School expands faculty fitness program to include community

April 13, 2019

As West Valley School health enhancement and physical education teacher Tara Measure demonstrated the first set of exercises to a group of faculty and community members in the school gym on Monday, she opened the door to an expanded fitness regimen for the community.

Based on high-intensity interval training, Measure split the exercises into 30- and 10-second segments of motion and rest.

Picking up hand weights, music turned up, participants kicked off the first round of a free fitness class. Once offered just to faculty, the class is now also available to the community.

The former faculty fitness program had been going on for about 12 years, but a new school wellness committee Measure leads wanted to open it up to residents as part of the district’s adult education offerings. Public school districts receive state funds specifically for establishing adult education classes. Subject matter varies district by district and is typically driven by the interests or needs of residents.

“We were thinking of ways to involve the community,” Measure said, noting that in addition to teaching PE, she is an instructor at Flathead Health and Fitness in Kalispell.

The community fitness class meets from 4 to 5 p.m. Mondays and equipment is provided, including hand weights, bands, exercise balls and aerobic step/riser platforms, which are also used for PE classes. Measure said the school has also acquired some boxing bags.

All fitness levels are welcome, Measure said. Community resident Krista Ruonavaara and West Valley School counselor Crystal Thurman noted that Measure will modify exercises for different fitness levels.

“I just like having this once a week, something that’s different from what I’m used to with my normal routine,” Thurman said.

At the front of the group, Measure led them through sets of lunges, jump squats and knee lifts. Pulses and breathing quickened.

“Go at your own pace,” she reminded them.

The group paused for a quick drink, before starting another set. While the exercises may change from week to week, the classes always begin with a warm-up, include abdominal work and end with a cool-down.

Fitness seems to be all around West Valley School. While the group exercised indoors, outdoors cross-country students running on a fitness trail were visible through the windows.

The trail is about a mile long, Measure said. Trail improvements are also a topic of the wellness committee, according to Measure. The goal, since the early stages of designing the trail was to eventually create fitness stations along the way and install equipment such as pull-up bars, for example, as funding becomes available.

The committee has also focused on offering healthy food and drinks in the school.

“We introduced a salad bar this year for the middle school and so now we are looking to supply two more for the elementary,” Measure said, adding that soda machines have been replaced primarily with water, sparkling water and sports drink options.

While pre-registration is not required for the fitness class, Measure requests that people interested in participating email their contact information to her at tmeasure@westvalleyschool.com.

She encouraged the public to come try a class.

“Everybody’s there for the same reason,” Measure said. “You can be at any fitness level. I’m there to try and help them out, feel good and have fun.”

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.