JENNIFER JACKSON’S PORT TOWNSEND NEIGHBOR COLUMN: Boot camp comes to middle school

On Monday, they did yoga.

On Wednesday, aerobic movement to music.

But when students at Blue Heron Middle School came to physical education class Thursday, they were faced with a harsh reality.

Boot camp.

The drill instructors: Teresa Hoffmann, owner of the Port Townsend Athletic Club, and her oldest son, Stevie Weaver, 20.

Working with half of the students in each grade at a time, they put the new recruits through an hour of strenuous exercises, old-school style.

“We want to start a movement to take P.E. back to when there were a lot more calisthenics,” Hoffmann said.

“Gyms are very different today than 50 to 100 years ago. There are no ropes, no rings, no climbing, because of safety.

“But we’re also losing out,” Hoffmann said.

Tom Kent, the school’s athletic director and P.E. teacher, started talking to Hoffmann and Weaver about bringing a version of their adult exercise class, called boot camp training, to the school.

He and coach Scott Ricardo participated along with the students in the first three morning sessions in the school gym last Thursday.

“I worked up a real sweat from the first sessions,” Kent told the group of seventh-graders coming in for their turn.

Calisthenics are simple exercises that require no equipment SEmD just open space and the natural resistance of body weight.

To start off, Hoffmann led stretches and warm-up exercises involving running and jumping in place.

Then Weaver took over, asking each student to pair up with another.

A Port Townsend High School graduate, Weaver has a blue belt in Brazilian jiujitsu, is a certified Russian kettle bell instructor and has the biceps to prove it.

How it’s done

Demonstrating the way to do a pushup, he started out with the hardest version, on hands and toes with the body off the floor, then showed the students how to do modified versions.

While one student in each pair did pushups, the other did a less strenuous exercise. Then they switched, repeating each set several times.

Weaver also demonstrated the power version of a lunge, both arms straight up in the air while jumping up and alternating the forward leg.

“That’s how you do it if you want to be strong like a bull SEmD or just have nicer legs,” Hoffmann said as students gave it a try.

For middle school students, the biggest challenge is coordinating the movements, Hoffmann said.

The second biggest challenge: using the proper technique so that each exercise is done safely and effectively.

“The best type of physical education for children is good old-fashioned movement,” Hoffmann said.

“It should start early. Being coordinated and safe SEmD it’s a lifelong skill.”

Weaver also demonstrated a squat jump that, when done fast, resembled break dancing.

Kelly Lillian, 13, managed to execute the move in good form, while Mikaila Gibson, 12, who had a broken wrist, did crunches with Hoffmann as an alternative.

Doing sets of calisthenic exercises has mental benefits as well as physical ones.

“The brain loves pattern,” Hoffmann said.

Students’ reactions

For students who are into sports, last week’s boot camp was not too much of a shock.

Tristin Minnihan, 12, who competes in swimming and wrestling, said he had done similar exercises at a Seattle University sports camp.

Stevie Riepe, 13, said he had done a lot of the same drills in martial arts classes.

Students who hadn’t done this type of exercise before said they liked it better than easier activities.

“What’s the point of physical education if you’re not going to exercise your body?” said Amber Conceicao, 13.

Hoffmann and Weaver volunteered their time at the school to lead boot camp, which they held Thursday and Friday morning, and are taking it to the high school this week.

They challenge the students to give each exercise their best shot but offer alternative versions and stress safety.

Calisthenics is also the basis of the Rhody Run Boot Camp, which Hoffmann held last year for the first time.

For people who walk for exercise, calisthenics takes exercise to a whole different level, Hoffmann said, but the result is an increase in flexibility, stamina and strength.

“It’s important for running if you work on the core muscles,” Hoffmann said. “It’s sports conditioning. It works.”

12K training

Blue Heron students also train for the Rhody Run, a 12K held at the end of the Rhododendron Festival.

Last year, the school had 150 kids and staff in the event, Kent said.

“It’s a big deal,” Kent said. “They come to school the next day in their T-shirts, and we take pictures.”

Throughout the year, students also can earn points toward their P.E. grade by doing activities outside of class.

They include running, jogging, biking or swimming five miles in a week; swearing off junk food for five consecutive school days; eating a healthy breakfast and healthy lunch for five days; attending an athletic event and talking to the teacher about it; or teaching a family member five exercises learned in P.E. class.

Kent measures each student’s height and tests physical skills at the beginning, middle and end of the school year so that progress can be recognized.

Students also can earn “Fit for Life” T-shirts by completing the Presidential Fitness Challenge, with the Port Townsend Athletic Club sponsoring the shirts this year, Kent said.

A chart on the wall displays the names and times of students who have excelled in the seven challenges: sit-ups or curls, shuttle run, sit and reach, mile run, pull-ups, vertical jump reach and a pacer run, in which students run back and forth, changing directions at the sound of a tone.

“In the last four weeks, we had four set new records,” Kent said. “Kids know the records, and they want to break them.”

As dean of students at the school, he also promotes character-building exercises.

One that everyone in the school is encouraged to perform on a regular basis: doing a good deed for someone you don’t know well.

Kent also starts each P.E. class asking students what the word for the week is. Last week, it was self-control.

While they do stretches, he talks about the meaning of the word and applying it in daily life. Each P.E. class ends with cool-down exercises.

Then Kent tells the students to look left, look right, then come back to the center.

“It’s important to always have that balance in life,” Kent said.

Rhody Run preparation

To prepare for this year’s 12K Rhody Run, Hoffmann and Weaver are holding the second annual Rhody Run Boot Camp starting 
April 11.

The class will meet Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. for six weeks at Mountain View Commons, 1919 Blaine St., Port Townsend.

Cost for the 18 sessions is $175 if registered by March 21.

They are sponsored by the Port Townsend Marathon Association, Jefferson County YMCA and the Port Townsend Athletic Club.

To sign up, visit www.porttownsendathletic.com.

The 33rd annual Rhody Run will be May 22, starting and ending at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend.

Early registration through Monday is $25 for adults and $10 for youths 15 and younger. Fees increase March 1.

For more information, go to www.rhodyrun.com.

________

Jennifer Jackson writes about Port Townsend and Jefferson County every Wednesday. To contact her with items for this column, phone 360-379-5688 or e-mail jjackson@olypen.com.

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