Waking up to fitness

Dunsmore Elementary School physical education teacher Roger Sondergaard was standing in the middle of a makeshift track on the school playground calling out instructions.

"If you are wearing Dunsmore clothing jog on the inside," he directed through a microphone.

Circling around him was what looked like a swimming school of children, teachers and parents. Some were walking, some skipping, some running. All of them were smiling.

"It's sort of a fun way to start a Friday," said Dunsmore Principal Karen Stegman.

The La Crescenta Elementary School this year launched Fit Friday, a weekly event geared at teaching students about the importance of physical fitness and health. And it is keeping in line with the Dunsmore Elementary School PTA's theme of Give Back, Get Fit and Go Green.

Each Friday, students gather on the school playground at 8 a.m. — 15 minutes before the normal start time. And with the Isley Brothers' "Shout" and other classics blaring on the sound system, they put in 20 solid minutes of cardio.

The track is divided into lanes, including a jogging zone and a walking zone. Prompted by Sondergaard, the exercisers move fluidly between the lanes. Students are often joined by teachers, parents and grandparents.

Dunsmore mom Cindy Ellingford circled the track alongside her 11-year-old daughter, Camie. Ellingford said she exercises regularly, both for her own well being and to set an example for others.

"I think it is good to be healthy so they don't sit around and gain weight, and be part of that problem," Ellingford said, referring to high rates of obesity among American children.

Opening Fit Friday to families allows parents to spend extra quality time with their children and their children's friends, Stegman said.

The response has been positive, Sondergaard said, and nearly the entire student body arrives early on Fridays to participate.

And all signs indicated that students were happy to be out for an early-morning workout. They galloped in alternating directions, danced and sang along to the music, and competed in impromptu races.

"I really like running," said Tyler Halaszynksi, 9. "I get excited because I get to let out all my energy before class."

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