For these teachers, wellness means boxing

School district in Oregon adds punch to effort to stay healthy

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KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — After a long day of working with elementary age students and teenagers, some teachers just need a break, and the chance to blow off a bit of steam.

As part of the Klamath County School District's wellness program, some teachers choose to do that by taking a boxing class at Battleground Boxing.

"One, two, one, two, three, four, five, six, one, two, one, two," gym owner Rudy Meyer shouted out punching instructions to the class of about 20 teachers Tuesday evening.

This week is the third of a six-week clinic in which teachers learn boxing and kickboxing as a new way to maintain their health, with classes two days a week.

"From here on out, we're going to turn it up," Meyer told the class, letting them know he'd been going easy on them so far. "I think this is the best workout we've had so far."

Tiffany Poe and Gina Brown, both fifth-grade teachers at Henley Elementary, were partnered up for the day, bracing pads and punching bags alternately while the other threw kicks and punches.

The boxing class is both fun and a good workout, Brown said.

For Poe, it also is a chance to learn self-defense, as well as the fundamentals of the boxing and kickboxing sports.

Lisa Schmidt, an English teacher at Mazama High School, appreciates that boxing is a strength and cardio workout at the same time.

"I like that it's high energy," she said.

Kristi Sturgeon, a health and physical education teacher at Mazama, said she wishes she had some of the boxing equipment in her gym at school.

Sturgeon also has taken yoga and spinning classes through the district's grant-funded wellness program.

"It's fun to just hit something," Sturgeon said, noting that it's not often that kind of opportunity comes up.

In addition to the health benefits of a vigorous workout for themselves, Brown said seeing teachers lead an active lifestyle also is encouraging for students, and that's the idea behind the wellness program.

Some of the teachers even run into their students at the boxing gym, Schmidt added.

It's also a great way to interact and bond with fellow teachers from other schools, Sturgeon said.

"We hold each other accountable too," Sturgeon said, adding that they will call out a friend if they miss a class.

At the boxing gym, everyone is at a different level when it comes to fitness and experience with the sport, Meyer said. Classes are scheduled to be more and more demanding as the day goes on, starting with beginners earlier in the afternoon or evening, and advanced classes later at night.

"We have a little bit of everything," he said.

Coaches at Battleground work with a variety of local groups, including Dragonfly Transitions, the Mazama football team, students from Oregon Institute of Technology and Klamath Community College and more.

One of the fighters at the gym will be traveling to the Oregon Golden Gloves boxing tournament in Redmond this weekend, Meyer said, and the gym's first female fighter will compete in March.