OLYMPIC HIGH SCHOOL — Hunter Irons’ face slowly turns the shade of a tomato, his forehead covered in small beads of sweat as he tries to remain focused on the task at hand for just a little bit longer.
Facing him inside the humid makeshift gym at the Olympic High School cafeteria is world renown trainer Michael Thurmond who guides the 11th grader while he tries to complete the last few reps in his workout, the two pulling an elastic exercise band in opposite directions.
“Now breathe in, breathe out, through your mouth,” Thurmond instructs. “Focus! Beautiful!”
Finally finished, Thurmond compliments Irons on a job well done and moves on to the next student waiting. Irons exhales.
The scene repeats itself for the next hour as the celebrity trainer, who is famous for his work on the reality show “Extreme Makeover,” proceeds to advise the students who signed up for his new and free six-week-long workout program, which launched earlier this month at Olympic High School.
Funded by the 60-year-old trainer, Leadership in Exercise and Diets in Schools (LEAD) aims to improve self-esteem through personalized fitness and nutritional plans.
“You can literally change your body to look the way you want,” Thurmond said during a training session with the students last week. “To do that with these kids empowers them because it teaches them high self-esteem.”
The fitness guru was in search of a school to launch the exercise program when long-time friend Oscar de la Torre, who is a member of the Board of Education and runs the Pico Youth and Family Center, referred Thurmond to Janie Gates, the principal of the district’s only continuation high school.
Along with a team of trainers, Thurmond spends about an hour after school with the students every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, guiding their workout and analyzing progress. About half a dozen teachers and their spouses occasionally participate.
Gates, who was doing a few workouts of her own last week, said the program has helped students who have problems with attendance issues stay on track with classes.
“For us to have kids stay after school for activities is really incredible,” she said.
Thurmond, who grew up in the Northern California town of Monte Rio, began traveling at a young age after admiring pictures of bodybuilders. He went from an overeating child to a bodybuilding champion.
Throughout his career, Thurmond has trained more than 1,000 people, written a best-selling book and created a weight loss program called “Six Week Body Makeover.”
His newest venture has apparently led to some results for students at Olympic, some of whom saw changes after the first week.
Alex Ramirez, a senior at Olympic, said he enrolled in the program to lose some weight, which registered at 255.6 pounds in the first week. He lost about nearly 10 pounds in three weeks.
The student has also seen some improvement in his blood pressure, from 151/89 to 130/80.
“The workouts aren’t that intense so I can handle it,” Ramirez said. “You always feel good afterward, even if you get sore.”
Students sign up for different reasons, some to improve health, others to sculpt their bodies.
“They’re all different so you don’t train anyone the same way,” Thurmond said.
Irons has been working to gain more muscle and has noticed some changes in both arms.
“I’ve been really skinny my whole life so I thought why not try and build some muscle,” he said.
Gates said that the goal of the program, which counts toward the physical education requirement, isn’t just about physical appearance.
“The kids have really bought into it,” she said. “Overall, it’s for them to focus on their health.”