It breaks her heart when she sees overweight children.
It bothers her when she hears kids talking about exercise as if it were a chore.
So Melanie Hendershot is doing something about it.
“I’m passionate about kids,” she said. “I want to help them find ways that are fun to be active.”
Hendershot, 53, is co-founder of Spanaway’s Body Fun Fitness. As the little studio approaches its first anniversary in April, she is trying to provide more fitness options for children.
While, like many fitness studios, it’s classes like Zumba that brings in the most clients, Hendershot is finding that she has a knack for inspiring kids to exercise.
Like a parent who hides vegetables in the kids’ spaghetti, Hendershot is disguising exercise as something different for children.
She teaches a fitness course called Drums Alive, in which workouts are high-tempo drumming sessions.
But one of her favorite activities is to simply loan the kids a pair of spring-loaded shoes called Kangoo Jumps. The shoes, which have a football-shaped spring underfoot, are designed to reduce the impact of activities like jogging and jumping.
“It’s like a bouncing feeling,” Hendershot said. “It’s a boing, boing, boing when you run instead of a pound, pound, pound.”
While Kangoo Jumps, a Swiss company whose U.S. office is in Kent, offers various organized workout programs to go along with its shoes, Hendershot has found that isn’t necessary for kids.
“Kids don’t always like an organized workout,” she said. “But you put these on and they are running around the room, having fun and getting exercise on their own.”
Hendershot uses the Kangoo Jumps herself and swears by them.
“Every time I see a runner they don’t look very happy,” Hendershot said. “They must like it because they are out there, but this feels so much better.”
Hendershot isn’t a runner, but recently took her Kangoo Jumps out for a jog and finished 3.5 miles in about 25 minutes.
“I used Kangoo Jumps before I opened the studio,” she said. “I thought kids would love them. If I could just reach a few kids that would be a good thing. So I started giving them to kids to use for an hour and they’d run around with no moaning or complaining.”
Hendershot says using the shoes is similar to working out on a small trampoline. Balance is easy on the shoes, she said, and no training is needed.
She offers special Kangoo Jump classes at her studio (bodyfunfitness.com) and makes them available at birthday parties. She rents the shoes on Saturdays for $5 per half-hour.
Hendershot is also launching afterschool fitness and nutrition programs for children and this fall will start a P.E. program for home-schooled children.
With all of the programs that she offers for children, she encourages parents to join in.
“Some gyms offer great programs for adults and great programs for kids,” she said. “But there aren’t that many programs out there that kids and parents can do together. I want to encourage that.”