Why burpees, laps and aerobic bowling start the day at this Fairfax Co. elementary school

For 12 years, dozens of kids at Chesterbrook Elementary School in McLean, Virginia, have hit the gym an hour before class to get their energy up and learn lifelong fitness habits and skills.

Around 30 fifth and sixth graders ran laps, slammed medicine balls and did burpees Monday morning under the guidance of PE teacher and “Fitness Warrior” founder Jay Levesque.

“We really try to gamify everything that they do, because fitness is fun if you make it fun, and that’s what we try to do in here,” Levesque told WTOP.

The children started off playing “Fitness Uno,” where they drew cards from the popular game’s deck and each color corresponded with a certain exercise such as pushups, air squats and burpees. Wild cards meant laps.

Levesque’s mission is for every student who joins his program to learn 100 body weight exercises that they can use for the rest of their life.

“I see people that, every year, end up coming to the gym on the first of the year or right after Thanksgiving, they typically don’t know what they’re doing. And it’s because they don’t have a strong foundation for their fitness,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to give them.”

The students then did relay races that combined running, medicine ball slams and planks, and then ended their workout with aerobic bowling, a hybrid of dodge ball and bowling, where teams tried to knock down each other’s bowling pins and then steal them for their own side.

Chesterbrook Principal Stacy Kirkpatrick said the “Fitness Warriors” program is extremely popular with every grade, which get one morning a week in the gym.

“It certainly makes them more alert and ready for the school day,” she told WTOP.

Fifth and sixth-grade students at Chesterbrook Elementary School in McLean, Virginia, take part in the "Fitness Warriors" program
Fifth and sixth-grade students at Chesterbrook Elementary School in McLean, Virginia, take part in the “Fitness Warriors” program. (WTOP/Luke Lukert)

When asked what exercise was his favorite, Nathan Ghorbanian told WTOP he loves pushups because “I like to work my chest, my arms.”

“I joined Fitness Warriors to like, get fit and have fun,” he said shortly before his team took first place in one of the class relays.

Ghorbanian is also a student instructor who helps Levesque with younger students.

“A lot of kids are very energetic,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard to keep, like keep them in focus. And once we do, we can have fun and play the games.”

Levesque said the program gives students other useful skills that go beyond fitness.

“I mean, these kids are now legends to a bunch of 5-year-olds or 7-year-olds that they help,” he said. “Kids want the opportunity to lead and do the right thing if you give them that opportunity.”

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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