A grown-up Presidential Fitness challenge
Vail, CO, Colorado
Ethan and Sheridan Snapp for president!
Ethan’s 7 and Sheridan just turned 10. Nevertheless, they’ve already got what it takes: abundant smarts, sunny dispositions, can-do attitudes, grace under pressure, a willingness to take risks and the faces of angels (all courtesy of parents Carma and Larry Snapp).
But the real topper: how they dove into the sometimes-grueling President’s Challenge Physical Fitness Test and came out the other end grinning.
“It was fun,” Sheridan said.
If you remember doing toe-touches to the Chicken Fat song, then you know just how long the nation has been fretting about pudgy kids. President Dwight Eisenhower, alarmed by a study that found that American kids were a bunch of slugs compared with children in other countries, created the President’s Council on Youth Fitness in the summer of ’56.
The Council and its fitness test have been through a lot of changes in the past half-century, but it’s still a doozy, with tests of muscular strength, flexibility, cardio endurance and agility.
And because so many kids who did the original President’s Challenge fitness test have grown up to be sloth-like adults, there’s a new President’s Challenge for adults.
Sheridan and Ethan’s mom, Carma ” a 110-pound dynamo with energy to burn ” kindly agreed to put herself through its tests of strength, flexibility and aerobic fitness.
Carma zipped around East High School’s track and kicked butt in the push-up test.
But when it came to the half sit-ups, she learned a valuable lesson: Don’t do the President’s Challenge with abs that are still screaming from a week’s worth of boot camp workouts.
When all was said and done, Ethan’s favorite challenge was the shuttle run, a test of speed and agility; his sister preferred the flexed-arm strength test, which required her to keep her chin above a bar while her feet dangled in the air.
“At first, my abs really hurt, but my arms didn’t,” Sheridan said. “At the end, my arms felt like Jell-O.”
But she hung in there anyway. And that’s just the kind of moxie we need in a future president.
Adult fitness tests
* 1-mile walk or 1.5-mile run
MUSCULAR STRENGTH AND ENDURANCE
* Half sit-up: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the ground. Have your partner place a piece of tape under your finger tips, and another piece 3 1/2 inches in front of your fingertips.
Flatten your lower back to the mat or rug, and half sit-up so that your fingers move from the first piece of tape to the second. Then return your shoulders to the mat or rug and repeat the movement as described. Your head does not have to touch the surface.
Your partner counts the half sit-ups performed in one minute.
* Push-ups: Men start in the standard push-up position. Hands should be shoulder width apart, arms extended straight out under the shoulders, back and legs in a straight line, and toes curled under. Women do a modified push-up with knees bent and touching the floor. Lower until the chest is about 2 inches from the floor and rise up again. Perform the test until you cannot complete any more with proper form. If necessary, you can take a brief rest in the up position.
* Place a yardstick on the floor and put a long piece of masking tape over the 15-inch mark at a right angle to the yardstick. Remove your shoes and sit on the floor with the yardstick between the legs (0 mark close to your crotch), with your feet about 12 inches apart. Heels should be at the 14-inch mark at the start of the stretch. With the fingertips in contact with the yardstick, slowly stretch forward with both hands as far as possible, noting where the fingertips are to the closest inch. Exhaling when you stretch forward and dropping the head may allow you to stretch a bit further. Perform the stretch three times with a few seconds of rest between stretches. Record the best measurement.
* Flexed-arm hang: Using either an overhand grasp (palms facing away from body) or underhand grip (palms facing toward body), child assumes flexed-arm hang position with chin clearing the bar. Lift the child to this position. Child holds this position as long as possible. Chest should be held close to bar with legs hanging straight. Timing is stopped when child’s chin touches or falls below the bar.
* Partial curl-ups: Have child lie on cushioned, clean surface with knees bent and feet on the ground, about 12 inches from buttocks. Do not hold or anchor the feet. Arms are extended forward with fingers resting on the legs and pointing toward the knees. A partner is behind the head with hands cupped under the head.
The child curls up slowly sliding the fingers up the legs until the fingertips touch the knees, then back down until the head touches the partner’s hands. The curl-ups are done to a metronome (or audio tape, clapping, drums) with one complete curl-up every three seconds, and are continued until the child can do no more in rhythm.
