My Experiences From Teaching 8th Grader Gym Class In Poynette

Last week I was asked to teach some bootcamp style classes to 8th graders in a small town called Poynette, WI.  I haven’t taught too many kids in the 13-15 age group.  I didn’t really know what to expect or how they would react to things.

I know that this video and post will be sent to all the students, staff, and parents of the Poynette school.  I think people like my honesty and take on things as I see them.  In this article, I will not try to sugar coat things but share what I observed, the good and the bad.

Like I said I had no idea what to expect, I have only been in schools a handful of times since I graduated 8 years ago.  I didn’t know if I was going to see half the school overweight or obese, or what the attitude and effort level would be of the groups.

Buns Guns DVDs

I want to first thank the teachers and other staff that warmly welcomed me and what I had to bring.  Since I didn’t have much equipment to work with, I decided to just use my resistance bands, medicine balls, and good ol bodyweight and partner exercises, similar to the ones found in the Ultimate Buddy Bootcamp DVDs.

I taught 3 classes with about 25 students in each one.  Although each class was a little different the overall experience was similar.  Here is what I learned…

-There weren’t as many overweight and obese kids as I was expecting.  Each class had a couple that were close to the morbidly obese categorie, followed by maybe 3-5 others who could reach a healthier weight.  Otherwise most of the kids were very thin.

-The lack of effort of the group wasn’t very good in many cases.  I spoke for about 5 minutes before class started and said I had two rules.  The first is that you try to listen when I talk so we can get through the workout smoothly, and the second was to push yourself and not give up when it became uncomfortable.  I would say the only time I had 100% participation was the first lap down the basketball court of the warmup, after that there would be kids who just would give up and sit on the side lines or lay down.  At some points there were up to 10-12 of the students not participating.

The girls wanted a group pic

-Those who were in athletics, especially the guy type jocks tried quite hard to impress everyone and gave quite a bit of effort.  Similar with the female athletes.

-I saw a big disparity in the class when it came to the confidence level of the group.  I know for some kids, gym class is the worst class of the day and they feel very inferior, while others excel and live for it.  Those who weren’t as athletic seemed to give up sooner or not try at all.

-At the end we talked about nutrition and I was horrified with what the kids said they ate and drank.  Nearly everyone I polled drank soda on a regular basis.  This included the skinny and the overweight, the fit and the unfit.

-The kids liked to have fun and laugh a lot

-The cardiovascular fitness on average was very poor.  After just a short amount of time many of the students were sitting out because they were tired.

-Many kids had trouble doing pushups or side planks or hip raises.

-I learned not to do hip raises to 8th graders, they aren’t mature enough to handle it 🙂  Use your imagination on this one.

So overall I had a great time and met some awesome kids, a good number of them who tried hard and gave good effort and support, but there was more kids than I would have liked, for whatever reason weren’t willing to give it there all and take it very seriously.  Although the bodyweight of the students was much better than I expected, the overall fitness level wasn’t.

I want to challenge the parents and teachers to be the example for your students and sons and daughters.  You have so much influence and if you aren’t teaching them what it means to eat healthy, and exercise, you are setting them up for failure and 15-30 years from now I see them as parents themselves struggling to eat healthy and exercise.  The unfortunate truth is that many of those 8th graders will become overweight and obese in the upcoming decade.  But the great news is that it is one of the easiest things to prevent.  It starts in the homes with a foundation of eating healthy whole foods with the family, being active, whether through sports or as a family, and open communication.

Lastly, I want to challenge the students who are reading this who were in the classes I taught.  Even though I don’t know you I care for you a lot. 7th and 8th grade was maybe my toughest two years in school.  Kids make fun and pick on others and everyone is going through so many physical and emotional changes.  If you are someone who is getting picked on or struggling with low self esteem, I want to let you know that you are worth it, and even if it doesn’t seem like others like you, you are so special.  Those who are negative are they themselves struggling in life and with their image and confidence.  Keep your head up and believe in yourself, because I believe in you.

