Beginning in December 2011, Superior Fitness owner and trainer Dustin Alliano started hosting a class for teens — Friday Fitness and Fun Night — that combines video games and exercise.
Since its inception over a year ago, the class size has only grown and, according to Alliano, “has not had a single kid not return.”
Friday Fitness and Fun has been praised by participating teens and their parents, the latter of whom have noticed marked changes in their children including increased social activity, better performance in school, and more athletic coordination.
Magi Myggen, whose son Mikael has been attending the class for four months, has seen her son develop both physically and socially.
“Since [Mikael] started the class, he is more motivated now,” she said. “I saw his energy increase as he started exercising and appreciating his body more. He seems much happier. I saw my son make plans with a friend in this class the other day, which was great.”
The first hour of the class consists of circuit-training exercises, which often involve trampolines, jump ropes, and tires. Students do exercise stations in groups or in pairs so that they can encourage their partners during strenuous sequences. Oftentimes, according to Alliano, this is where students surprise themselves and bond with other members of the class.
“All they need is a little encouragement and no fear,” he said. “In this environment they are thriving and have learned to motivate each other. I’ve seen students really bond.”
The second hour, they play video games. However, according to Alliano, the students are only allowed to play games with each other, not anonymous players on the Internet.
Santa Barbara-based child psychologist Dr. Neal Mazer vouched for Alliano’s ability to connect with the adolescents, many of who are Mazer’s patients. According to Mazer, Alliano has helped students by simultaneously appealing to both their interests and limitations.
“I have watched him work magic,” Mazer said. “He uses gaming as a way to get kids in the door in a way and reach them on their level in a way that no one else has been able to. While most of us try to connect with kids from our ivory towers, Dustin has been able to gain their trust and knows that many of them want to try things but are just afraid to fail.”
Alliano’s initial purpose in creating the class was to provide a space where kids who normally do not socialize could meet and interact with other, similar teens. His students, it seems, have bonded with each other as much as they have with Alliano.
Wes Taimnty, who has been attending the class for two years, noticed that Alliano has influenced him both physically and mentally.
“Since joining, I’ve lost 30 pounds. I think [the fitness class] has helped me manage stress better, especially hitting the punching bag and the tire with a sledgehammer,” Taimnty said. “But Dustin really personalizes your workout. I see him as a mentor and a friend. Plus, he is always happy, and it sort of rubs off on you. I’m always happier when I leave his class.”
Dustin’s Fitness and Fun class for teens (ages 13-22) runs Monday and Wednesday from 4-5 p.m., with extended time for video games on Fridays from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Each session is $25 at Superior Fitness Gym.