SPEED AND AGILITY
* Shuttle Run: Mark two parallel lines 30 feet apart and place two blocks of wood or similar objects behind one of the lines. Child starts behind the opposite line. On the signal “Ready? Go!” the child runs to the blocks, picks one up, runs back to the starting line, places block behind the line, runs back and picks up the second block and runs back across starting line.
* Endurance run/walk: On a safe, one-mile distance, child begins running on the count “Ready? Go!” Walking may be interspersed with running, but child should be encouraged to cover the distance in as short a time as possible. Use a large-enough running area so that no more than eight laps are necessary to complete a mile. Alternative distances for younger kids are 1/4 mile for 6-7 years old, and 1/2 mile for 8-9 years old.
* V-sit: Mark a straight line 2 feet long on the floor as the baseline. Draw a measuring line perpendicular to the midpoint of the baseline extending 2 feet on each side and marked off in half-inches. The point where the baseline and measuring line intersect is the zero point. Child removes shoes and sits on floor with measuring line between legs and soles of feet placed immediately behind baseline, heels 8 to 12 inches apart. Child clasps thumbs so that hands are together, palms down, and places them on measuring line. With the legs held flat by a partner, child slowly reaches forward as far as possible, keeping fingers on baseline and feet flexed. After three practice tries, child holds the fourth reach for three seconds while that distance is recorded.
Carma Snapp, 43
* Aerobic fitness: 1-mile walk in 13:01, heart rate 150 at the end, 90th percentile*
* Muscular strength: 30 push-ups, 90th percentile; six half sit-ups, 5th percentile
* Flexibility: sit and reach, 17 inches, 55th percentile
* Body Mass Index: 20.1 (normal)
Sheridan Snapp, 10 (9 at the time of tests)
* Flexed arm hang: 37 seconds, 95th percentile
* Shuttle run: 10.4 seconds, 95th percentile
* V-sit reach: 5.5 inches, 85th percentile
* Endurance run (1/2 mile): 4:07, 80th percentile
* Partial curl-ups: 19, 45th percentile
Ethan Snapp, 7
* V-sit reach: 5 inches, 95th percentile
* Flexed arm hang: 22 seconds, 90th percentile
* Shuttle run: 12 seconds, 75th percentile
* Endurance run (1/4 mile): 2:16, 45th percentile
* Partial curl-ups: 12, 45th percentile
You don’t have to be an elite athlete to get healthier and earn an award from the President’s Council. Here are the steps to joining the challenge:
1. Choose an activity: Walking, basketball, tennis, aerobics, biking – almost any exercise will do. Just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, done on most days of the week, has great benefits for adults. Sixty minutes is the minimum for youth.
2. Get active: Your goal is to meet your daily activity goal (30 minutes a day for adults/60 minutes a day for children under 18) at least five days a week for a total of six weeks. You can take up to eight weeks to complete the program.
3. Track your activity: Use the Council’s online personal activity log. You can log your time as often as you want, in amounts as short as 5 minutes (10 minutes is better).
4. Order your award: When you reach your goal, your activity log reminds you to order your award, either online or by mail. Then you may continue earning awards in the Active Lifestyle program or move on to the next challenge: the Presidential Champions program.
1. Choose an activity: You’ll earn points for every activity you log. Points are based on the amount of energy each activity burns, so the more active you are, the more points you get. This program has a 750-point daily cap to encourage staying active every day. Earning a bronze award takes 20,000 points. For example, if you run 5 miles every day, you can reach that amount in about six weeks. More moderate activities will take a little longer.
2. Track your activity, using your online personal activity log.
3. Go for the goal: Reach it, and your activity log will remind you that you’ve earned an award that you can order online or by mail. Continue on in the President’s Champion program for a silver or gold award.
* Learn more at presidents challenge.org.
History of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
1956: President Dwight Eisenhower, alarmed by a report that finds American children are slugs compared with kids in other countries, creates the President’s Council on Youth Fitness. First chairman: Vice President Richard Nixon.
1960-63: President John F. Kennedy appoints University of Oklahoma football coach Charles “Bud” Wilkinson as the council’s executive and special consultant to the president. Nearly 250,000 school kids take part in a council-sponsored pilot program. At the end of the first year, 25 percent more students passed the physical fitness test than had before the program.
1966: President Lyndon B. Johnson broadens the Council’s mission to include sports and changes the name to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. He creates an awards system to recognize active youth.
2002: President George W. Bush announces a reinvigorated Council under the leadership of former Pittsburgh Steeler Lynn Swann.