Elaine Wyl­lie on her mission to mo­bilise UK kids

61, FOUNDER OF THE DAILY MILE

Runner's World (UK) - - In This Issue - thedai­lymile. co. uk

IN MARCH 2012, Elaine Wyl­lie, head teacher at St Ninian’s pri­mary school in Stir­ling, Cen­tral Scot­land, took her class of 10-year-olds out to the play­ground to jog or run for 15 min­utes. And so The Daily Mile (TDM) was born, an ini­tia­tive that has now been adopted by thou­sands of schools across the UK. Elaine, from Fife, re­tired from teach­ing last year and now de­votes her time to im­prov­ing chil­dren’s health, fit­ness and de­vel­op­ment through TDM.

WHAT SPARKED THE IDEA?

A vol­un­teer com­mented that the chil­dren were un­fit and this was con­firmed by the PE teacher, who said they were ex­hausted by the PE warmup! When I took them out for the first run only a hand­ful could run round the field. They were shocked by their poor per­for­mance and were keen to do some­thing about it.

DID IT CATCH ON QUICKLY?

The chil­dren were so pos­i­tive in their com­ments that it was clear to me this was a very ef­fec­tive way to in­tro­duce phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity into the life of ev­ery child in the school and nurs­ery – from three to 12 years old. It’s so­cial, fun and sim­ple.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

It's ev­ery child, ev­ery day, out­side in most weather, run­ning, jog­ging or walk­ing for 15 min­utes. They run in their school clothes so don’t need to change into kit; this re­moves one of the main bar­ri­ers to par­tic­i­pa­tion in phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity. It’s so­cial, so the route must be wide enough for chil­dren to run to­gether. It’s not com­pet­i­tive, but some chil­dren will com­pete and that's fine.

HOW DO YOU GET KIDS OUT­SIDE IN HOR­RI­BLE WEATHER?

The chil­dren are self­mo­ti­vated to go out and run – weather is seen as a ben­e­fit, not a bar­rier. Run­ning be­comes nor­mal for them and they con­sis­tently re­port that they en­joy the fresh air, con­nect­ing with the sea­sons and the sense of free­dom they get.

IS RE­WARD EVER USED?

Re­ward isn’t nec­es­sary, but there can some­times be sim­ple child-pleas­ing in­cen­tives from time to time, such as stick­ers or badges. Tar­get set­ting can be fun, and us­ing stop­watches or lap coun­ters once in a while can be mo­ti­vat­ing.

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN IT HAVE A NEG­A­TIVE EF­FECT IN A SCHOOL?

When done ac­cord­ing to the core prin­ci­ples, TDM is al­ways suc­cess­ful. If a school over­com­pli­cates it, if chil­dren don’t go out reg­u­larly (three times a week is the min­i­mum) or if there is too much mea­sure­ment, it’s less likely to be sus­tain­able.

DID YOU EN­VIS­AGE HOW FAR YOUR IDEA WOULD SPREAD?

Once it was es­tab­lished in the school and nurs­ery I saw it had all the com­po­nents for a suc­cess­ful na­tional ini­tia­tive. It is sim­ple and free. Teach­ers, chil­dren and par­ents all like it. Fi­nally, it is uni­ver­sal and, crit­i­cally, sus­tain­able in the long term.

WHAT IS YOUR UL­TI­MATE GOAL?

To en­joy bet­ter health now and for the next 70 years of their lives, I’d like to en­sure that chil­dren ev­ery­where, re­gard­less of their age, cir­cum­stances or abil­ity or have the chance to do The Daily Mile in their school. We now have around 3,000 pri­mary schools in the UK, a fur­ther 1,100 in Hol­land and Bel­gium and we are also see­ing it be­ing picked up by some schools in the US. In Scot­land, it’s gov­ern­ment policy to see TDM rolled out in nurs­eries, pri­mary schools, se­condary schools, uni­ver­si­ties and work­places and we re­cently launched TDM in Wales, too.

WHAT SORT OF EX­ER­CISE DO YOU EN­JOY?

Scot­land of­fers many lovely places to walk and I en­joy hill­walk­ing and hik­ing with my hus­band, John. One of life’s great plea­sures is to be out­side in na­ture.

‘ It’s ev­ery child, ev­ery day, out­side in most weather, run­ning, jog­ging or walk­ing for 15 min­utes’

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