James Madison University

Susan Nye Motivates a Community Into Motion

By: Sydney Palese
Posted: January 10, 2014

Mileage Club

PHOTO: Students preparing for 5K

Susan Nye, a professor in the department of kinesiology, is the founder of the Central Bear’s Mileage Club, a nonprofit organization that encourages children and adults to achieve individual running goals.

The six-week-long program meets after school, and is targeted at third through fifth grade students. Nye also holds a separate clinic for teachers. The club encourages physical fitness and healthy lifestyles by teaching participants about exercise, nutrition and healthy snacks, goal setting, rate of perceived exertion and target heart rate.

Inspiration came to Nye three years ago when her then six-year-old daughter developed a talent for running. To Nye’s surprise, her daughter’s school, Central Elementary, located in the Rockbridge Community of Lexington, Virginia, did not offer many outlets for students who wanted to run. She also found that the children in the community were above the national average for childhood obesity rates. Wanting to create opportunities for her daughter, and other children who had the desire to incorporate more physical activity in their lives, Nye sprang to action.

When the club initially met in the fall of 2011 on Monday afternoons, they had a turnout of around 80 eager children. Since then, the club has been expanding.

In order to objectively determine the children’s running capabilities, she does an initial assessment. The children complete a 12-minute run-walk wearing pedometers and heart rate monitors. These tools help Nye see the relation of the children’s steps per minute and how their hearts react to this level of activity. From the assessment, Nye implements a walk-to-run training regimen, which motivates the children to find their own running pace.. As the weeks go by and their cardiovascular endurance improves, the children are walking less and running more.

 Windy Whirl 5K

Nye knew that in order to get the students and members of the Rockbridge Community moving, she needed to give them an end goal. Ultimately, she decided on a culminating 5K to showcase the progress made by the participants.

“The 5K provides the participants with a goal to work towards. A number of the participants have never run a 5k so by the end of the program I am able to see their excitement as they cross the finish line.,” Nye said.

The Windy Whirl 5K and 1 mile run/walk takes place every spring and draws over 200 community participants ranging from four years of age to 68. The next Windy Whirl 5K is scheduled for March 29, 2014.

Nye acts as race director and coordinates nearly every aspect of the event. She recruits sponsors, donations for raffle  prizes, works with a local artist to create the race day shirts, updates the event website, sets up the race course, selects medals for the runners and gets approval from the city. Nye also coordinates the volunteers, many of whom are her graduate-level students.

“Spectators are all along the track. It’s exciting to see everyone cheering for the runners and walkers. Music is blaring. For the last mile of the course they can hear the music."  In the end, Nye’s favorite part of the race is seeing the “elation on the children’s’ faces as they cross the finish line.”