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Dr. Johnson Gets in the Game: A Day in the Weight Room at George Washington High School

Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson recently took a trip down memory lane, donning her athletic gear to join students in a physical education weight training class at George Washington High School on Wednesday, Sept. 6.

Dr. Johnson, a former high school volleyball player from Evansville, Ind., who also played at the collegiate level, couldn’t resist the opportunity to engage with students in a different arena — the weight room.

Leading the charge was Paul Townsend, the school’s strength and conditioning coach. With nearly three decades of experience under his belt and certified as a strength coach since 2001, Townsend’s expertise was evident as he guided Dr. Johnson and the students through an intense hour of training.

The session kicked off with warm-up exercises and then moved through squats, flat bench presses, and hang cleans. The group ended the workout with a comprehensive upper and lower body circuit training session. Townsend emphasized that the focus was on core development and technique, ensuring that everyone grasped the fundamentals correctly.

As the group gasped for air during quick breaks between sets, he stressed the importance of weight training, particularly in the context of student-athletes.

“In today’s sports landscape, safety is paramount, and research indicates that stronger athletes are less prone to injuries,” said Townsend, who highlighted the evolution of weight training from traditional barbells to modern machines — all aimed at keeping athletes safe and injury-free.

Under Townsend’s guidance, the strength and conditioning program at George Washington has witnessed a remarkable transformation. Thanks to his vision and commitment, what was once a weight room/storage closet has now become a thriving hub for fitness and athleticism.

Impressed by Dr. Johnson’s work ethic and coachability, Townsend welcomed her to train in the facility anytime she wished. He also noted that she had recently recommitted to her fitness journey and would be improving her stamina in the coming days.

“Dr. Johnson is coachable and knowledgeable,” Townsend said. “You can tell she’s a former college athlete. I’m glad she decided to join our students in this class today as part of her recommitment to her fitness and health.”

Townsend’s message was clear: Find an exercise you enjoy and make it a part of your life. The benefits of strength training extend far beyond the sports arena since such work is essential for overall health and well-being.

Dr. Johnson ended the day drenched in sweat and somewhat short of breath but called the hour-long session “incredible” and “rewarding.”

She also expressed her enthusiasm for IPS’s significant investment in upgrading athletic facilities throughout the district because of Rebuilding Stronger.

“The board’s approval of millions of dollars for these improvements underscores the district’s commitment to providing the best possible experiences for all students, academically and athletically,” Dr. Johnson said.