MACS PE teacher helps people stay fit during quarantine

Shawn Parhurst talks to the Mexico varsity girls swim team during a 2018-19 regular season meet. Steven J. Pallone

Shawn Parkhurst is providing a free outlet for any Mexico Academy and Central School athletes, students, faculty, or community members seeking a fitness routine during quarantine.

Parkhurst — the Tigers boys and girls varsity swim coach and a physical education teacher in the district — is posting instructional exercises to Facebook Live and converting the videos to publish on a YouTube playlist to help people of all ages remain fit while schools are closed around the state due to COVID-19.

Parkhurst’s training videos are part of a broader effort by Mexico physical education teachers to keep students engaged in healthy habits while schools are shut down until at least mid-April.

The 2009 Mexico graduate has received strong feedback from a variety of sources since he started posting the workouts last month, beginning a few days after schools were closed, and each clip has garnered around 100-200 views.

“I think the staff likes it more than the students do, but it’s at least trying to get some people moving and staying physically and mentally fit during this time away from school and in a crazy time when people are feeling nervous and anxious, that’s the worst thing you can do is just sit and think about it more,” Parkhurst said. “So, this can at least get their minds away from things for a bit and get them moving.”

Parkhurst goes live at 12:30 p.m. on Facebook every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and quickly converts the video file to add to his YouTube playlist by about 2 p.m. each day. He then sends the link to district students through their distance learning tools and posts it to the Mexico athletics home page and Twitter account for public viewing.

He utilizes the HIIT program — High-intensity interval training — which consists of 30-second exercises followed by 30-second rest periods. Parkhurst takes viewers through six targeted exercises in each video, which can be modified to suit participants of any age and athletic ability.

The suggested time and number of repetitions for each exercise are based on body weight to help make the training suitable for all participants.

Parkhurst — a former Division I swimmer at Canisius College who has competed in multiple world triathlon championships — has received feedback from several families from area schools that have attempted the training regimen together.

“You can go through it once if you’re just starting out, or if you’ve been working out consistently, do it three times through,” said Parkhurst, who is also providing virtual aid for his Tiger Sharks swim program. “I’ve done a lot of these workouts with varsity athletes and in our (physical education) classes.”

Parkhurst said that the idea came during a brainstorming session with other teachers in the department at a superintendent’s meeting on March 16 to determine distance-learning approaches.

He and his colleagues also sent materials to students for daily activity suggestions, nutritional logs, and other helpful fitness tips while they’re away from school and athletic activities.

“We want to get information out to the kids,” Parkhurst said. “We want to make sure they’re staying mentally and physically fit through all of this and getting the information that they need.”

The district PE staff is holding weekly video conferences. Thus far the department has conducted online interaction each week and is holding Motivational Mondays focused on mental health, nutrition-themed Wellness Wednesdays, and activity-based Family-fun Fridays.

“I am very happy that our physical education teachers are sharing ideas for our students, staff, and community on ways to stay healthy during the times we are living in,” Mexico athletic director Andrew Gates said. “It is very important to have a routine of healthy activities, which is why I think it is great that the physical education staff are sharing information on the areas of motivation, wellness, and fitness.”

Parkhurst has coached the Mexico varsity boys swim team for six years along with two seasons as girls head varsity coach. He is also in his seventh year guiding the area Tiger Sharks club swim program, which is on hiatus until April 30 to comply with USA Swimming policies.

He has shared the workout regimens and also sent weekly emails to families involved with the program that include links to webinars, goal sheets, and other information targeted toward competitive swimmers.

“They’re hopefully getting some things done and staying busy, even though they’re not at the pool training, there are a lot of other things that they can be doing to further their athletic career and to grow,” Parkhurst said.

Parkhurst swam at the 2012 USA Open Water Olympic Trials and later became a member of the USA Open Water Select Team. He won five Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference individual titles and established a slew of conference records during his collegiate swim career.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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