GAYLORD— Five years ago, Gaylord physical education teacher David Beyers reimagined the school’s elective physical training program. His first year, he had about 40 participants, enough to fill two class periods. Now, there’s over 600 people involved in his programming that includes high schoolers, middle schoolers, and even faculty.
“I’ve had principals come up and say, the culture in our hallway is different now... They’ve gotten some more pride, you know? And when you’re more prideful and respectful of yourself, that kind of pours out of you to others,” Beyers said.
He now offers a personal training class each period of every day.
“The stereotypical weight room, you think of big weights, big dudes trying to push as much weight as possible, and we have. Um, completely changed that very purposely.” And even in our equipment. Our 10-pound weights look the same size as our 45-pound plates. Our dumbbell set is just a bunch of clips, so you never know if someone has five pounds or 90 pounds. And so, the stigma of having to go in and feel like you have to keep up with putting a ton of plates on has just kind of gone away,” he said.
The class uses a kinetic performance technology called GymAware, which aids in the classes’ velocity-based training approach.
Beyers also makes sure his classroom does plenty of celebrating at every milestone.
“Some things are, are inherent. They, they have to have affirmation,” Beyers said. “We are in a tech age where you have constant affirmation or negative, and so we know that the power of negative is greater than the power positive. So, we always focus on, we’re going to celebrate whether it’s a new pr. If you went from five-pound dumbbells to 10 pounds, that’s a big deal.”
The class even has an Instagram where each class can see each other’s achievements.
Word of all of the good that Beyers’ classes have done for the Gaylord community has spread to other schools around Northern Michigan. He says it’s no longer surprising when his class has guests as other teachers and programs have wanted to replicate his and get involved. He encourages all of those who are interested in his program to reach out to him directly.
“We are going to find a way to help keep this growing and when the kids see that community investment in them, they take advantage,” Beyers said. “How do you lose on that? How do you lose on investing in your own kids and then seeing the reward of them being happier, healthier, more active? It’s awesome.”
Helping the Blue Devils’ program along the way has been other members of the community through grants. Some of the businesses include Jersey Mike’s, the US National Guard, and the Gaylord Community Foundation.
Gaylord junior, Aedan Polaniec, gave his story on how the class helped save his life.
“[I] Just kept gaining weight all throughout intermediate school. Got to about 170 pounds by age 12. At the end of my sixth-grade year, come middle school, I gain another 60 pounds, and by the time I’m 14, I have become really obese. And then around freshman year, I started having some serious body dysmorphia problems, mental issues, because of just depression caused from not being in good enough shape. Every single time I looked at myself in the mirror, I just wanted to break that mirror or just not want to see myself anymore at all,” Polaniec recalled.
Since starting Beyers’ class, Polaniec is down about 80 lbs. and he’s found a new confidence in himself and his abilities.
“It was grueling. It was probably one of the hardest experiences of my entire life. Just having to constantly keep going. That was the hardest aspect of it all. Putting every ounce of energy you got into your training. That is one of the hardest things, but if you can do that consistently on a week-to-week basis, then you’re able to do so much,” he said.
He now serves as an inspiration to many at school and hopes to inspire more with his story.
“It will get better. Just keep showing up and don’t lose faith in yourself. That is the biggest part,” he said.