How Ramon and Asha Rodriguez are getting kids excited about fitness and are working to fight childhood obesity – with help from a superhero, of course! Photography by Eric Haigler.
Husband and wife team Ramon and Asha Rodriguez started Boys and Girls Fitness USA in 2007 as a summer bootcamp for kids between the ages of 5 and 15, but the response was so overwhelming that they decided to continue it as an after school program during the school year. Asha holds a Doctorate in education, while Ramon has a Master’s in Spanish, and together they have owned and operated Family Fitness & Nautilus Health, a full-service health and fitness center in Orangeburg, South Carolina for over 24 years. The Boys and Girls Fitness USA program incorporates a recreation center that is attached to the main club, and is designed to teach kids about the importance of health, fitness and nutrition in an effort to combat the alarming rise in childhood obesity and related illnesses.
Transportation is available from the various schools in the area, and kids do their homework first before eating a healthy snack. After this, it’s time to enjoy a wide variety of weekly activities, including a game room, swimming, martial arts, racquetball, basketball, volleyball, putt-putt and batting cages. The kids are also taken into the main club and shown how to do strength training, cardio exercises, aerobics and calisthenics. And since no fitness regimen is complete without proper nutrition, kids get to attend seminars that teach healthy eating habits.
“We created a superhero character by the name of ‘Captain Fitness’ who fights poor nutrition and unhealthy habits,” says Asha. Captain Fitness gets the message out in the form of skits with other characters who are dressed up as junk foods that try to influence the kids to make bad choices. But Captain Fitness always comes in and saves the day, sending the junk food characters running and screaming in fear. He then brings out other healthy food characters and begins to talk to the kids about how to make smart food choices. “Kids are very receptive and make changes very quickly. The more they learn about health and fitness, the more motivated they become,” shares Asha.
Boys and Girls Fitness USA currently has around 20 kids enrolled in the after school program, and has seen up to 250 in the summer program. Ramon and Asha marketed the program by putting up billboards, printing brochures and putting up signs along the road and in front of schools. When they arrive, the kids are divided up into groups according to their age, keeping older (and larger) kids separate from the younger crowd. The activities are set up so one age group is doing a particular activity while another age group is doing something else. To have a successful kids fitness program, it is important to have staff dedicated to the special needs of children and young adults. The kids will also need to be well supervised, and someone who is trained in CPR and first aid should always be readily available. In addition, club owners need to have their hearts in it for a program like this to succeed. Asha and Ramon are always on site, and as we all know, no one cares as much for a business as the owners.
So far, the results of the program have been very encouraging – kids are losing weight and gaining self-esteem, their energy is being channeled in the right direction, and parents have said their children are doing better in school. “This concept is new in Orangeburg, where there is not much for kids to do. Now that they have such a wide variety of activities at Boys and Girls Fitness USA, word is spreading very quickly,” says Asha. She and Ramon hope that by educating kids early, they will develop a healthy lifestyle and maintain it into adulthood. -
To learn more about Boys and girls fitness usa, please email asha rodriguez at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 803.347.8525