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Arnold: the pied piper of fitness.

He is taking a powerful message to every state: "Our children aren't fit. . . put physical education back into school curriculums." The kids listen.

Arnold Schwarzenegger takes very seriously his role as chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness & Sports (PCPFS). "Physical education must be made a priority in American schools," he says, referring to the deplorable condition of today's juvenile TV-affected couch potatoes. Arnold knows only too well the dismal facts:

* Forty percent of children age five through eight are already exhibiting obesity, elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and inactivity - all coronary risk factors.

* As many as 50 percent of our children are not getting enough exercise to develop healthy heart and lungs.

* Thirty-three percent of school-aged boys and 50 percent of girls cannot run a smile in less than ten minutes.

Why is the United States experiencing a youth fitness crisis? One reason in the lack of physical education programs. There are simply not enough quality daily physical education programs across the country to enable our children to learn how to keep themselves healthy and maintain a basic level of physical fitness.

Only one state - Illinois - requires all students grades K-12 to take physical education every day. When budgets are tight, phys ed is the first to go. Yet children who are fit physically do better academically.

If you thought Arnold was all muscle and movies, your are wrong. When he isn't making movies (Kindergarten Cop being his most recent), he is trying to correct the distressing fitness situation by spending his time visiting schools and meeting with governors to encourage legislation that will make daily physical education classes mandatory for all students grades K through 12.

In scheduling his swings through six to eight states at a time, Arnold not only meets with the governor, but also visits a school and holds a summit meeting with education leaders such as the state superintendent of public instruction, the state PTA president, and key legislators.

As a member of the President's Council, I knew that Arnold and the other members would be impressed with the sports and fitness facilities in Indianapolis if we could hold a meeting here. Because Indy prides itself on being the amateur sports capital of the nation, it wasn't difficult to convince the PCPFS executive director, Wilmer Mizell, to look use over and consider my invitation to host the council and staff. Wilmer "Vinegar Bend" Mizell, baseball celebrity that he is, was warmly received by the sports family in Indy, and he paved the way for transporting the staff to Indianapolis for the meeting.

The Council would meet at the National Institute of Fitness and Sport on the Indiana University/Purdue University campus, where a state-of-the-art workout gym was sure to please the Council members and staff who take workout facilities seriously.

Once that had been established, it seemed fitting that the Children's Better Health Institute would host a Fitness Fair at the Fitness Farm so that the Council could repeat in Indianapolis an event like the Great American Workout, which had been staged on the south lawn of the White House last May.

We'd been holding such events for children at the Fitness Farm for years. It seemed no problem to pull a list of members of the Children's Better Health Institute in our area and invite them to a "Pump Up with Arnold" Fitness Fair.

How do you schedule a little fitness hair when word leaks out that Arnold Schwarzenegger and the President's Council on Physical Fitness & Sports will be in attendance? The answer is, you don't. In Arnold's presence, everything takes on the proportion of his Schwarzenegger biceps - large. Had it not been for lack of space on our Fitness Farm, no less than 100,000 Hoosier children would have been clamoring for a chance to work out with the celebrated "Pied Piper of Fitness."

As it was, fitness people was hadn't heard from for years called during the weeks preceding this "Pump Up with Arnold" extravaganza. The United States Army Physical Fitness School from nearby Fort Benjamin Harrison volunteered to bring fitness stations and equipment. The Boy Scouts, with all the strength of their Eagles, volunteered their brightest and fittest. (Many of our community leaders, including Sen. Dick Lugar and City Council President Beurt SerVaas, were Eagles.) The 40-piece 74th Army Band volunteered to play; the Purdue University Extension offered to send staff to help children learn to plant trees.

York Onnen, the director of program development for PCPFS, obtained 200 junior tennis rackets to be donated by the U.S. Tennis Federation to children from the Indiana School for the Deaf. The race walkers would come. The champion rope jumpers from Richmond, Indiana, 70 miles to the east, wanted to bus in 12 of their jumpers to jump for Arnold Dr. Matt Guidry, the director of community and special projects for PCPFS, sent 3,000 boxes of Tang; Quaker Oats sent Gatorade; Kellogg's sent goodie bags and 3,000 Tony the Tiger baseballs; and the Lilly Endowment offered to bus public-school children to the event.

