Sure, there is risk for injury -- there is with any high-intensity physical activity. But overall, when performed with supervision from an invested coaching staff and an understanding of your own personal limitations, CrossFit can be a taxing workout with measurable fitness gains. (CrossFit officially received the American Council on Exercise's stamp of approval in 2013.)
CrossFit prides itself on being a scalable workout; the movements are easily modified to become manageable for a wide range of fitness fans. But when certain populations -- say, pregnant women -- go all beast mode, naysayers totally lose their minds.
Unsurprisingly, similar outrage has been voiced when it comes to CrossFit for another controversial set: kids. Despite scientific evidence for the benefits of (age-appropriate) strength training in kids and adolescents, the Internet has gotten repeatedly bent out of shape over the idea of little ones at the neighborhood box (that's CrossFit lingo for gym). So, naturally, like I do with most workouts people call crazy, intense, too hard or dangerous, I decided to try it out myself.
What We Tried: The WOD (that's Workout of the Day) for Tuesday, March 18, 2014 on CrossFitKids.com
Where: I decided to give this a try at home, to save myself the embarrassment of doing crab walks and bear crawls in front of other adults at the gym. CrossFit Kids has a handy map of registered program locations here for parents who don't want to do all the supervising themselves.
What We Did: To really see what the fuss is about, I opted to follow the plan for the youngest participants, the preschoolers. Workouts for Varsity, Junior Varsity, Novice, Preteen and Elementary levels are also offered. For my warm-up, I was instructed to complete three rounds or five minutes (whichever came first) of the following:
- Bear crawl
- 3 super-slow squats
- Forward roll
- 5-meter giant steps
- 10-meter side shuffle
- 10-meter skip
The actual WOD was a four-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) of the following:
- 3 dip-shrug-drop-stands
- 5-meter crab walk
- plank hold
- 3 jump and spins
- 5-meter broad jump
- 5 one-legged hops per leg
The workout wound down with three to five minutes of Duck, Duck, Goose, which I decided to substitute with some foam rolling and pushups, only because I really don't think I could have convinced my three roommates to join me on the living room floor at 7:30 a.m.
For How Long: Because of the noted time limitations, the whole shebang runs about 14 minutes long, max. You'll likely need to factor in a few extra minutes for explaining (and, let's be honest, re-explaining) movements, resting, taking water breaks, giggling, etc., with actual preschoolers.
How'd It Feel: Well, mostly silly, considering I was crawling and skipping up and down my hallway. But that's not why we're here. The lack of weights meant my (adult) muscles certainly weren't pushed to the max. And because I can cover a lot more distance in one step of my crab walk, I breezed through nearly five rounds of the AMRAP. Still, my heart rate was up and my whole body was involved. And I can't tell you when the last time I did a forward roll was.
The whole time I was remembering moments in childhood gymnastics classes I haven't thought about in decades. I can certainly understand why parents might be anxious about the idea of CrossFit for kids if they're imagining deadlifts and clean and jerks. But the moves for preschoolers are closer to things young children do in the course of normal play than anything an adult would do in the gym. And considering kids are spending more time than ever sitting, staring at screens (on average, seven hours a day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics), a little more play, even if it's structured like a workout, can only be a good thing.
What It Helps With: At this age group, the goal is without a doubt more activity. But because it's also essentially a HIIT workout, which we know burns calories and fat while improving fitness levels, even adults could benefit from a little CrossFit for kids. Anyone up for some Duck, Duck, Goose?