By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun
10:03 PM EDT, September 15, 2011
When Arundel Middle School launched its Fit Club last year, nearly three dozen students signed up to take part in a gym activity that included cardio exercises, weight training and workouts with the P90X fitness program.
But many of them didn't think their teachers would show up, too.
"It's kind of funny sometimes," said Arundel seventh-grader Jose Ramirez. "It's a different experience seeing them, like, work. They usually see us work a lot."
That is what Arundel Middle physical education teacher Jason Lively envisioned when he launched the Fit Club last year. Concerned about the growing number of youngsters who do not get enough exercise, he opened the 45-minute class to all students, and then he invited parents, teachers and faculty, hoping that their participation would bolster youngsters' interest.
The adults, who often take part by offering instruction and support, allow students to see them as many normally would not, working and often struggling alongside them to endure a challenging activity. The program will resume at Arundel Middle next week and is slated to run each Friday.
"The kids love it when they see their teachers down there, just sweating and getting active with them," said Lively, who also serves as Arundel High School's baseball coach. "Obesity is an absolute epidemic in this country right now. It comes down to fitness, health, wellness and nutrition. We try to lead by example, to participate with the kids. And when we show up in the morning, we want to work out with them."
Lively said he came up with the class after taking part in meetings with Arundel Middle faculty that focused on ways to make students more alert in the morning. He drew from his experiences in coaching, where he noted that youngsters appeared more alert and attentive when they were active.
"They're more motivated to be receptive to learning and those things that they're being taught," said Lively, who also takes part in the Fit Club. "It's a choice to be physically fit and healthy."
The class begins in the morning before the school day, and because it's so early, students must wear Fit Club wristbands to enter school. The group uses such equipment as dumbbells, free weights, resistance bands, cardio-balls, jump ropes and agility ladders.
Arundel Middle seventh-grader Isaiah Freeman said that he decided to take part in the class at his father's suggestion. Knee problems, Isaiah said, forced him to give up a variety of sports, "and my dad said that I should try something to get back in shape and have fun doing it."
Arundel Middle seventh-grade teacher Andrea Edwards said that the class helps her stay fit for distance running. She used it last year in preparation for a half-marathon. She said she also figured it would be a great activity to do with current and former students.
"I think they enjoy seeing a teacher come out and do it," Edwards said.
Jose said that he decided to join the Fit Club after seeing his brother come home "smelling really terrible" after workouts.
"I asked him why and he told me he did this hard program called P90X," Jose said. "He told me that I was not strong enough to do it. So I came with him one day and I tried it out. It was hard but I can do it."
Lively said that for Fit Club members, he crafted a modified version of the intense P90X program. But Jose said that he has become so good at it that he does P90X at home with his brother, who purchased the program.
And he added that taking part in the Fit Club has bolstered his energy and his confidence. "I feel stronger, like I can take on the world," Jose said. "I feel like I gained more muscle than when I had before. We leave [the workout] tired but we feel great that we finished."
Lively said that the class met twice a week last year, and he hopes to return to that schedule as the year progresses.
"Nobody really cares about health until you start getting sick," Lively said. "It's very important. This year I want to monitor their grades to see if there's a correlation between good health and [success in] the classroom. If we can tie that fitness does help out with academics that's going to be tremendous."