Kids get CrossFit

Youth version of popular workout program aims to instill lifelong love of fitness

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter



The CrossFit craze is spreading to some of Clark County’s youngest residents.

Kids who have watched their parents get in shape through the program are now trying CrossFit themselves. But they’re not participating in the ultra competitive adult version. Instead, they’re getting a taste of CrossFit through a program designed specifically for kids and teenagers: CrossFit Kids.

Like the adult program, CrossFit Kids is focused on functional fitness, that is, movements that translate to the real world, said Steve Mckendrick, a coach at Industrial CrossFit in Hazel Dell. Because CrossFit is infinitely scalable, the kids program is just scaled to the capabilities of children and teens, he said.

At Industrial CrossFit, which started its weekly CrossFit Kids class in August, the program is still in its early stages. Mckendrick is building the foundation — teaching the kids proper technique and safety and using mostly body-weight movement.

Once they’re ready, Mckendrick will incorporate light weights into the workout.

“We believe in weight training with kids,” Mckendrick said. “But I’m not going to put a 3-year-old under a bench press bar.”

Adam Neiffer, owner of CrossFit Fort Vancouver, compares CrossFit Kids to schools’ physical education classes. For the last five years, CrossFit Fort Vancouver has offered programs for kids of all ages each summer.

Like P.E. classes, the exercise in CrossFit Kids classes often comes in the form of games and obstacle courses, Neiffer said.

“We’re just trying to harness what kids do naturally,” such as pushing, pulling, running, jumping, carrying and climbing, Neiffer said.

At Industrial CrossFit, the structure of the kids classes are similar to that of the adult classes, Mckendrick said. They include a warm-up, teaching of a specific skill and a workout of the day, or WOD. Unlike the adult classes, however, the kids classes end with a game or two.

Fun and games

A recent CrossFit Kids class at the gym drew about a dozen kids ages 4 through 13. They warmed up with skipping, walking on their toes, jumping jacks and stretching. Once warm, they did five minutes of burpees. Then they spent five minutes doing a circuit of activities, including bear crawls, pushups, crab walking and sit-ups.

After the workouts, Mckendrick reviewed the muscle groups the kids worked. Then he quizzed them on the food groups. At the end, the kids played several rounds of dodgeball using stuffed animals instead of rubber balls.

The games are what 9-year-old Ayden Martin looks forward to most.

“When I do the WOD, when I do the workout, I think I earn the fun game,” he said.

Ayden started doing CrossFit after watching his parents work out at Industrial CrossFit. Once they started offering the kids class, Ayden was no longer on the sidelines.

“At first I’m jealous,” he said of the adult program. “I guess I got my dream.”

Like Ayden, 11-year-old Tae Marks followed in his parents’ footsteps.

“I like it because both my parents have always worked out, so it encourages me to work out with them,” Tae said.

And Tae enjoys copying the workouts his mom and dad perform, especially the cargo net and rope climb.

“It makes me pretty happy,” he said.

Promoting movement and developing kids at a young age will, ideally, help the kids to see fitness as a lifelong thing, not a once-a-week thing, said Polly Albright, owner of CrossFit North Pacific. The Washougal gym launched its CrossFit Kids program about six months ago and offers classes twice a week.

Making exercise fun for kids, rather than a chore, is one of the goals of CrossFit, said Bridget Raach, a coach at CrossFit Fort Vancouver. The program can also help kids to develop self-confidence and aims to teach kids all the ways their bodies move.

“We want kids to love learning,” Raach said. “We send them to school so they’ll love learning. We have our kids do CrossFit so they’ll love moving.”