There are some of you reading this who HATE gym and it brings out so many insecurities.  I want to challenge you to not compare yourself to everyone else’s skills, but strive to do your best.  It doesn’t matter if you are last, as long as you are trying your best.

We are all given different gifts and talents, all I ask is that you use them to your best abilities and give 100% in everything you do.  When I taught your classes I was actually feeling pretty sick and run down, but I hope you saw the intensity, energy, and passion I brought, I didn’t want to bring less than my best..  Right when I got home I collapsed and slept for 2 hours.  The harder you work in life, the better you will feel, the more proud you will be of your accomplishments and the higher you will sore in your life. Click here to read my Rudy story, I think you will enjoy it and might be able to relate to it.  Keep working hard and surrounding yourself with the right kids and you will be great.


  1. Great video! Maybe you inspired one or two kids there to do what you do when they grow up, and hopefully you inspired a good portion of them to be healthy!

  2. You did such a good job with writing this post even remembering to address the current bullying situation at hand now throughtout so many schools. Im sure you left a great impression and some of the exercises they might take home and put to use even if they didnt seem like they were participating full bore. You know kids at that age and their attention spans are pretty short. Also Im sure the girls you took the picture with are going to talking about that with their friends for awhile. Cause we all know cute and young teachers are few and far between during our school years. I still remember my young and cool teacher from high school. Its great you got the opportunity to visit the school and pass on your wisdom.

  3. That was awesome, Dustin! When you coming back up here???

  4. You should have told those girls to enjoy working with you for free because once they are married & squeeze out some kids, they’ll be paying you to work the baby weight off.

  5. Lisa Wagner says


    The snapshot of Poynette is unfortunately not indicative of the typical growth and development of WI kids. There is little to no cultural diversity in your video. As a public health advocate who has assessed student BMI in a stratified, weighted sample across WI I can tell you our children are in poor physical health and have the tendancy toward being obese…especially in our less affluent areas. I too am amazed at the what our kids consume for nutritional purposes. That said from a national(and state) perspective we are focusing on school lunches and WIC nutrition programs in an effort to educate, advocate and communicate optimal nutrition messages. Children who are unmotivated or easily give up when things get difficult are a real product of environmental behavioral patterns. Developing interventions that are both feasible and proven are also very difficult…which is where we as adults come in. Spending just a few minutes of our overly busy lives mentoring our young people will empower and motivate!

    • Lisa,

      Thanks for the comment and insight, you are correct it was pretty much 100% caucasian. You are right if I would have been at another school with different demographics it would have been different.


  6. Dustin looks like the kids had some fun. You did a great job. Getting them to realize that they can have fun with getting in exercise too. Great job

  7. Patty: Also Im sure the girls you took the picture with are going to talking about that with their friends for awhile.

    Heck – I’m still talking about meeting Dustin and working out with him and getting my picture with him and I’m 40! 😉

  8. What an incredible and educational experience for you as a trainer, Dustin. Thanks for sharing. I was one of those kids who sat on the sidelines whenever possible in gym class. Just reading about gym class gives me a knot in my stomach, lol. That is part of the reason becoming a trainer and an adult athlete has been such an empowering exprience for me. Thanks for sharing this and giving all these kids/families something so valuable.

  9. Dustin,
    I’m proud of you for going to this school and challenging these kids. They might not have seemed to be listening, but we all remember things that we learned a long time ago, that come back to us later. Maybe you challenged some of the unhealthy kids to do better. I was the fat kid, who was picked last and hated gym class, but now I am one of the most fit adults from my original class! Something has to spark kids to start caring enough to do the hard work. Hopefully, that was you, I know that you are helping me!

    • Marleen,

      Thanks for the encouragement, I hope I was able to make an impression on a couple. Isn’t that interesting how the roles have changed and now when you go back to your HS reunions everyone will be shocked, not because of how much you have gained, but by how young and healthy you look. Great job!


  10. Now that is what I call a gym class!
    Great work Dustin!

    Perhaps part of the reason some of the kids were sitting on the sidelines is because their diets are so crummy and they don’t have the energy to engage and feed their growing bodies. If they are consuming nothing but sugar and empty calories their metabolism is probably crashing by the time they get to gym class and so are they.

