For this post, I decided to start from the very beginning and focus on where fitness starts. I went to the next over in Mullica Hill, and visited Pleasant Valley Elementary school for a fitness program for students. This program is called Pleasant Valley Fit, run by gym teachers Brian Gray, 46, and Lauren Mitcham, 33.
Pleasant Valley fit had originally started as a summer camp. Gray took some time to make sure it was noted the kids loved it right off the bat, and they actually wanted to come after school to continue it, and from there it took off.
I had the opportunity to join in the activities for the day which included, pull-ups, push ups, peg wall climbing, tire flips, battle ropes, jump roping, core exercises, and ending in a big game of dodgeball. All of the stations took about 3-4 minutes each and the students would rotate at the blow of a whistle.
Gray said, “I think the important thing is just to get them active when they’re young and then they’ll decide what they like to do as they get older, but just getting them moving and enjoying what they’re doing”, Mitcham went on to add, “Give them as many choices as they like because not everyone is going to like the same things”.
The greatest thing was getting to see that in action, students were having a great time, smiling and enjoying each activity as they moved on. There certainly was variety, and stand out stars, but kids got to go at their own pace and have fun at the same time.
Gray said, “I want them the come and just do the best that they can, our ability range is huge. There are kids that come in and do 100 push ups and pull up with no problems and there’s others that can’t do any of that. I just want them to give their best effort”.
Mitcham doesn’t like to give a goal to everyone, but will go out of her way to take to some students, “ Sometimes I will go over and see someone who has been here for years, and likes to actually push themselves, they won’t be offended and get mad, and try to ask them what their goal is or push them a little more.”
Pleasant Valley fit focuses on not just one type of fitness, and tries to show them as many things as possible at a young age, “We try to introduce them to as many different fitness concepts as possible. Speed and agility, strength training name a few. We take ideas from cross fit, from traditional strength training programs and just let them try everything….”, Gray said, and Mitcham picked up,”and we even have guests come in, we had a kick boxing guest, a crossfit guest and actual coaches that are certified and then we’ve even done like stretching and yoga.”
Fitness can be tough at a young age, especially finding a way that is fun and wants to keep the kids going. I asked Gray and Mitcham what kids should do to get in shape, “Do it! Every program works if you commit to it. The thing is to find what you like and just stick with it.” Mitcham said, “And change it up really. Not do the same thing all of the time.”
Which should not be tough for kids, since they are always on the move and changing things up. There are plenty of sports out there for kids to try out and figure out what they like. The important thing is to just get them involved at a young age, so they keep it up when they get older.
Gray made sure to add that, “when you’re working with kids safety is always the first thing. We keep an eye on each station and make sure the kids are really doing them properly.”
Safety is always first no matter the situation, but especially with little kids. these kids are using certain types of equipment that even adults are using, such as the tire, kettle bells, medicine balls, and weights.
The greatest part about all of this was that the kids made me get involved. I was walking around taking pictures and one kid called me out. He was doing push ups and I was telling him good job keep going and he told me it looks easy when you’re not doing it. he actually said, “how about you do it muscles?” I couldn’t help but to laugh.
Me being the guy that I am though, said, “Okay, for every one push up that you do, I’ll do two.” I got down and got ready and he was in shock. We went back and forth for about 30 seconds and laughed at the end. I got up, gave him a high five, and kept on going.
I asked what the kids look forward to most each day and I got the most simple answer I could have ever imagined, Gray said, “Dodgeball.”
And he was not kidding. They lined the kids up, boys on one line and girls on another and asked if the girls wanted both myself, and the other volunteer, Tyler Hickman against them and the boys. The girls screamed with joy and took the offer.
So here we are, two 19 year old young adults along side a bunch of 5th and 6th grade girls on the line for dodgeball facing all of the boys. When the music starts these kids take off to center court for all of the dodge balls, and what happens next I was not ready for.
Hickman and I stand there as every other second a ball is flying by us. These kids really did take this seriously! I won’t lie, we got out multiple times, and had a blast with these kids as we did it. It was an incredible connection with these kids.
The greatest thing was getting to see that kids are still getting involved with fitness and having fun with it at the same time. I was afraid going in, because I feel as though kids don’t take fitness as seriously as they should. Gray, Mitcham and the volunteer, Hickman showed me otherwise.
What the program did was seriously amazing and something unlike anything I’ve seen before. All around great experience, and a huge opportunity for me to open my eyes to the very beginning stages of fitness.
Pleasant Valley Fit is only open to kids at Pleasant Valley during the school year, although the summer program is totally open to anyone who wants to get involved. To get involved, or get in contact with them click here, and follow the website to online registration and sign your kid up today for a program in the future, and a fun experience for them. Also, feel free to check out their Facebook page for updates and more information.
Thank you to everyone at Pleasant Valley Fit for allowing me in on this experience and sharing their story with everyone! Keep up the great work and keep going!