Practicing what he preaches

Noah Viegut


Duwayne Behnke is a strength and conditioning teacher at Stevens Point Area Senior High (SPASH) and has been teaching physical education classes for 31 years. He has also been the lead strength and conditioning coach for the football team.

Why is physical fitness so important?

It’s a 15-minute answer really. All the research talks about how it is the number one treatment for depression, it fights against heart disease, it releases dopamine chemicals that make you feel good and keep you from being depressed. You are more productive, less tired, you have more energy. The science backs up the reasons to exercise.

How can physical fitness impact your daily life?

From everything from more energy to your ability to do things. As we age we lose muscle and coordination and even at a younger age the people who are more sedentary, who are gaming a lot aren’t moving and their bodies are meant to move, and they are getting sick more and losing coordination. It’s almost like aging sped up. So your quality of life, your productivity, everything is enhanced when we are active. Our bodies are meant to work and we have to make them work.

How does eating healthy impact your body and energy levels?

I always think of it as if you have a Lamborghini, a super performance car, and you put bad fuel in that car it’s not going to run right. So, our bodies are the same way. If we don’t fuel our bodies right we aren’t going to feel our best. Even the timing of when we eat can affect our bodies. I have had students that changed their diet and it affected their skin in a positive way. So, I think it is a foundational thing. If you want to gain weight you start with nutrition, if you want to lose weight you start with nutrition. If you want to change your energy levels or your mood throughout the day, start by checking what you are eating.

Is it ever too late to start being active?

Never. I show a video in class where a lady who is 91 years old starts to exercise. She was in a walker and kept falling down and getting hurt. Then a guy told her that she needed to start lifting weights, so she started lifting weights and she got rid of her walker and she didn’t fall down because it’s so important to start building healthy habits.

What are some of the best ways you can start to get fit and active?

Fitness can be looked at differently for everyone. You could be in your backyard with a couple of bands and a backpack full of rocks. You can start with your basic movements. I always say if you can squat, hip hinge, push, pull, and skip you can do any exercise. Once you learn those five movements you can run, you can squat, pick something up, deadlift, move a couch in your living room. So really it all starts with those movements and if you get those down all you need is a place to be active and then you can see what works best for you after that. And keep in mind what your goal is. If you want to train for a strongman competition it’s going to look different than training to be a sprinter.

What are the benefits of stretching often?

Stretching really comes down to mobility. They say if you stretch a muscle after three minutes the muscle goes back to where it was. The new science says that we need to do more compound movements like a squat. A squat is still a stretch but everything has to flow together. If you are a one-sport athlete where you do the same thing over and over your muscles are going to get tight so you need to do certain things to loosen those muscles up. If you are very tight in your quads or in your hip flexors it is like running in jeans, it’s hard to do. You don’t have the flexibility of the range of motion to reach your full stride length or your top speed. Or if you have bad ankles it is like trying to run in high top shoes or hiking boots, it doesn’t work. I prefer the term mobility over flexibility.

What is your personal favorite form of activity?

Everything outdoors really. I have really grown to enjoy cutting wood because I am working out and I am being productive. That has become my favorite outdoor activity and now I have enough wood to last me five years now.