It’s Coach Tracey’s birthday!
Tracey is North Pacific’s Head CrossFit Kids Coach, and truly a beacon in our community. She recently returned from the Boston Marathon! Yet, far more impressive than her physical ability and talent, her work ethic and compassion for others is beyond reproach.
Tracey’s passion for helping others is one of the reasons we love her, and was what led her to become a coach and to develop the North Pacific Kid’s program, which has impacted hundreds of children and brings a smile to our faces every time we see them in action.
Why CrossFit Kids?
I was recently watching a high school tennis match when a neighbor sat down beside me and struck up a conversation. She turned to me and said “So I just heard the craziest thing! They are letting kids do CrossFit! CrossFit is so dangerous, can you believe they are having kids do it?” I’m pretty sure she did not expect the impassioned answer she got!
So why do we encourage kids to do CrossFit? Why do I personally encourage it? My journey to becoming a CrossFit Kids Coach started nearly 20 years ago when I was volunteering at the local Boys and Girls Club and realized how the kids that were active after school were also doing better during school and in life. They had fewer discipline problems and better grades. I began to notice the same thing in my life, for example, the semester that I had P.E. at school, I also had better grades. This continued into college where I quickly learned that the time I had to dedicate to a P.E. class would pay off more than an extra hour of studying.
I graduated from college with a degree in Social Work and emphasis in Child Welfare. After seeing all the bad and ugly parts of some children’s lives I wanted to know how to make a difference beyond therapy and medication. While working with these children I found that more than anything, taking them out hiking, rock climbing, roller skating or simply running around at the park seemed to make a difference in how happy they were despite everything that was going on in their lives. There was no question that being active, being encouraged and seeing small successes brought them greater happiness.
Many studies have now been done to prove these things I had noticed. In the book “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” by John J. Ratey I read all about the science behind why I feel better if I work out in the morning. It’s not just my imagination, there are actually changes in my brain when I work out! New synapses are created and my ability to learn, focus and concentrate actually increase! Plus, chemicals are released that make me actually feel happier and give me more energy!
Armed with this knowledge I have felt justified in my own love of working out and pushing myself to set new goals. But what about my children? My son Hayden tried every sport imaginable as soon as we was old enough to join the team. We encouraged him, practiced with him and sat through so many mind numbing hours of games only to have him complain and hate every single one. He didn’t like traditional sports. “That’s fine,” we said, he doesn’t have to like sports. But what about all those benefits that come from working out? How was he going to get those? More importantly, how was he going to learn to love and value fitness? Fitness can be so much fun and he didn’t know that. For him it was always hard, intimidating and frustrating.
In an effort to help him and the other kids who felt like him I started a running club at the elementary schools. I called it Run4Fun in hopes that I could convince these kids that running is actually fun! I spent countless hours working on that program and in the end I convinced a few kids, but not many. Running was missing a key component- the mental stimulation required with learning complex movements like olympic lifts, gymnastics moves and sequences in complicated work outs! What they needed was CrossFit.
CrossFit Kids brings the physical benefits of a wide variety of disciplines with out the pressure to perform on a team. Hayden didn’t want everyone staring at him when it was his turn to bat or yelling at him if he missed a kick or a shot. At CrossFit Kids he could work his hardest every day and see improvement compared only to himself while he was constantly encouraged by peers and coached to increase his skill level. The more stimuli he was given in conjunction with physical activity the more neurological connections and adaptation he created in his brain. The more kids are exposed to this when they are young the more connections and capacities they develop and retain for the rest of their lives. Learning to be coordinated and physical now will help him to take on new challenges as an adult.
Physical benefits can also be seen now! Hayden is more confident and coordinated on his Ripstick Skateboard. My daughter Danica is a gymnast and she saw much faster gains in her gymnastics skills once she started to incorporate the CrossFit Kids strength training into her life. My youngest, Alyssa loves to dance and rock climb and has a greater capacity for both of these with her increased strength and body awareness.
CrossFit Kids brings emotional benefits as well. Kids work on sportsmanship, leadership, teamwork, listening skills, and self-discipline. In addition, I see a noticeable difference in the confidence level of children who do CrossFit Kids. From that first time they timidly hang on the bar, touch the rope or try a thruster to the time when they do their first pull up, climb to the top of the rope or execute a perfect thruster they learn that they are capable of doing so much more than they thought! They start to believe that they truly can do anything they put their mind to if they work hard! They are constantly challenging themselves to do just a little bit more in a controlled environment where they can see success! In addition, the release of those feel-good brain chemicals during exercise also help the kids truly feel happier!
Lastly, one of the main reasons I’ve become so attached to CrossFit Kids is the idea that I can teach kids how to be Fit for Life! Instead of simply learning to play a sport that they can only play during childhood, I can teach them how to love and value fitness forever. If a child grows up associating working out with something fun and enjoyable they are much more likely to make fitness a priority throughout their life. They will eat better, sleep better, play better and have a better capacity to face all of life’s challenges! Of course I want that for our children!
In the end, I realized I hadn’t actually answered my neighbors question. Is CrossFit Kids safe? YES! We focus on body weight movements and learning body awareness and control. Intensity is kept at a relative level with an emphasis on fun and learning through repetition. Lifts and movements are all learned and performed without weights. As kids get older and demonstrate consistent skills and ability they are allowed to practice with light weights and objects, all in a controlled and safe environment never being encouraged to do more than they are able. As they grow they continue to find happiness and success by reaching each new goal!
So, can I believe they are having kids do CrossFit? I can’t believe that anyone wouldn’t want their child to do CrossFit Kids! Everyone put your hand in the middle of the circle! 1-2-3 “Go CrossFit Kids!”
Interested in more of the hard science and research to support these findings as well? Some of it may be found Here.