WINSTON — As part of an elective physical education class, students from Winston Middle School run from the school to Pacific Fitness to work out before running back — all within a class period.

“At school we just play dodgeball or something, but being in this environment, it means business,” eighth grader Ryland O’Toole said.

The class started about five years ago when PE teacher Ryan Hunter contacted gym owner Leo Voepel about getting a class over there.

Hunter said he wanted to offer an elective course for higher achieving students in physical education, similar to how schools offer advanced elective courses for math and English.

“We want to get students more fit, more active,” he said. “It’s been pretty awesome.”

Voepel said he finds it a good way to give back to the school and the community.

“We want the community to strive. We’re striving as a business and my wife and I decided we could return the favor,” Voepel said. “We still get kids in here from five years ago. It’s great to still see them involved in fitness.”

In addition to providing a space for students to work out, Pacific Fitness also provides two trainers to help the students.

“I love it,” trainer Jake Larsen said. “It’s good to see the progression the kids have made so far. We’re making a real difference.”

Hunter said he hopes the class will teach students healthy lifelong habits.

Pull-ups were a favorite of seventh grader DJ Hollway, who is trying to get more arm strength before the start of basketball season.

“I want to get more strength in my body and get more fit,” he said, adding that he works out at the gym with his dad sometimes.

Dylan Manuel, an eighth grader, plays basketball and baseball but wanted more of a challenge for physical education.

“I like that we get pushed and gives us a challenge to get better,” he said.

Students keep a progression checklist, which gets marked off by Hunter or the trainers at the end of each exercise. For now, students are focusing on the fundamentals of squats, push-ups and pull-ups.

Students warm up with a half-mile run to the gym. Students then spend 30 minutes working out with the trainers and Hunter, before returning for a cool-down run back to the middle school.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at sgodfrey@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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