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At Manteca park, in B&G parking lot
Personal trainer and Sierra High graduate Alex Avila, left, keeps an eye on the throw downs during Wednesdays high-intensity circuit training conducted at Dutra Farm Park as part of a variety of free workouts outside the traditional gym setting. - photo by HIME ROMERO

• WHAT: Free family friendly workout
• WHEN: Wednesday at 7 p.m.; Saturday at 8 a.m.
• WHERE: On Wednesdays: Dutra Farms Park on Sparrowhawk Street. On Saturdays: The Boys and Girls Club parking lot.
• ALSO: Optional $3 recovery shakes served afterward
• CONTACT: E-mail

He looks like a miniature version of the Hulk, minus, of course, the green skin.

Broad shoulders.

Big arms.

A square jaw.

It’s hard to imagine Alex Avila, Manteca’s traveling personal trainer and a former Sierra High football standout, as a heavy child.

But he was.

Avila says he was 6 when he first took control of his body, laying the framework for a life in physical fitness.

Back then, he had high hopes of running with the Delta Rebels youth football team, but was told he was overweight. He needed to lose six pounds in a week.

Challenge accepted.

With the help of his father, Raymond, Avila took his weight-loss campaign to the streets.

“My Dad said if you want to play football put this on. He handed me sweats, a garbage bag with three holes in it, a T-shirt, a sweatshirt and a beanie, and we went running,” he said. “We did that every day for a week and I made weight.

“Growing up, it was fun to me. I enjoyed running. I enjoyed controlling my body. As I got older, I started lifting weights. I was getting stronger. … I knew that’s what separated me – I was willing to do the work.”

Still is.

Only now, he’s channeling that energy back into the community.

The longtime personal trainer is a partner in Active Nutrition Manteca, a coalition of fitness and nutrition coaches that offer a variety of free workouts outside the traditional gym setting.

On Wednesday, Active Nutrition invaded Dutra Farms Park off of Sparrowhawk Street for a family friendly workout just before sunset.

“We joke that we’re getting Manteca fit, but our main goal is to get people out there,” said Avila, who also offers a Saturday morning bootcamp-style workout in the parking lot of the Boys and Girls Club. “It’s free. Bring your kids. That way you can start being active.”

More and more are answering the call. Active Nutrition Manteca’s Facebook group has more than 130 members and its sessions are growing in popularity.

Active Nutrition is averaging 10 to 15 participants, with wish-specific coaches. Avila and Jonteshia Vigil work with those seeking a high-intensity burn. Amanda Reyna coordinates the children and youth workouts, while Allen Lee-Olie Goddard, an aspiring marathoner, leads the run/walk group.

They’re united by a single focus: To strengthen the mind and body through a fitness and nutritional plan.

Participants have the option of purchasing a recovery shake ($3) after each workout.

“I was a fitness manager for a few years,” Avila said. “To me, you were always limited. You couldn’t do everything you wanted to do as a trainer. If I had my own practice, I could set my own prices and schedule, and give clients what they want. Not only do they get to come and see me more, but they get the results they’re looking for.”

Active Nutrition was introduced to Avila by his former Sierra High classmate Leila Jelloule, who has been part of a similar movement in Los Angeles.

Her mentor began Active Nutrition eight years ago and watched it explode. The movement began just as Manteca’s has – small and understated, building one positive experience at a time.

Now, Active Nutrition Los Angeles arrives on beaches and in parks in force, with classes of approximately 300 or more.

“They get a workout. They get nutrition. They get a positive community,” Jelloule said.

Soon the world will too.

Active Nutrition’s takeover has already begun with startups in Santa Barbara, Washington D.C., New Jersey and Manteca.

Yes, Manteca.

Jelloule still has family in the area, and like Avila, wanted to give back to an area that helped raise her.

She says Active Nutrition, which partners with Herbalife, has plans of opening a health and wellness center in the Manteca area in the next year. There, participants can learn more about nutrition and their bodies.

“This is a movement that I wanted to create out here and expand all over Northern California,” Jelloule said. “We have Saturday morning and Wednesday evening workouts. It’s amazing. It’s growing.

“It’s all about having the community for everyone to be a part of. A lot of people want to live healthy, but the biggest problem is not having the community to do it with.”

Challenge accepted.

Avila and his Active Nutrition family are committed to providing Manteca with the tools for a healthy, fit lifestyle.

“The one thing I’m starting to see – they’re starting to build routines and relationships,” he said. “I’ll hear ‘Hey, do you want to go to the gym?’ Not only are they doing it for themselves, but they’re partnering up.

“Now they have someone to not only go with but someone to motivate them. They’ve become a tight unit.”