Girls in motion

by Laurel Myers | March 4, 2015

New program focuses on teen girls, boosting fitness


St. Charles College teacher Chantal D’Agostino (left, in white) joins students for a group run during a fitness-based class specifically for girls. PHOTO BY LAUREL MYERS

Chantal D’Agostino has a passion for fitness, one which she is striving to impart upon her students, particularly the young girls.

At the start of the school year, the St. Charles College physical education teacher began teaching a class specific to the female student body that focuses on fitness and nutrition. Her goal was to appeal to the masses — both the athletes and non-athletes — to encourage a higher level of physical activity.

“I find that after girls take Grade 9 Phys. Ed., that’s it for them,” D’Agostino said. “There is a lack in our system for keeping them motivated to do something.”

As a means of motivation, the teacher set forth a goal for her students to complete the Sudbury Santa Shuffle. The challenge was met with great response with 65 students (male and female) opting to take part in the 2014 race.

With the foundation already in place, D’Agostino stumbled upon FitSpirit, a national program aimed at girls aged 12-17, which introduces physical activity in a fun and friendly environment. Since its founding in 2007, FitSpirit has created awareness among 67,000 teenage girls in Quebec and Ontario. This year, the program expanded to Sudbury, London, and Ottawa, with D’Agostino stepping in as the local co-ordinator. She said it was the missing piece to what she was already offering.

“With this program, I’m looking to target the girls in the hallway who don’t do anything at lunchtime or who want to get fit and don’t know how to start,” she said. “Each girl will receive a training log for recording all their exercise, they will have a one-hour session with a nutritionist and a one-hour session of Zumba as well.”

The key to the program is that everyone can take part, athlete or not. There is no competition and no pressure to perform; the only objective of FitSpirit is for girls to have fun together while trying new physical activities.

Grade 11 student Jaiden Patrick is a multi-sport athlete at St. Charles. She said she enrolled in the class this year because she likes to be active.

“I just thought of it as an easier way to stay active with school and I like to play sports,” she said. “This program has helped me a lot to stay fit and keep up with staying active.”
She said being a part of the program has helped build her confidence, and that of her classmates.

“We can show anyone that … we can do anything anyone else can,” Patrick said. “I think it has boosted everyone’s confidence, just being in this class together. It helps a lot too that we’re all friends.”

Unlike Patrick, classmate Chelsea Godon is not involved in any high school sports. However, enrolling in the class this past September has given her the self-assurance to delve into fitness on her own.

“I wanted to get into better shape and be able to run better and get more active,” she said. “The circuit training is pretty good. Now I can make up my own routines and do my own fitness program at home.”

Overall, she said the most important lesson she has taken from the fitness class is that she’ll get a return on her investment.

“The harder you work, the better results you’re going to get,” Godon said.

FitSpirit is officially being launched in Sudbury in March. In addition to St. Charles, D’Agostino is co-ordinating the program across 10 other schools within the Sudbury Catholic District School Board, with separate program directors at each location. Based on the immediate onslaught of interest, D’Agostino said she hopes to expand to other schools in coming years.


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