By 6:30 a.m., Lamar Kirkman had rivulets of sweat streaming down both sides of his face as he pumped two five-pound weights while mastering the foot-moves of the morning circuit training class.
"I like to get fit, stay in shape. It's great," said the Lakeside High School senior, one of two boys lost in a sea of 34 girls inside the school's gymnasium Wednesday morning. "And I want to show the girls the guys are just as good."
Lakeside High Spanish teacher Keri Smith is the sponsor of the Lakeside Intense Fitness Endeavors club, which she started three years ago as a run/walk group. There are now about 50 students in the early-morning workout group.
"When I coached volleyball, we had a timed run for them and we decided girls' fitness was lacking," Mrs. Smith said. "We really thought there needed to be something for the girls so they would condition all year."
As the scope of the club has grown, more boys, such as Lamar, have joined.
In addition to exercise, the club's leaders emphasize healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle, serving a breakfast of fruits, juice and breads before class begins.
On Wednesday morning, junior Whitney Johnson paid her $12 one-time dues to join.
"It provides the support of my friends and an opportunity to get in shape before school begins," she said. "In the afternoons, I'm real busy with school work, so this is a good opportunity."
Whitney was welcomed by her friend Meghan Lloyd, also a junior, who said she joined the club to get in shape for basketball season.
Club President Taryn Ericson, a senior, is one of the group's original members.
"I like to wake up in the morning and do this," she said. "It makes me feel better throughout the day. I like to see everyone. Their enthusiasm this early in the morning is really something."
Parent volunteers and certified aerobics instructors Cindy Stephens, Lila Greene, Phyllis Collier and Marsha Adair lead club members in a variety of exercises from step aerobics and kick-boxing to weight training and Tae-Bo.
Mrs. Greene was in charge Wednesday, leading the group through four stations: hurdles, ladders, step knee-lifts and step lunge-backs on the wooden bleachers.
"It's important to get them excited about exercising," Mrs. Greene said. "Their enthusiasm just blows me away."
Mrs. Smith points to recent newspaper articles on childhood obesity to support the mission of her club.
According to the results of the 1999-2000 Centers for Disease Control's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, an estimated 15 percent of children ages 6-19 are overweight.
In contrast, the 1971-74 study showed an obesity rate of 4 percent for children 6-11 and 6.1 percent for children 12-19.
"If you don't start them now, it will be too late," Mrs. Smith said.
Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or firstname.lastname@example.org.