Weight Room: Training the Whole Student


Macy Eskelsen

Weight Room: Training the Whole Student

Macy Eskelsen

All students being comfortable in the weight room is incredibly important. Coach Preston Pedersen has done an amazing job at making this a priority at Mount Vernon High School.

At the end of eighth grade, students begin to plan their schedule for freshman year and have to choose a gym class: Lifetime Fitness or Mustang Strength and Speed. Lifetime focuses more on activities students will be able to participate in throughout their life. Mustang Strength and Speed spends three days a week in the weight room lifting and one day in the gym playing games. Without much experience lifting weights, dozens of students circle Strength and Speed.

Walking nervously into the weight room on day one and watching the sophomore athletes move with purpose somewhere they are very obviously at home can be overwhelming. Being a freshman is scary. That feeling doesn’t last long as the newbies are welcomed in and slowly taught the basics.

Pedersen creates this welcoming environment by getting to know his students and their interests so he can have meaningful conversations not just about PE. He also asks for input on future lifts or other aspects of the school, showing that he is interested in who you are and your opinions. Because of this, students are able to increase their exercise knowledge and slowly become stronger and more comfortable in the weight room.

When I was a freshman, I came in unsure of myself and scared to ask questions. However, I was forced to when I couldn’t complete some of the exercises. I couldn’t do a pull-up and needed a modification. Pedersen helped me substitute something that would help me get closer to being able to do one.

Whether students can barely lift the bar or are piling on plates, Pedersen is cheering them on, helping them meet their goals. Following his example, students learn to support others through their journey and foster a positive workout environment. Gaining this skill in high school is important, a time when judgments abound. It is almost too easy to dismiss someone as too intense or too weak, instead of recognizing the effort everyone is putting in.

Students not only grow physically in the weight room but also in other ways. They learn leadership skills, respect, and accountability. Students set their own standards for themselves. No one else is counting the reps. No one else is cleaning up after the students.

I was always embarrassed about how little I was lifting or my inability to do some things. Slowly, I learned the joy of students encouraging each other in their goals. Even if the goal is just to get through class. Finally, I started to feel at home in the weight room just like the “older kids” had appeared so long ago. Because I felt comfortable, I was able to get stronger mentally and physically while learning to love working out. Now, as a senior, I’m looking forward to making time in my life to exercise, without the fear of the unknown parts of the gym.

Being comfortable exercising in spaces where you are uncomfortable is important throughout all stages of life. Students need a space to grow and learn more about themselves physically and mentally and that place is the Mount Vernon weight room.