Personal trainer on mission to keep kids active

When Glendale’s neighborhood streets and parks are empty of children’s laughter and games, Shannon Pondella grows worrisome.

Pondella grew up in Glendale with a family that spent much of their free time outdoors. At Crescenta Valley High School, she sprinted in track, and played softball and soccer. Her athleticism and love for sport led her to pursue kinesiology at Arizona State University, where she realized she enjoyed working with children.

As a certified personal trainer, her passion has now led her to create Surface Fitness, because “no matter what surface you’re on, there’s always a place to move,” she said.

Pondella trains young athletes or children who are new to physical fitness. With many of them, Pondella’s greatest goal is getting them to move. Often, when she meets kids who have never skipped or jumped rope, she contemplates the sedentary lifestyle kids have become accustomed to with the phones, computers and games that entertain them.

With the beginners, she starts at the beginning to further develop fine motor skills.

When Pondella learned from a second-grade teacher at Fremont Elementary School that students there begin physical education classes when they reach fourth-grade, she became a volunteer there coaching first-, second- and third-graders in physical education classes twice a week.

“It’s the case around the world,” she said. “[Physical education] classes are diminishing dramatically. A lot of them are just eliminated.”

She also finds it problematic when students don’t have a place to exercise. Many gyms are reserved for adults, and some don’t even want to play competitively.

With Surface Fitness, Pondella hopes to provide that space, working in groups or individually with students at their homes, in a park or elsewhere to foster play and exercise.

La Crescenta resident Art Jimenez placed his 10-year-old son Brandon Jimenez — a baseball player — under Pondella’s training a year ago.

“I was having trouble conditioning him. With any 10-year-old, they love to run around, but to get him to do proper form — the results were night and day,” he said.

The greatest changes Jimenez noticed were his son’s speed, muscle tone and strength he achieved without using weights.

“People just think they’re tiny adults,” Pondella said. “There’s so many things they can’t do or have to do differently for strength.”

“I went into this just wanting to make a difference,” she added. “I love working with kids. I knew that had to be a part of my field. In the last two years since I moved back to California, I see there’s a need for it.”

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