Fourteen-year-olds Suraya Jones and Abdielis Torres stood in the back room of Westminster Strength and Conditioning taking turns doing squats with weights on their shoulders.
Each time one of the girls finished a set — especially after the times they bumped up weight — they would high five and congratulate each other in celebration.
For both Suraya and Abdielis, the last few weeks marked the first time either has done significant weight training. They’re not new to athletic activities — Suraya ha played basketball and Abdielis has danced — but when it comes to strength and conditioning, the now-routine workouts at Westminster Strength and Conditioning were completely new at the beginning of the summer.
This summer, Westminster Strength and Conditioning has partnered with the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster for older summer camp participants to weight train in the gym once or twice each week.
Sean Davis, director of operations at the Boys & Girls Club, said the club has a Leaders in Training program that these kids are a part of.
“We have a leadership component, we have a service component, and what we were lacking was a physical fitness component,” he said.
Steve Barker, a trainer at the gym, reached out to the club to see if there were students who would want to participate, and “we were all in,” he said. It’s a nine-week program this summer, though Davis said they’re looking to continue the partnership in the fall.
“The kids were nervous at first but they kind of hit the ground running,” he said. “The one thing I’ve noticed from the very get-go — these are our young leaders and they were chosen for that very reason — it just gives them a level of confidence. We’ve seen an overall improvement in attitude and just their demeanor walking around.”
This type of program helps them bolster their self-esteem, he added.
For Abdielis and Suraya, the program is doing just that.
“We add more each week,” Abdielis said of their weight training.
At the end of each workout, she added, they do cardio, like running up a hill in Westminster near the gym.
And while both girls said they’ve learned a lot this summer and gotten stronger, the weight training classes are about more than exercise.
“One, it makes me more confident, and two, it’s a great stress relief,” Suraya said.
Barker said the gym has been around since April 2012, but this has been one of the busiest summers so far. This past year, they had a lifting club for eighth graders at West Middle School from January until the end of the school year. After that ended, he said, the gym was trying to figure out what else was possible in terms of partnerships.
Barker said he spoke with Davis to see if the club would be interested, and have been doing the summer as a trial.
“So far it’s been a lot of fun,” he said.
Barker said the focus with the kids in the club is basic training, like squats, bench presses, overhead presses, dead lifts and more. At the end, he added, they do cardio-based challenges, like running hills or flipping tires.
Getting the kids involved in exercise is important, because as kids head to high school, many forego gym class. This program is a chance for them to learn what they like and don’t like at the gym, and helps get them interested and unafraid of working out.
Beau Bryant, the owner of the gym, echoed Barker’s thoughts.
“They do a lot of screen time,” Bryant said of kids these days.
This program is a chance to introduce teens to a “lifestyle of physical fitness,” he said.
“The more kids we can introduce to the sport of weight lifting and getting stronger with strength training, the better,” Bryant said.
This content was originally published here.