Out and Back

Students deepen their understanding of pacing by attempting to run a given distance back and forth at the same pace

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Students experiment with the key concept of pacing--running at an even, controlled pace. They test their skills by running along a course until you blow your whistle, then turning around and running back for the same amount of time, checking to see if they end up where they started.

This lesson is best introduced after students have experiences Animal Run which focuses on what it feels like to run at different speeds.

Time Required
5-10 minutes (including discussion)

A looped course where students are visible at all times (a quarter-mile track or other large area works best), whistle, stopwatch

Prepare for the Activity


  • Watch Out and Back video for a better understanding of how to conduct the activity.
  • The video represents a more advanced version of the activity for older, more experienced runners, while the activity outlined below is designed for elementary school physical education classes, but the basis of the activity is the same.


Introduce the Activity

  • Tell your students that today's activity focuses on pacing and the goal is to run at what we call an even pace—meaning they should run the same speed the whole time.
  • Explain the course to them, telling them they will do multiple laps of the loop.
  • Remind your students of the Animal Run lesson and tell them that today they are running kind of far so they shouldn't sprint like a cheetah, but rather jog like a pig (or if you think your kids are able, you can have them run like a horse).
  • Tell them that they will run on your command and stop immediately when you blow your whistle, staying where they stopped. You will let them know what to do next once they have heard the whistle.

Conduct the Activity

  1. Line the students up at the starting line.
  2. Blow your whistle to start them, and start your stopwatch at the same time.
  3. After a predetermined time—anywhere between 45 and 90 seconds—blow your whistle again. The students should all stop in their tracks.
  4. Instruct them to turn around and get ready to run again in the opposite direction. Reset your stopwatch to zero.
  5. Blow your whistle to restart the runners, and start your watch at the same time. They should be running over the exact same course they just ran out on.
  6. When they have run for the same amount of time as the first run, blow your whistle. They should all stop in their tracks.
  7. Remind them that the goal was to run at an even pace. If they got beyond the starting line on the second run, that means they ran slower on the first run than the second. If they did not make it back to the starting line, that means they ran faster on the way out than on the way back. If they ended right at the starting line, then they ran the same pace both ways—good job.
  8. Tell them the activity is called Out and Back. Repeat the exercise one or more times and see how they do on their pacing.

Assess the Students

What to watch for:

  • Students who are running at an even pace with appropriate effort (e.g., if you instructed them to be jogging, they should be using minimal effort and not be out of breath). Typically students will start out too fast and not be able to sustain their pace. But you might also find some students who go out very slowly and then run faster on their return run.

Direction cues to share with students:

  • “Run at a pace you can keep the whole way.”
  • “Don’t sprint. This isn’t a race.”
  • “Stay at pig pace—jogging nice and steady.”

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


When you've completed Out and Back, talk to your students about their experience with the activity. Here are some sample questions to get you started:

  • Did you have trouble keeping the same pace? If so, why do you think you did? (They might have had trouble keeping the same pace for the second half of the run. If so, this teaches them that to keep an even pace for a longer run, they might have to run at what initially seems like a very easy pace.)
  • If your pace changed, could you feel it? What did you feel?
  • Why is practicing running at an even pace helpful? (It teaches our bodies to know how much effort we are using, so we can select the right amount of effort for the right situation.)


  • Name the three students who came the closest to running an even pace the gold, silver, and bronze medal winners.
  • Run three or four “out and backs,” going from 45 to 60 to 90 seconds and then back to 45 again. Try some at jogging pace and some at running pace.
  • For younger kids have a bean bag waiting at the cone they are running to, pick it up and then return to the start.  Both out and back should take the same amount of time.
  • For larger class sizes, divide into groups.  While one group is running have the other group doing stretches, preparing for their run.

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.

  • Have students pair up to keep pace with each other.
  • Have different courses of different lengths and allow the students to pick where they want to start. They can also move up and down the courses to see which one fits them the best.
  • Have arrows and tape to direct the students where to go next, use visual aids to show students what to do through the course.
  • Have the students walk through the course multiple times before running through it.
  • Shorten the time in which the students are sprinting or jogging, finding the best time to allow the students to get to the end and back to the beginning.
  • Have the start and stop be on music, not a whistle; students start when the music starts and stop when the music stops.


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

What Is My Time?
Rather than seeing who can run the fastest, students see who has learned the most about measuring their pace

In a Heartbeat
Students get in touch with the most important muscle of all—the heart—learning to take their pulse after exercise.

Continuous Relay
With plenty of team cheering, students run fast repeatedly, building strength and endurance

Animal Run
By pretending to be different members of the animal kingdom, kids see how it feels to run at different paces

The Centipede
Teamwork, endurance, and spurts of speed come into play in this baton-passing game

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