Quest for fitness draws teens to Cactus boot camp

Cactus kids are put through their paces at Feilding High School. The military-style boot camp is designed for students to extend their mental and physical capabilities.

WARWICK SMITH/Stuff

Cactus kids are put through their paces at Feilding High School. The military-style boot camp is designed for students to extend their mental and physical capabilities.

Early mornings and physical exertion may seem like the anthesis to the teenage lifestyle, but they are proving to be drawcards for a youth boot camp in Feilding.

Improved fitness is high on the list of goals for the latest intake of the eight-week Cactus (Combined Adolescent Challenge Training Unit and Support) programme hosted at Feilding High School, and available toi students between the ages of 14 and 17

It involves getting up early, sprints, interval training and various fitness tests, followed by a hearty breakfast and a motivational talk.

The students said the early morning workout and strict rules not only helped keep their bodies in shape, but also sharpened their self-discipline and self-confidence, and provided an opportunity to make friends.

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Fuelling up after the workout. Maggie Nicholson is pictured second from right.

WARWICK SMITH/Stuff

Fuelling up after the workout. Maggie Nicholson is pictured second from right.

The programme resumed in for 2022 in June with 26 students enrolled.

Maggie Nicholson, 14, said the boot camp was the best way to test herself.

“Though it was challenging and sore in the beginning, I wanted to do it to be fit. I wanted to challenge myself to step up my fitness levels.”

Cody Hall joined Cactus to prepare himself towards a future.

“We started off by learning drills and marching, and now it has physical activities and team building stuff.

“I am enjoying it because it keeps me fit, which is important for me as I see my future in sports or military services.”

Improved fitness is a key goal for many of this term’s Cactus members.

WARWICK SMITH/Stuff

Improved fitness is a key goal for many of this term’s Cactus members.

For some students, it was a chance to connect with their siblings and make new friends.

Maia Joan Walker said the programme was preparing her for life as an adult.

“I get up early. I eat breakfast every day, that keeps me energetic throughout the day. I also made some like-minded students, friends at the camp.”

Manawatū District mayor Helen Worboys, said she wished something like Cactus was running when she was growing up.

“When I took up as a mayor, I couldn’t see any proactive stuff for the youth. Something that challenges kids to do better both physically and mentally. Police suggested us to have the programme.

“In many cases, the programme has helped entire families. I have heard mothers saying the programme let them work-out after dropping their kids at school early morning.”

Once a week a guest speaker provides advice and inspiration. Maia Joan Walker is pictured far right.

WARWICK SMITH/Stuff

Once a week a guest speaker provides advice and inspiration. Maia Joan Walker is pictured far right.

Some parents said the best feature of the programme was talks given by experts, and by people who had made mistakes in their lives but turned it around.

Bryan Guy, whose grandson Finn Macdonald had gone through the programme, helping out the Cactus team with breakfast once a week after seeing how it benefited Finn, especially the inspirational talks organised during the breakfast.

“Apart from physical activities, the programme teaches teamwork and discipline of getting up early in the morning.

The students train towards a climatic final challenge, The Longest Day, which often culminates in a truck-pull through the town.

WARWICK SMITH/Stuff

The students train towards a climatic final challenge, The Longest Day, which often culminates in a truck-pull through the town.

“One of the best things is that speakers are invited to inspire students. We have had speakers who told kids about feet health, hygiene, nutrition, importance of good sleep and more.”

The nationwide programme is run by Feilding Police, the district council and Ōhakea air base staff.

The community is encouraged to watch and cheer on students during their final challenge, The Longest Day, traditionally held in the town square.

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