Walk near the gym on Friday morning and you’ll hear it before you see it. The music is bouncy and features a bombastic marching band. Kids are laughing and jumping around with their arms and legs moving in unison. And the song keeps playing long after you think it should have ended. The intensity keeps building until the end when students finally collapse, a little sweaty and out of breath, onto the gym floor.
We call it “Chicken Fat Friday” and the song is older than the parents who visit on Fridays to watch morning assembly. It was commissioned by John F. Kennedy in 1962 and called “The Youth Fitness Song”. Millions of free copies were distributed to schools to promote physical fitness. The track is over six minutes long and includes eleven exercises that are designed to help students get healthy and “give that chicken fat back to the chicken!”
We may think of health and fitness as a modern idea, but classical students know that the ancients emphasized physical training as a critical part of preparing for battle. It was also a way for the Greeks and Romans to celebrate the beauty of the body and embrace a philosophical ideal of the human form. They considered strength and endurance training as an essential part of a classical education.
Like so many other activities at Cair Paravel, the students don’t realize they’re participating in something rooted in the classical tradition. They just know it’s fun. Stop into the gym next Friday morning and see for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.