Birds chirp. Kids chatter. The sun cooks the earth below, as the occasional breeze rustles the flowery trees that line Partnership Village’s sidewalk – providing welcome, though temporary, relief from the heat.
It feels like just another lazy, hazy day of summer, the kind in which kids relax under shady trees, dreaming of ice cream, water fights and all things cold – until, that is, a van decked out in Progress Fitness regalia pulls up to Partnership Village.
Paul Gilmer gets out of the car, sets down an amp and the music starts pumping. Suddenly, the kids at Partnership Village who had been relaxing in the shade snap to attention.
It’s time for the Kids Fit Club to begin.
Cartwheels and Cones
“All right, all right,” Paul says, as the kids gather around the cones he’s set up.
“Let’s warm up.”
The owner of Progress Fitness, Paul puts on field days, summer camps and student exercise classes at county schools.
On this day, the first-time volunteer at Partnership Village has already directed three summer camps. But he’s still bursting with energy – fueled by his fight for fitness.
“All right, back up to the cones,” Paul says, shepherding the kids into lines behind three groups of cones.
A bouncy girl in a pink top and rainbow skirt with pretty multi-colored beads in her hair runs through the course; drill complete, she goes back into the line and does a cartwheel.
Two of the older girls start to dance to the music, and a young boy in a blue shirt jumps in place, a big smile on his face.
They run around the cones, then go backwards, doing every move imaginable, under Paul’s direction.
The girl in the rainbow skirt keeps up her cartwheel routine, running back in line after each drill and then cartwheeling to her heart’s content.
Fighting Childhood Obesity
“It’s DJ Be Smooth,” the radio croons, as the kids sit in the shade during their break, sipping water.
Paul, though, doesn’t take a break. The personal trainer never stops moving – literally — shifting from one foot to the other, as he talks about his volunteer work at Partnership Village.
“I’m just giving back to the community,” he says.
Pushing exercise when kids are young is paramount, he says.
“Say they’re [the kids] 25, and they come to my boot camp,” Paul says.
If they’ve exercised in the past – even if only as children – they’ve created muscle memory and have fine-tuned their motor skills.
If not, “I can tell,” Paul said.
That’s not something individual people should feel ashamed of, but it is something we as a society should address, Paul says.
“Studies show that kids that are more active when they are young are skinnier as adults,” Paul says.
Break over, Paul tells the first kids standing in lines to start their new drills.
“He fronted me!” one kid yells, as another ties his shoes yet again.
The kids dribble their way back and forth in the parking lot, then move on to a drill with a lattice and a small hurdle.
And then it’s over. Paul starts to gather up the equipment; the kids run over to the shade to get some water and ice pops.
As Paul prepares to leave, it’s quiet outside again, birds still chirping, kids still chattering – and the sun just a little less sweltering.