, Newburyport, MA

April 11, 2013

NHS wellness instructor pushing students toward fitness

By Jim Sullivan

---- — When Newburyport High wellness instructor Mike Guthrie told his students he wanted to start thinking outside the box for his new elective class, he meant it.

“We have a 45-minute class, and it takes about 15 minutes to put the snowshoes on,” said Guthrie. “We only did it a couple of times this year because we only had a couple of big storms, but they enjoyed that immensely because it was something that they never get to do.”

The class, called “Let’s Move” (taken from First Lady Michelle Obama’s physical fitness initiative), is Guthrie’s way of shaking things up within the Newburyport athletic world, and has indeed featured snowshoeing in World War Memorial Stadium, yoga, spinning and plyometrics, among other things.

“The kids had been playing the regular games in gym, pickle ball and badminton, and they were getting sick of that after a while,” said Guthrie. “A lot of kids don’t want to do the team sports. So they get to go down there and ride the bike or do something else.”

Sam Francis and Evan Habib, both of whom suffered ACL injuries during the past football season, have been riding the stationary bike for 11 miles per day in Guthrie’s class as part of their rehab routines. It seems to have worked for Habib, who was cleared to play baseball five weeks early.

“It’s an awesome class,” said Habib. “Being able to bike in a class three times a week absolutely helped me in my rehab. I got to come back five weeks early, and I can definitely say that biking three times a week helped with that.”

“Cycling is probably one of the best things to do to rehabilitate the knee,” said Guthrie. “In cycling, you’re working the muscles of the calf, the quad, so they are working the muscles around it and making them stronger.”

The class filled up quickly when it was offered at the beginning of the second semester. It also has been popular enough to create an after-school spinning class for both students and teachers, one of whom is literature instructor Tom Abrams.

“The winter wasn’t too kind to my waistline,” said Abrams. “So I decided to take Guthrie up on it. And on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we spin for about 45 minutes.”

Students and teachers spending time together is something Guthrie says he wanted to see more of this school year, and it makes for an interesting experience with many of his fellow adults giving their students some good-natured grief along the way.

“We get to joke around a little bit more,” Guthrie said. “It’s not tense, the kids have fun and the teachers have a little bit more fun. And you get a good workout.”

“One of the reasons we teach is that kids keep you young,” said Abrams. “And when they are down there working hard, you don’t want them to think that you’re too over the hill. So, you work out a little bit harder. It’s also fun to have the kids there to give them a hard time. To push them a little bit more by challenging them. (And) it’s always good to have a relationship with a kid outside of school because you can see a different side of them.”

The next outside-the-box activity Guthrie hopes to start for his regular class will be biking around town. Leading the way will be Habib, who has gotten to see another side to his teachers.

“It’s interesting to see them in and out of a classroom setting,” Habib said. “You get to see how they actually are.”