Sensing the magnitude of the affair, the Children's Better Health Institute engaged our sister organization, the National Institute of Fitness and Sport (NIFS), with their excellent youth staff, directed by Dr. Tom Crawford, to organized the workout stations with school principals. The NIFS teaches fitness for all children, not just those in sports.

Coaches came for the children who are turned on by competitive sports. We worked feverishly to complete a 200-meter track for relays and races. For each event, there were volunteers to help, like Chuck DeWild, a coach from Rockford, Illinois, who came to teach the handicapped. Special Olympians were included.

Mike Willett came from the Indiana University campus in Bloomington to plan for giving the President's Challenge tests to all children who were prepared. Handicapped children can win a similar award called the National Challenge Award. Any child can earn the awards, but they aren't easy. If you don't believe it, try to do the exercises as outlined on page 62.

When the big day came, it was small wonder that the local press referred to the ensuing events as "Arnie-mania!" And if you have never basked in the aura of Arnold Schwarzenegger, let me tell you what it means. Arnie-mania means that a lot of otherwise very responsible and predictable people suddenly drop everything and behave in a most unpredictable manner - all to meet this gentle giant of muscledom.

To give you an example, a very successful lady executive on the ad sales staff of The Saturday Evening Post never lets a social engagement deter her from her work. "Just say no" is her motto when she is invited to frivolous luncheons or nonproductive company events. Post staffers joke that if the Queen of England were to visit the Post offices, this executive wouldn't get off the phone long enough to curtsy.

Imagine, then, my surprise when we entered the house with Arnold for the summit luncheon to find this all-work-and-no-nonsense executive carefully coiffed and made-up, waiting in the hall to catch a glimpse of the celebrated minister of muscles.

Arnie-mania meant that the luncheon planned as a summit meeting for educators became a summit meeting for the caterers to watch Arnold. Only a floral centerpiece and empty casserole trays were found on the buffet table when lunch was called, while a hungry Arnold had been lured into the kitchen to eat a banana with the catering staff.

Arnie-mania meant finding that the valet wasn't parking VIP cars; rather, he was standing big as life in a circle of reporters covering Arnold's press conference. We could spot him because, dressed in a white shirt and black now tie, he looked inappropriate in the crowd of reporters. And the empty eat at the luncheon - that was because a state senator who belonged there couldn't get past the parking attendant/security at the VIP entrance.

The mania follows Arnold. . . .

After lunch, as we drove to meet Indiana's Gov. Evan Bayh at Crooked Creek School, we came upon a police barricade. A uniformed officer was lying stretched across the road. An excited Fitness Fair guest had driven her can into the motorcycle patrolman, throwing him to the ground at the entrance of the Mennonite Church, where shuttles were stationed to bring guests to the Fitness Farm. Not knowing of any other physician at the scene, I hurried to check the felled officer's vital signs to make sure he wasn't going to go into shock before the ambulance arrived. Our stay with the injured officer caused Governor Bayh and his wife, Susan, to wait at Crooked Creek Elementary School, and caused the principal, Norman Foust, who runs a very tight ship, to remark that the governor "spent a lot more time visiting the school than did Arnold."

"I was hoping I'd be able to meet Arnold," the injured officer told us later, "but not under those circumstances. I looked up and there was Arnold looking down at me," he said. Whether or not it was Arnie-mania that caused the accident, Arnold followed up quietly to ease the officer's pain. He sent flowers to corporal Ron Knight that very afternoon.

The Council staff had booked Arnold into an impossibly full schedule earlier that morning in Kentucky before the Indianapolis events. He had already seen one governor and had visited a school while most Hoosiers were still getting up. We promised to have him out of the Fitness Fair in time for his mandatory one-hour workout before an evening reception and a dinner-dance pep-talk.

