Jaws dropped as one of Rick Cirelli’s seventh grade gym classes entered Winman Junior High School’s new weight room for the first time.
Each student excitedly began asking Cirelli questions about specific equipment and what they could use during the class. They appeared especially drawn to the two Espresso Bikes, stationary bikes that feature a television screen with a virtual simulation of a bike path to follow. Cirelli said students could select a bike path, all of which are different distances, and set the seat height and bike speed to their preference.
In fact, Cirelli utilized this class’ first day in the new facility to walk them through how to properly, and safely, use all of the equipment. While the facility was completed on April 3 when all of the equipment was delivered and set up, this particular group of seventh graders had been in health class. An official grand opening ceremony, complete with ribbon cutting, will be held tonight at the Winman gym starting at 6. It is open to parents, guardians and members of the community.
When the facility opened for student use, Cirelli asked how many had been to local gyms with their families and a few raised their hands. For many, however, using the weight room in physical education classes is the first time they used equipment such as treadmills, stationary bikes, leg presses and other machines, which is why Cirelli says the facility is so important.
“We are here to teach them lifelong fitness, whether it is playing and creating their own game or developing a fitness plan for the rest of their lives,” said Cirelli, who said this new room will serve as an introduction to equipment they will see at local gyms and a tool to improve overall fitness levels. According to Dennis Mullen, director of secondary education, other schools have gym equipment but nothing like this.
The new facility, which is located in a room off of the main gym, features equipment from Gym Source, a company that provides the equipment for local gyms throughout the area. The equipment was purchased with a $65,000 Champlin Foundations grant.
Cirelli pointed out the USB port on the main panel of each treadmill. If the student chooses to, they can bring in a USB drive and connect it to the treadmill while they are completing their workout. The machine transfers the details of a routine on the treadmill (distance, time, calories, heart rate, etc.) to a file on the USB. The file could then be uploaded to a free account on Livestrong, Lance Armstrong’s charity’s website. Students could use this program to track their improvement over their time at Winman.
When it came time to demonstrate strength machines such as lap bars and leg presses, Cirelli made sure to tell students to read the safety instruction stickers on each machine. The stickers would not only show students how to properly position themselves and perform the exercise, but it also lists all of the muscles the machine works.
Seventh grader Michael Alves saw the weight room as a valuable tool to help with other aspects of physical education classes.
“I think it is going to help people do push-ups and do things they can do [in the regular class],” said Alves.
Classmates Abigail Burdick and Wenona Alexander both use gym facilities at a local YMCA but see the new equipment at their school as beneficial to students who may not have that opportunity.
“I think it’s better because it gives kids more of a chance to work out,” said Burdick, who was testing out the Espresso Bike for the first time. She had seen them at the YMCA but had never had the opportunity to test one out.
Burdick also took the time to work on a pull-up and dip assist machine, with Cirelli’s help.
Alexander said she would be taking advantage of the pull-up machine as well. She also thought she would utilize the leg press and treadmills during her class time.
“I think it is a great idea,” said Alexander of the new facility.
Before dismissing his class, Cirelli explained how time in the weight room would operate. Each student would be given a sheet to record exercises they complete. Students would rotate between using cardio machines and strength machines.
When strength machines are used in class, students are required to perform three repetitions of 10 on each machine. Their exercise sheet will also feature a place to record the weight and seat settings used on each machine.
The facility was only open for one week prior to April vacation, but Cirelli said that 15 students had already utilized the equipment after school during the Physical Education Department Day.
Each department has a select day to provide extra work time after school; Cirelli and his fellow physical education teachers Amy Bayha and Matt Acciaioli are going to have sign-ups to allow 24 students access to the facility during that time. If the interest grows, they will look into providing more after school time.
Cirelli believes providing the extra time in the weight room will benefit his students who are really interested in improving their fitness. He explained that class time in the weight room is limited to one day out of a three-day rotation schedule, but he wishes there could be more.
“A mind is a terrible thing to waste, we agree,” said Cirelli. “But so is the rest of the body.”
He added that in recent years physical education programs have shifted from being sports-based to a more fitness-based program in an attempt to teach students to take control of their own fitness in the future.
Cirelli also stressed the importance of providing students with a break from sitting at a desk in a classroom.
“Everyone wants scores to go up, but when kids are physically active, it relieves stress and gets them thinking again,” he said.
Finally, Cirelli pointed out that the weight room would provide physical activity for students who may be injured or have a physical disability. Traditionally, if a student broke their arm or injured their leg, they would need to sit out of gym class until they were healed. Cirelli now believes those students can use the weight room.
“Depending on the injury, students with lower body injuries can use upper body machines and students with upper body injuries can use lower body equipment,” said Cirelli.
In terms of students who may require a wheelchair, most of the strength machines have a feature that allows for the chair to be removed and a wheelchair to fit in the space instead. The room also features a crank cycle; a crank cycle is a type of stationary bike but the pedals are moved with one’s arms. The seat on the crank cycle can be removed and a wheelchair can fit in its place.
These features allow for all students to access a form of both cardio and muscle fitness.
As his class left the weight room, Alves was looking forward to his next opportunity to use the facility.
“I really wanted to try that,” said Alves, pointing to the pull-up and dip assist machine. “I haven’t yet.”
Alves is just one of the many students who will be introduced to new tools to help better their future fitness through Winman’s new weight room.