Hidden in the labyrinthine halls of Northern Secondary School, in the earliest of Friday morns, teacher Daniel Gana gets the blood flowing through the veins of Northern students.
It started as a dry-land practice for the Red Knights swim team. Now it’s evolved into Get Fit Fridays, a program guaranteed to frighten away the shadows of lethargy in teens without the use of caffeine.
“Here are people, what are they doing at 7 o’clock in the morning? Probably nothing, just lazing around,” Gana says. “It’s a thing where the students get to know each other, they get to know the program and they feel comfortable.”
I have to give props to Northern’s phys ed department for doing that extra rep for students.
About a year ago, I had the opportunity to cover the midtown school’s healthy lifestyle program. It proves faculties across the city are not just paying lip service to the health of their students.
“We’re using fitness to promote confidence and to promote a sense of community in the school,” Gana says. “I’m not trying to battle obesity, we’re just finding a way to make it fun for everybody and keep people coming back.”
It doesn’t stop with the TDSB either.
In the past, I’ve chatted with phys ed head Bill Fifield over at St. Mike’s. He’s in the business of getting his students aware of peak physical fitness right to the bare bones.
The grade 11 program is chock full of anatomy tidbits, such as musculature and skeletal structure. From there, the students become their own personal trainers.
“Strength training is a risk, by all means, but there are a lot of safety features you can build into the program,” Fifield told me. “Important ones like don’t lift too much weight — always lift less than you think you can and then work your technique until you are ready to make progressions.”
Trainer and Serious About Fitness winner Taya Day says a lot of physical fitness is dependent on what fuel is in the tank.
That means no lunches at Mickey D’s kids.
“One thing especially I would say about growing up, doing sports and being athletic is people really need to learn how to eat properly,” she says. “A lot of the time if you go to practice, gymnastics or a game and you don’t know proper nutrition, that really affects your performance.”
Though Day keeps 40-something women fit, she does field questions from mothers about how their children can remain in tip-top shape.
“Usually I just recommend that they get involved in a sport or something athletic rather than going to a gym,” she says.
If that doesn’t work, a little Occam’s razor theory doesn’t hurt.
“Half the time they’re like, ‘Oh my daughter is putting on all this weight, she’s 16 years old, should I get her to start working out?’ and I ask, ‘What does she eat for lunch?’ ‘A Nutella sandwich’, and I’m like ‘Well, you better start off by fixing that’.”