    I think middle school is absolutely the perfect age to reach kids with your message.

  11. Welcome to my world, Dustin 🙂 Aren’t middle schoolers so much fun! It for sure can be frustrating at times when you know that certain kids can push themselves, but choose not to.
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  12. The problem with a lot of kids these days is that they have no drive. They have never been made to feel uncomfortable. They have never felt real hunger; they have never been really hot or cold; they have never worked a full day or more helping with chores; they are given things and have never worked for them. When my kids want things I ask them what extra chores they will do to earn them. Many kids are taught to be lazy and not try hard at things because no one has pushed them. They are taught mediocre is good enough and are even rewarded for it. If we continue to baby our kids what kind of adults will they become? There are fewer young people in the work force today that are self starters than there used to be. They have to be told what to do and be given every step to get there. I don’t believe all of these people are lazy but rather they have never been taught to figure things out by themselves.
    As far as nutrition, pop was a treat when I was a kid. It wasn’t something I had everyday or even every week. There is no reason to have junk food and pop in the house for the kids. They don’t need it any more than we do. We owe it to them to teach them good eating habits and treats are special and don’t happen everyday of the week. I even have my 5 year old asking me if certain foods are healthy. If they are not I tell him the truth and tell him they should not be eaten often but once in a while it is okay.

  13. I first want to thank you for coming into our school and working hard with us. I was one of the 8th graders that participated in this work out. I play sports year round. Club, school and AAU. I did think this was a challenge, but a good challenge. I do agree that some of our grade are not fit, but most of us are active on a regular basis. And for the ones who aren’t, yes it was hard for them. Because they’re not used to being pushed this hard in the 45 minutes we were doing the work out. By saying this, it does not mean that they are lazy and were taught to be lazy. They just aren’t as active as the many of our class that play in high competition sports year round and spend lot of time running and staying active.
    I want to thank you for giving us this opportunity and want to let you know that i did get somethings our of this. I do think you should go to different schools with more diversity and provide the same experience that you did for us.

    P.S. Some of us ARE mature enough to do (handle) hip-raises in this setting.

    Thank you again. 🙂

    Poynette 8th Grade Student

  14. okay i was in your class when you came to poynette middle school and i half to say that we are not over weight and i am fit i eat a salad at lunch everyday and i have a heart disease and i can’t get too worked out or i can’t breath and my heart can’t pump but like thank you for coming and showing us all of those cool work out

  15. Hi, why did you say we were lazy. (not cool)

  16. why did u say i was lazy not cool.

  17. your skinny to buddy

  18. Hey Dustin,
    Thanks for coming to our school to teach us. We really appreciate it. It was very fun as I was in one of your classes that you taught. I just wanted to say that I think most kids in our grade don’t have much self confidence and they strive to not let anyone know who they actually are. It’s very hard as middle schoolers, as I am one my self. In my mind school is hard. But not the school it self, the kids in it. Some middle schoolers in my my grade (8th) don’t really care at all, and they think life is a breeze. But I will just say that over half of the kids think life in middle school is stupid, and that no one cares about them. Lots of people don’t exercise as much because of their confidence, and they feel that they won’t do sports because of either the people in it, or they don’t feel comfortable playing sports because of how they look. I’m just saying that most of the kids that you have experienced throughout your visit to Poynette probably are going through tough times right now.
    And again, thank you for coming to teach us what you know. But maybe this will open your eye about what most middle schoolers are feeling. 🙂


  19. Kathleen Larsen says

    You are right. It DOES start in the home. My kids are 4 and my daugher already says “soda is bad for you. it’s full of kemikals. (chemicals)” Teach ’em young! Hopefully it will stick.
    My kids ask me why I workout? To be STRONG, I say. I repeat over & over & over in a calm tone that soccer, ballet, t-ball, gymnastics (all things they do) help them to be STRONG. I tell them water makes them smart (brain), and milk makes them strong. I never, ever, ever will mention the word skinny. “Strong is the new skinny”, right? RIGHT!
    GREAT JOB! You DID influence them. I know it

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