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Ten Seconds and Counting

Like a car going through the gears, kids get to see how their form changes while slowing or increasing speed

Tags: elementary school, overall skills

Objectives 10 Seconds and Counting helps students practice accelerating as they run. As they accelerate in the second half of a run, they will notice what changes they make to switch from jogging to sprinting. This activity lets students experience the pleasure of running fast.
Standards National Standards for Physical Education (NASPE)
Standards 1,2
New York State Education Department (NYSED)
Standard 1
Prerequisite This lesson should be taught later in the progression so students have had a chance to grasp proper running form and pacing. In particular, conduct these two activities before teaching this lesson: conduct Monster Steps to help students get the feel for their optimal stride length and Animal Run so students are familiar with different running speeds.
Time Required 15 minutes
Materials Whistle, a long straightaway, if possible


Prepare for the Activity

  • Watch Form 101: Leg Movements and Form 101: Arm Movements for an overview of key form elements to focus on.
  • Use the videos and the “Assess the Students” section below to familiarize yourself with good form, changes in form from jogging to sprinting, common errors in sprinting, and tips to correct them.
  • Review the Monster Steps lesson for a reminder on appropriate stride length.
  • You can also review Animal Run to find a discussion you can have with students about the difference between jogging and sprinting form.
  • Find a long straightaway for students to run on if possible; otherwise, mark a course that provides for wide turns (for example, use cones to create rounded turns at the corners of a gym).


Events Play

This video covers the six fundamentals of leg movement for elementary schoolers

Click here to access on Teacher Tube

Introduce the Activity

  • Tell your students the name of the activity and its purpose. Say something like: “Today you get to run fast! This activity has you accelerate as you run, so you can feel the difference in how your body moves when jogging vs. sprinting.”
  • Explain that on your whistle, they will start jogging, and that on your second whistle (five seconds after the first whistle), they will accelerate and reach top speed as quickly as they can. You will blow your whistle a third time, signaling them to stop. The total time for each jog/sprint is 10 seconds.
  • Remind them of the Monster Steps activity and give a quick demonstration of Monster Steps (overstriding) and “just right” strides as a refresher. Remind them that they don’t want to take steps that are too long with their foot landing far in front of their body as they run.

Conduct the Activity

  1. Demonstrate the 10-second jog/sprint, jogging for 5 seconds and then accelerating for the last 5 seconds. Focus on exhibiting appropriate stride length and proper form.
  2. Line the students up at the start of your straightaway so they are standing next to each other. If you have a small space or the students will have to turn corners, split your group up and have only a few students run at once.
  3. On your first whistle, they jog. After 5 seconds, blow your whistle again, signaling them to accelerate. Whistle after 5 more seconds, stopping them.
  4. Repeat this jog/sprint one more time. Then, conduct the discussion outlined below.
  5. After the discussion, repeat the jog/sprint a few more times.

Assess the Students

What to watch for:

  • A healthy stride: The stride should lengthen when sprinting, but watch out for overstriding, which is common when students try to sprint. They are overstriding if their foot is landing in front of their body, which often causes them to land heel first. In contrast, when jogging, students sometimes under stride, taking short, choppy steps and lifting their knees only slightly or not at all.
  • Good arm action: This means pumping the arms more as they accelerate. In a full sprint, the arms should move from “back pocket to chin.” In a jog, the arms should move from “hip to chest.” As always, the arms should swing from the shoulders with elbows bent and should swing straight forward and back, not crossing the midline of the body.
  • Good knee lift: The knees should lift slightly when jogging and lift higher when sprinting.
  • A relaxed body: Students often tense up when sprinting. Particularly look for relaxed shoulders, face, and hands. If any of these body parts are clenched or stiff, offer direction.

Direction cues to share with students:

  • “Shorten your stride! No Monster Steps!’ (For students whose feet are landing in front of their body)
  • “Stop reaching and run easy! Find your “just right” stride!” (For students whose feet are landing in front of their body)
  • “Relax your [hands/face/shoulders]!”
  • “Pump your arms!” (For acceleration)
  • “Lift your knees!” (For acceleration)
  • “Push off powerfully!” (For acceleration)
  • “Quick off your feet!” (For acceleration)

Note: Only give a student one direction at a time.


  • After students have tried the jog/sprint routine, have them run continuously for a minute or so, alternating between jogging and sprinting each time you blow your whistle.
  • Use music cues rather than whistles; faster music for sprinting, slower music for jogging.
  • Start the students sprinting for 5 seconds and then jogging for 5 seconds.  Vary the amount of time, 7 seconds sprinting, 3 seconds jogging, etc.


When you've tried 10 Seconds and Counting once or twice, talk to your students about their experience with the activity. Here are some sample questions to get you started:

  • What did it feel like to go from jogging to sprinting?
  • What did you have to do differently to sprint? What did you do differently with your body? (Higher knees, more powerful push-offs, quicker steps, stronger arm-pumping action)
  • How will knowing these differences help you with pacing? (When you know how your body moves at different speeds, you are better able to judge and control your pace)
  • Why is sprinting more tiring and can only be done for short distances? (All the movements are bigger, faster, and more powerful so they use more energy.)
  • No matter what pace you run, where should your feet be landing? (Beneath your hip, or very close to this position)

Inclusion Strategies

Classrooms are filled with learners who demonstrate a variety of needs and abilities, including ESL students, those with disabilities, and gifted/talented students. Consider these adaptations as you work to modify the lesson for student success.

  • Use peer helpers as support runners so everyone is not staring at one person at a time.
  • Have students run in pairs to pace each other.
  • Encourage students to cheer by clapping or singing—try not to chant students’ names because that can be intimidating.
  • Consider a reward system using stickers or other tangible items that can be collected over time, individually or by group.
  • Provide visual display for changing from jogging to sprinting.


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