NOVATO, Calif. - I have to confess when I was asked if I wanted to go exercise at 8:15 in the morning with a bunch of kids from Novato, I didn't automatically jump for joy. It's Friday after all. After a long and grueling week, I didn't know if I wanted the assignment.
I'm glad I took it.
We drove 45 minutes from San Francisco to Novato, a nice, suburban community just north of the city and our spectacular Golden Gate Bridge.
When our newsvan drove into the school parking lot, we were greeted by a bunch of enthusiastic students from Loma Verde Elementary. You have to understand that I have been given assignments and have driven to places where TV news reporters are not welcomed, so to be cheered on by young faces waving as we arrived, was a treat. I almost felt like actress Sally Fields, when she delivered that iconic speech on Oscar night, "You like me, you really like me." I was happy their parents stopped me to take pictures with their children before they sprung into action.
The program is called "Loma Verde in Motion." It was started by the school's physical education teacher, Keith Bergman in 2013 and has since been adopted by every elementary school in Novato and other Northern California Schools.
The children start with a gentle walk around the outdoor court. It was a spectacular February morning, sunny and mild. It's no wonder every other state hates us for our weather. Bergman also set up some speakers to bring ambiance to the daily routine. After getting their juices flowing, the fun began.
Students go through a whole movement routine that includes cardio-respiratory, muscular conditioning and flexibility exercises. Don't try this at home.
All of this while Bergman pumps out his playlist of workout music. OK, you got me, once he played the hit from the movie Madagascar, "I like to move it, move it," I became one of them. No one judged me or laughed. I looked around me and saw parents, teachers and school staff just as motivated.
You see this is a community affair. If parents exercise, they set an example for their children to do the same. And, as I was reminded by Bergman, if you start to exercise early in life, you are more likely to become an active, healthy, happy and productive adult.
But humans do not live on exercise alone. Bergman and some of the older kids got on the wooden outdoor stage to remind everyone about the value of eating healthy.
"I don't even have to remind kids about the benefits of a good nutrition," expressed Bergman. "They come up to me and say, 'Coach, I'm slow today, I haven't had my carrots.'"
What teachers and parents love most about the program is that this early morning exercise program helps the children focus more when they start school. Their brains are awake.
It's true. My brain too was now awake, alive and enthusiastic. I came back to the newsroom with a positive attitude and feeling good, happy.
Or maybe it was those BBQ pork buns that someone in the newsroom so kindly brought in to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Gung hay fat choy, which means "Wishing you great happiness and prosperity."
And, as the students of Loma Verde would remind all of us, don't forget "health" is just as important.
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