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OC HIGH / STUDENT NEWS AND VIEWS : Let's Get Physical : Fitness Comes Into Play for the Best in Looks and Health

July 01, 1994|AMANDA GARCIA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Amanda Garcia will be a senior this fall at El Modena High School in Orange.

You know the commercial.

Two beautiful teen-agers--with sleek, well-toned bodies--meet at the beach and fall in love over a can of soda. How often have you watched that commercial and thought, "If only I had a body like that, my troubles would melt into oblivion"?

Maybe you are munching potato chips and drinking the advertised soda as that thought drifts through your head. You shrug and return to the TV, convinced that no matter how hard you tried, you would never look like they do.

While it's true that none of us will ever look just like the teens in the commercial--we were each born with our individual genetic makeup--it is also true that there is much each person can do to affect his or her physical fitness.

For many body- and health-conscious teens, exercise has become an important part of their lives.

"Most teen-agers aren't really happy with their bodies, so working out makes them feel better about themselves," says Julie Deschenes, a student at El Modena High School in Orange.

People who are heavyset are often ridiculed on campus and in the media, and most teens don't want to endure that ridicule.

As Christy Vollmer, a June graduate of Huntington Beach High School, says: "I want to stay fit because of society's pressure. I don't want to get fat."

Body image is not the only reason teens are choosing to exercise. For many, exercise allows them to clear their heads and vent their frustrations.

"Working out is a way to relieve myself from stress," says Mary Lou Soot, a student at El Modena High School. "It keeps me sane and helps my self-confidence. I like amazing myself, pushing myself to the limit to see how far I can go."

Physically fit people are less likely to have serious health problems.

"I have a desire to keep myself in shape. I've seen people who are not in shape who have medical problems. I don't want to end up like that," El Modena student Garrett Kerr says.

Student athletes often exercise in the off-season to increase their competitive chances next season. Vicki Crookshanks, who runs track at Santa Margarita High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, runs distance during the off-season to increase her stamina. Page Kishiyama, a wrestler at El Modena, builds his muscles during the off-season in an attempt to "intimidate" other wrestlers on the mats.

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Some exercise-minded teens have memberships in gyms or fitness centers, giving them access to weights, aerobic classes, step machines, stationary bikes and treadmills. Members usually combine weight training with cardiovascular training, and many participate in aerobic classes, saying the dance-like routines help break the monotony of individual workouts.

While there are advantages to belonging to a fitness club, there is one glaring drawback--the cost. The price of membership is more than many teens on limited budgets can afford.

But it's not necessary to set foot inside a gym to achieve physical fitness. Bicycling and hiking allow you to enjoy nature and get in shape at the same time. Exercise videos (about $20) are an inexpensive substitute for aerobic classes, and many are aimed at particular "trouble spots" of the body.

Whatever their reasons for giving it a try, teens are finding the benefits of exercise in an improved build, better health and increased peace of mind.

Exercise alone is not the key to physical fitness, though.

A healthy diet is necessary for healing and "feeding" developing muscles, according to Thomas Hollins, a fitness counselor and trainer at a Family Fitness Center in Orange.

Teens who work out but abuse their bodies in other ways, through diet and alcohol or drug abuse, lower the efficiency of their exercise. The cholesterol in fast food, a serious downfall in the diet of many teens, can clog arteries and diminish cardiovascular stamina. Alcohol depletes the body's vitamin resources and blocks the use of carbohydrates in muscle activities.

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Back to the commercial with the two beautiful teen-agers with sleek, well-toned bodies. The next time you watch that commercial, put down your potato chips and remember that it's unlikely those teens just woke up one morning with perfect bodies. It is very likely, though, that they exercise regularly.

Becoming physically fit doesn't make troubles melt away, but the way you look at those troubles may change along with the shape of your body.

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