But just as he was ready to leave the farm and had gathered his staff in our living room, who should enter, having talked his way through the barricade and into the house, than an otherwise timid editor with two boys who had been scuffed up trying to catch up with Arnold on the track. The editor said surely it would be consoling for them to be shown compassion by Arnold.

Sheepishly, the lads asked Arnold about his movies and wanted to tell him about those they had liked most. Obviously, the boys were pleased to have a private audience with Arnold. If Swarzenegger's celebrity status had caused them to be bruised in the crowd, he wasn't about to disappoint them now.

Usually following a Fitness Fair, there are enough programs and copies of Jack and Jill magazines strewn around the farm to fill at the trash barrels. But following the "Pump Up with Arnold" Fitness Fair, not one program remained on the farm. No copies for archives, not a single copy to "send home to mom," as one of the men in the clean-up crew complained.

We had printed 4,000 programs for the children who would be attending the Fitness Fair. One volunteer told of taking a program home to her first-grade grandson, Aaron. Delighted, the boy took it to school the following day. However, Aaron came home downcast. "When I told the kids that Arnold Schwarzenegger gave it to you, they didn't believe me," he told his grandmother.

The little girl with perhaps the most to tell her clients the next day was Lola Briley, the fifth-grade student from Crooked Creek Elementary School who shot right past three other fast competitors to win the "grand prix" of the day - a 200-meter race.

When she came up to the platform to received her award, Arnold did the honors and picked her up so everyone could see. And this is how she came to be on our cover. Then she and Arnold led, 3,000 children in a fitness run around the track, making it possible for 3,000 kids to boast that they did the 200 meter with Arnold.

What did Lola's parents think of all this? When Lola got home, she told us, her mother was waving green-and-white pompons and shouting, "Go! Go!"

The 200-meter race was run by the four fastest recipient of the President's Challenge Award. Two of the students were from Crooked Creek Elementary School and two were from Spring Mill Elementary School. When Lola came up to the platform to be congratulated by Arnold, she was told she had won a computer, donated by Service Merchandise, for her school.

Lola told us she jogs every day with her mother and plays basketball with her had, and she would like to be an athlete or a veterinarian when she grows up. Might she be a future Olympian? Lola's principal, Norman Foust, says Lola is also a top student.

Arnold remained good-natured in the face of an exhausting schedule. After the fair, he stopped to greet a crowd revelers who had celebrated for two hours at the NIFS' new downtown gym facility and then went on to the dinner dance given in honor of the PCPFS.

Arnold watched with amusement as two professors from the Indiana University School of Medicine performed a "quick step" to demonstrate that aerobic ballroom dancing can achieve one's target heart rate (THR). Dr. Marion DeMyer, a child psychiatrist who has been published wildly in professional journals, was delighted at the opportunity to talk about the benefits of ballroom dancing, not only for senior citizens, but also for "pimply teenagers who aren't athletic enough to participate in team basketball, football, or other recognized school sports. Why not dancing classes to help their self-confidence?" she asks.

Her husband, Dr. William DeMyer, is a popular neurology professor by day. For togetherness and exercise, they compete in senior ballroom dance competitions worldwide. "Senior competition starts at age 50," she told us.

Kemmons Wilson, the founder and former chief executive officer of Holiday Inns, is known in Memphis for turning dances into mixers. An avid dancer and tennis competitor, at 75, he and his wife, Dorothy, will help launch the PCPFS senior citizens' big band events for fitness.

Arnold's thrust in fitness will be for children and senior citizens. He feels that young adults have gotten the fitness message and are not as much in need of help. Your Post editor, as a ranking (by age) senior member of the Council, was asked by our chairman to take charge of PCPFS fitness programs for the growing 50-plus crowd. Seniors wishing to volunteer for organizing fitness events can write to "Fitness" at the Post, 1100 Waterway Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46202.

Anyone wishing to receive a free "Get Fit" booklet to help children age 6 to 17 prepare for the President's Challenge test should write to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, 450 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 7103, Washington, DC 20001.
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Title Annotation:Arnold Schwarzenegger, chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
Author:SerVaas, Cory
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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