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Los Lunas youth are encouraged to be physically fit and practice good nutrition

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(Editor’s note: The articles in our 2020 Health and Wellness special section were written prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. While some of the facilities and businesses referenced are now closed due to the current health crisis, they will be there when this has passed and we all return to our normal routines.)

LOS LUNAS — Good health habits are important to practice starting at a young age, and that goes for both physical activity and nutrition.

Richard Williamson is a coach at Los Lunas Middle School and serves as the athletic director. He said this stage for students is a transitional period, going from recess in elementary school to now doing more organized exercise.

“Middle school is a turning point because at this age, they either like the physical activity or they don’t,” Williamson said. “Our big thing right now is trying to get them away from technology.”

A lot of his focus is helping students create healthy habits now that they can take with them as they get older.

“All the units that we do are lifetime sports, so that way this is something they can do starting from little kids all the way up until old age,” Williamson said.

They do mostly non-contact sports such as flag football and basketball, where there is a lot of running involved.

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Los Lunas Middle School coach and athletic director Richard Williamson says he encourages students to become more physically active and to create healthy habits. 

“I like seeing them grow. I’ll get kids at the beginning of the year that aren’t that athletic and see them trim down throughout the year,” he said. “They’ll gripe and complain about doing a 2-minute run, but then a few weeks later, you’ll hear them say ‘That run is getting easier.’”

He said self esteem plays a large part of the attitude students have towards doing the exercises.

“It’ll be 95 degrees outside but the kids will have their hoodies on because of their body image. But as the year goes on, you will see them start to feel better about themselves. Not everyone is perfect, everyone is a work in progress.”

Rebecca Garley teaches a health class and is the athletic trainer at Los Lunas Middle School.

“I teach about the major aspects of health, and physical health is a big one and how it ties into social and mental and emotional as well,” Garley said. “So if your physical health is lacking, the other two are also going to lack.”

Williamson said many times teachers will be outside walking during their lunch break to get in their physical activity and try to practice what they preach to the students.

“You go outside and walk around a little bit and come back in and feel like you can take on the world again,” Williamson said.

Garley also tries to help students create healthy habits in how they respond to difficulties.

“Instead of popping off and somebody or punching a wall or kicking a trash can, go for a walk and relax. Try to get that physical aspect in there and try to blow off steam that way,” Garley said.

Another aspect of health that goes hand-in-hand with exercise is nutrition. Garley’s class has a unit where they focus solely on nutrition and what goes into their food and drinks. Her students are always surprised when the class calculates the amount of calories and sugar that are in their favorite snacks.

“The ones they thought were the healthy ones, turned out not to be so healthy. A lot of them will tell me that they know now that they need to drink more water instead of the sugary drinks,” Garley said.

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Los Lunas Middle School PE students are mostly involved in non-contact sports such as flag football and basketball, where there is a lot of running involved.

Both teachers agree building healthy habits begins at home. Williamson said doing simple things such as parents making junk food less accessible to their children will go a long way.

“I understand that parents are busy and fast food is easy, but starting them off eating healthy before the doctor tells you to will help them avoiding struggling to eat healthy like we are,” Williamson said.

Implementing simple good habits such as drinking water every day, and taking a 15 minute walk can make a difference.

“It has to start younger than now. Instead of giving a child a bag of chips, have some fruit out on the table and teach them to go for that instead of junk food,” Williamson said. “We can help reshape habits now but by the time they get to seventh and eighth grade, it’s so embedded in their brain that they’ll fight you on fixing it.”

From an athletic training perspective, Garley said good nutrition is highly important for injury recovery.

“I tell the athletes that they have to get their protein in because that’s going to help repair those muscles that are injured,” Garley said.

Williamson encourages parents to get involved by helping their children create healthy habits now.

“I know it’s not always possible, but try going on walks with your kids. Fifteen minutes is better than nothing at all, or sitting down and having dinner together. Plus it’s also great bonding time,” Williamson said.

For families looking to be more cognitive of their nutrition, Garley suggested visiting ChooseMyPlate.gov to track what healthy meals should include.

“Here on campus, we treat PE and health just like any other core subject. I want students to realize it’s just as important as their math or social studies class because it teaches them lifetime skills,” Williamson said. “Everything works together between the nutrition and mental and physical health because that’s what is going to keep you going for the rest of your life.”

Staff Writer

Anna Padilla is a native of Los Lunas, and is a graduate of the University of New Mexico. She began her journalism career with the VCNB in May 2019. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, SODA and the town of Peralta.

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