Fit’sCool: One dad’s fitness revolution

By on February 2, 2014
GREAT STRIDES: Ben Ryan leads a Fit'scool session at Virginia State School in Brisbane's northeastern suburbs.

NORTHSIDE dad Ben Ryan was worried about his three sons and how he could keep them active as the screens – TV, video game and iPods – invaded his house.

He started by taking them running on the Virginia State School oval after school and his goal was simple: to keep them moving for an hour. He ran races, played games of tag, soccer and red red rover – anything to keep them moving. Due to work commitments it was logistically challenging for his three boys to sign up for Saturday sports so Ben, pictured right, decided to supplement their fitness with his own “run for fun” program.

What began as a bit of fun in the schoolyard with his three boys quickly grew into a major fitness craze that swept through the school. Within a year he had gone from his three sons to about 80 kids turning up on Tuesdays and Thursdays for an hour of “running like the clappers”.

“When you make it fun and non-competitive, kids can’t get there fast enough,” Ben says. “Since Adam was a boy kids have run around and been active. That’s still true today, but their opportunities are far more limited with so many scheduled, after-school activities, plus television, iPods and XBoxes everywhere we look,” he says.

Run like the clappers

Ben says that while the world has changed, and parenting has changed, kids still want to be kids.

“I want to give them that opportunity to be kids again – to run like the clappers, no matter how fast that is!”

Three Fitscool enthusiasts form a pyramid at Virginia State School.

Since Ben began his after school running club, three years ago, the program has grown to become an established, structured program that has maintained the core element of fun and non-competitive physical activity.

The school has embraced it, with the P&C adopting it as a service and extending its insurance cover to Ben’s activities. Parents flock to Ben whenever they see him in the school yard and thank him for getting their kids moving in a fun and affordable way.

There are two keys to Ben’s success – making it truly fun for the kids, and making it free.

“I didn’t want this to be something that started out fun, but by week three kids were dragging themselves to it because parents were telling them, “I’ve paid for 10 weeks, so you *have* to go”,” he said. “This way, there’s no pressure. Kids drop in and out as their commitments allow and the proof is in the pudding – our numbers keep growing!” he said.

Flashing on important radars

Ben, who owns an international trade development business, has now named his program Fit’sCool and is drawing attention from interested parties in all sectors – government, private enterprise and everything in between – as they see the success Ben’s had and want to emulate that elsewhere.

“We’ve got a meeting with the State Government next week to talk about the possibility of taking this statewide,” he said.

“The war on childhood obesity is being fought on many fronts, but if we can bring two hours of real physical activity to every school kid every week and make those kids *want* to be part of that, well, that will go a long way to fighting fat,” he said.

For more information about Fit’sCool visit fitscool.org.au

About Felicity Moore

Felicity Moore is a journalist with 20 years' experience in Australia and the UK across newspapers, magazines, websites, television and radio. Felicity also edits and writes for the Moore4Mums.com parenting blog.

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