As I have mentioned in previous posts, Crossfit is a big part of my life from a training as well as coaching perspective. Over the past 5 years I have seen significant changes over many facets of my life which I attribute to Crossfit. I have met many great people, learned a lot about my self and have improved my overall health and well-being. These benefits aren’t only available to me though and now my girls are starting to enjoy the experience of Crossfit.
What is Crossfit?
According to crossfit.com, “CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. All CrossFit workouts are based on functional movements, and these movements reflect the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more. These are the core movements of life. They move the largest loads the longest distances, so they are ideal for maximizing the amount of work done in the shortest time. Intensity is essential for results and is measurable as work divided by time—or power. The more work you do in less time, or the higher the power output, the more intense the effort. By employing a constantly varied approach to training, functional movements and intensity lead to dramatic gains in fitness.”
For kids though?
Unfortunately the web is full of “bad Crossfit fails” where people injure themselves due to poor form, poor coaching, unsupervised environment or all of these factors put together. What people aren’t told is that these injuries are extremely rare. Sure, people develop soft tissue injuries and other musculoskeletal issues not unlike every other sport or physical activity there is available to us. But the traumatic injury stigma is over-blown.
The reason that I liked Crossfit when I first started at Crossfit Kinetics (shout out to Keith Kenny and Matt Smeltzer) is that I felt like a kid again. I was in my mid-thirties and for the first time trying to learn how to do hand-stands, crawling around on the floor, doing lots of air squats and other gymnastic maneuvers that I thought were behind me. Learning these skills at 7 or 37 has tremendous benefits for physical literacy but also cognitively in terms of development of the structure of your brain and new synapses between neurons (my BPE is slowly coming back to me). As a coach, I love it when someone in class asks if I can teach them a new movement or skill and love it even more if they are as old or older than I am!
What are the benefits to kids?
- Physical literacy– at a time when early sport specialization is such a controversial issue, Crossfit comes through as either a supplement or an alternative. The specialization of Crossfit is that it is completely unspecialized. Participants on any given day will be expected to complete Olympic barbell lifts, gymnastics, running, kettlebell work and the list goes on. Kids learning functional movement patterns at an age-appropriate level (volume, load, intensity, duration) will have profound positive implications when then applied to sport. If not applied to sport, the participation will have life-long implications for simply being able to demonstrate solid body mechanics. When I think back about all the bicep curls I did in Midget to get ready for hockey, now I shake my head. There are much better movements which will translate into hockey performance (deadlifts, cleans, snatches, squats).
- Strength– my girls love sport and they are as competitive as I am. They see other athletes (guys and girls) and they have an admiration for strength. In addition to physical strength, the sport/pursuit has a component of mental strength. The ability to get through a grueling workout is often very dependent on the athletes ability to not think about how uncomfortable it is and power through. I believe this translates into how people handle other life challenges. Some days, everything just seems easier if I have completed a tough class at 6 a.m. and have pushed my body and my mental discipline to the max.
- Social– Greg Glassman (Founder of Crossfit) and the thousands of box owners (name for Crossfit gyms) have created an environment where people encourage one another and celebrate when someone in the class breaks a personal record. A personal record might be 1 pull up for one person and it might be 50 straight pull-ups for someone else, it really doesn’t matter what the PR was, it only matters that someone had the discipline to stick with it and achieve it. Great coaches will ensure everyone in the class knows each other’s names, complete introductions and sometimes put people into partners.
- It can be Competitive– there, I said it. I want my girls to be strong, to compete fairly, to lose with dignity, come back stronger and win. In the gym, on the field, in the workplace and in life. If my kids want to compete, Crossfit offers an opportunity where they can quantifiably see each day how their numbers are doing, how they are measuring up and how they are developing. People can adopt whatever level of competitiveness they want but at least the opportunity exists to measure progress.
- Transfer into other areas of health and wellness– if you are training a lot, you need to properly refuel and follow a healthy diet. Mobility is also a critical component so people learn how to stretch and mobilize. Athletes at Crossfit gyms are constantly talking about food, nutrition ideas and learning from each other.
We are fortunate we have a new Crossfit Box in our area, Clan Crossfit. The owners (Jason and Ashley) have focused on the inclusion of many youth classes in the weekly schedule. There are all kinds of great athletes and beginners coming in and making improvements in their overall fitness and performance. I am grateful the Gunn girls will have the opportunity to get involved, get strong and meet other great kids.