KPAL offers strength, conditioning program for youth

KAPA‘A — Training hard can produce results, but a personal trainer says strength and conditioning is crucial to physical development and injury prevention.

“It leads to a much higher quality of life if they stay on top of it, and makes healthier, happier individuals,” said Sandi O’Shaughnessy, owner of Iron Lotus Core Fitness in Kapa‘a. “The main goal is to become injury-free and motivated to build up self-esteem for the future.”

O’Shaughnessy is adding a strength and conditioning class to the Kaua‘i Police Activities League (KPAL) activities for youth starting Saturday. She already volunteers her time to help high school athletes and wants to help all youth to improve strength and endurance and to follow a path to a healthy lifestyle.

“We teach how to use more of the body with less effort,” O’Shaughnessy said. “You use so much more energy and continue to burn calories 24 to 48 hours after the workout.”

Participants use their bodies and various fitness tools such as medicine balls and thick, heavy, 40-foot marine ropes to create a fun and challenging workout. The goal is to mix up the routine and focus on different muscles each time.

The teens are happy to know they are doing the same exercises with the same equipment that the professional athletes are using in the best facilities, O’Shaughnessy said. They are glad to be exposed to cutting-edge suspension training and other techniques that focus on body weight versus free-weights or universal machines.

“They should expect there will be a learning curve, and that it is not going to be easy,” she said. “But I am not going to totally wear them out.”

It’s a foundation that includes plyometrics and exercises that help increase endurance, agility and explosive speed. Youth interact with other in resistance exercises, and there is an emphasis on team play and competitiveness.

“The kids become group leaders, depending on their performance, and they learn leadership skills,” she said

O’Shaughnessy volunteers weekly with the Kapa‘a High School athletes and said the coaches refer players to her when they feel they need to round out their conditioning. Athletes tend to focus on the training related to their sport, but they need to condition their bodies more with cross-training for proper body alignment, she said.

It helps to have a skilled assistant, and Robert Merkel Jr. has worked with O’Shaughnessy for seven months. The former high school baseball coach said he turned to conditioning to enhance free weights and sports training.

Merkel said it’s great working with small kids on up to high school, and getting them trained for collegiate sports. He said its important to correct the fundamentals with form and technique.

“When you combine with cross-training, then it is a lot more balanced and well-rounded, and it makes a better athlete,” he said. “In this age, you can’t just train for baseball or jujitsu, and Sandi is offering a way of getting better health in general, as well as training athletes.”

“Robert has got the program down, and he is awesome with kids,” Sandi said.

There will be days when they feel sore or tired and she said the challenge to keep coming and see the results.

“They just need to come with good attitudes,” she said. “They don’t have to be in sports but they do have to be ages 13 to 18.”

Changing the routine is important and motivating athletes to be positive and work hard at it has resulted in a very low dropout rate.

“They are coming back for more,” Merkel said.

This program helps teen athletes already in good shape but at greater risk for sports-related injuries, but it is also designed to help inactive youth avoid the other youth epidemic of childhood — obesity.  

O’Shaughnessy said kids should be physically active to prevent obesity. They have just as much of a need to get started on a healthy lifestyle choices.

“They need a friendly and light environment,” she said.

The athletes also face the same issues, she added. Today’s athlete can just as easily become a 350-pound adult.

The first session of one-hour classes can last six to eight weeks and then continue after an evaluation period. She suggests wearing comfortable clothing and athletic shoes. Teenagers are asked to bring a water bottle of their own, and to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian the first day to sign the registration form.

Registration will begin around 8:30 a.m.

For more information on the KPAL program, or to request additional support or an auxiliary aid, please email Police Sgt. Rod Green at

For more information on the course, call instructor Sandi O’Shaughnessy at 651-6349 or email and visit

The fee for the class is $20. Classes will be held at KPAL Youth Center, located next to Mahelona Medical Center at 4800 Kawaihau Rd. in Kapa‘a.

Register now for classes on Mondays from 4 to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 to 10 a.m.


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