovered running and wondered why school made the whole notion of exercise so unappealing.

mymilkshakes00 Wed 02-Nov-16 09:16:20

One of my worst memories in school. Cross bloody country running. I was alway last to finish with the teachers shouting at me to move my butt or you're going another mile on your own. sad
My dc don't hate it and are happy to take part but if they didn't want to take part for some reason I would also write a note for them to be excused.

PinkSwimGoggles Wed 02-Nov-16 09:16:32

imo children should try a variety of exercise. and 'don't want to' is a crap excuse. there are so many things I have to do that I don't want to!

IrenetheQuaint Wed 02-Nov-16 09:18:12

Oh God, I hadn't thought about the hell that was cross country for years, but this has brought it all back.

After years of miserable school PE lessons I basically wrote off physical activity for years, and was astonished to discover in my late 20s that there were activities out there I actually enjoyed. Never running, though - it's still my idea of hell.


FarAwayHills Wed 02-Nov-16 09:18:21

I agree OP and I have the same issue with my DD. She also dances and is very fit and naturally athletic. However her experience of cross country at school has put her off any sort of running altogether which is a shame. I would be reluctant to give my DD a note to excuse her from PE for the reasons your DH has said.

DirtyBlonde Wed 02-Nov-16 09:18:21

You haven't said anywhere in your post whether your DD likes running, whether she's any good at it, or how PE lessons at her school are run.

Your whole post is about your past, your thoughts and your school days. And in the nicest possible way, that's irrelevant.

She's either off PE (whatever the activity that day is - because I bet PE isn't all running every session) for good reason, or she takes part.

glamourousgranny42 Wed 02-Nov-16 09:19:04

YANBU. My PE lessons left me with a fierce aversion to sport. Teachers were bullies who seemed to enjoy humiliating people. I recall cross country running as a complete waste of time where the fast girls finished way ahead of everyone else while we struggled round and in the end walked the course. This was usually on a freezing day and the teachers shouted from the sidelines while wrapped up warm in their coats and hats. I'm 47 and still remember the pain in my throat and ears from the cold. School PE doesn't seem to have changed much and I think it does more harm than good in the long term.
BTW I am now a teacher and still feel the same way about PE and PE teachers

HyacinthFuckit Wed 02-Nov-16 09:20:00

YANBU to think PE can put people off exercising later in life. I mean, we know this is true.

The suck it up buttercup argument is all very well, but the thing is that nobody actually has to exercise later in life if they don't want to. It's optional. Not comparable to something like maths because your child is going to have finances to manage whether they attend lessons or not. So the question is whether it's more important to teach your child that sometimes you have to do things you don't want to, although cross country in PE manifestly isn't one of them, or whether you want to keep her attitude to fitness and exercise as positive as possible.

rabbit12345 Wed 02-Nov-16 09:22:48

There is a good reason why she cant do it on this occasion Not period pains. I would not write a note for that. First time I have ever written her a note for any subject as firmly on the suck it up camp.

Potentially she could walk it (just not run) but she said that they shout at them so I said I would just write the note on this occassion which led to DH taking me aside and saying that I shouldn't be so casual about cross-country.

DramaQueenofHighCs Wed 02-Nov-16 09:23:28

I used to do extra music lessons instead of most PE when at high school - YANBU! (I did dance, aerobics and trampolining and occasionally went out on nice days for a chat with my mates rounders, but otherwise I had it sorted. I used to get bullied a lot as was so bad at most aspects of PE that the music teacher took pity on me.... It did help that a couple of the PE teachers were also in the school band and were actually lovely so understood, as long as I went at least two or three times a term it was ok.)

I think more provision should be made in school for non-sporty kids, as a PP has said you wouldn't get away with lack of diferentiation in other subjects so why PE? As I said I went to dance as I loved it, but we only had one half term of that a year. sad

Sirzy Wed 02-Nov-16 09:23:52

What is the reason for writing her a note? That is the key thing really in your argument so a shame you didn't include it.

I hated PE at school, not down to the activities though, down to the teachers attitudes.

I am very active now and a regular runner having overcome the issues created by the teacher.

I don't think that justifies excusing people from PE lessons though just because they don't enjoy it!

Mermaid36 Wed 02-Nov-16 09:24:12


I utterly detested PE at secondary school. I hated cross country enough to learn to make myself vomit on demand. I'd get a few hundred metres in and throw up - instant stoppage for me and back to the showers!

It made me hate sport/running for most of my life so far. It's only the last few years I've realised there are sports/physical activity that I like and can do. I'm definitely not built to be a runner, but it turns out I'm a bloody good mid distance open water swimmer (with and without wetsuits); and I really like kickboxing (enough to do a bit of amateur fighting).

If your daughter is doing other physical activity, I don't see the problem.

PansyGiraffe Wed 02-Nov-16 09:25:31

Well there you are. If there's a good reason not related to her hating it, it's a good reason. Presumably though she is not able to do her regular 10 hours of dancing a week at the moment either?

TheEagle Wed 02-Nov-16 09:25:55

YANBU about your own PE experiences; I have nothing but miserable memories of PE at school.

YABU to project your experiences onto your DD. Does she enjoy running? What is the valid reason for her to miss out on PE?

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