Mercy Muscles Program Builds Fitness and Confidence
Back-to-school time for the boys and girls at Mercy Home brings new opportunities to learn and grow. For the boys who call our Hay Campus home, this means not only working hard in the classroom, but also taking time to focus on the importance of nutrition and fitness. Mercy Muscles, a program that began this summer and quickly grew in popularity among our kids, will continue this fall to provide our young people with an opportunity to learn about building fitness in our on-campus gym.
Two evenings a week, knowledgeable Mercy Home staff will work with our young men in the gym. The boys will learn how to use the fitness equipment and complete circuit training workouts that cover everything from stretching and cardio to strength training. The Mercy Muscles program was formed when youth care workers noticed the boys’ therapeutic goals often included getting fit and feeling better about themselves. Youth care workers wanted to provide a structured way for our kids to work toward those goals.
The time spent with each boy is important because it allows them to learn how to use the gym equipment correctly and safely, said Pat Bittorf, an After School Programs Coordinator who helped start the Mercy Muscles program. Over time, the kids build muscle – and confidence. “There’s definitely a therapeutic element to it,” Bittorf said. “It fits right into their wider program.”
The first week of training began with stretching. Then the boys got to business with sit-up and push-up assessments. In five weeks and then again in ten, the young men will test themselves to see how their time in the gym has made a difference. The boys tried really hard during these initial tests and cannot wait to see how many push-ups and sit-ups they can do next time. After the tests, the kids took a tour of the gym and learned how to breathe correctly while using the machines and free weights. To end the evening, they ran up and down stairs to really get moving. Bittorf said the boys left tired, but with their heads held high.
Each young man who wants to be a part of Mercy Muscles has to sign up and vow to commit to the program. Bittorf saw camaraderie among the boys begin forming during the first several sessions. The boys picked each other up after sit-ups and encouraged one another while running stairs. “Our mind, body and soul are all connected,” Bittorf explained to the young men. “If we feel good, we make better decisions, and treat ourselves and others better.”
Mercy Muscles is just one of the many health and wellness programs made possible at Mercy Home through the generosity of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. Other opportunities for our boys and girls include yoga, boxing lessons, basketball, African dance, rock-climbing, Healthy You courses, nutrition and cooking classes, and more.