I took some pictures at the gym the other day. Nothing unusual for CrossFit. We love to document everything, right?
But these were a little different.
Picture 1: A young teen. Done with his workout. Sitting on some boxes, absorbing information as three adults are in various stages of warming up, and in between reps of squat work.
Picture 2: An older teen. In the midst of a harrowing workout (aren’t they all?). Pushing himself to the limit.
These are just two snapshots of a really cool thing we have been starting to see at our box as well as gyms around the country. Young people coming in to work out on their own. This trend has many coaches really excited!
If you have been involved in CrossFit for a while, you are aware of all the incredible physical and mental benefits that are just bonuses that we are gifted with besides a great workout. Stronger, fitter bodies, increased self-esteem, not to mention great friendships. We, as adults, benefit from all of these – why not teens?
There is no doubt that we are living in scary, confusing, unhealthy times. The majority of people living in the US are unhealthy, overweight, and suffer from lifestyle diseases that come with inactivity. Not only do we have a culture of inactivity, but we now live in a truly electronic age. Coffee shops are filled not with people conversing, but silence, while individuals sit across the table from each other illuminated by the glow of the screens at which they are staring. As if that isn’t enough, throw in being a teen with all of the additional pressures of trying to fit in, discovering your identity, and navigating a weird world between childhood and adult.
So why CrossFit? And why is this atmosphere good for a growing teen? We’ve got a few reasons!
Many people are scared to try new things. Heck, just walking into a CrossFit for the first time takes an amazing amount of courage for anyone! However, after crossing that threshold, we find out that it is an incredibly supportive place. Cannon, 15, explains, “I can try new things without fear of being judged or made fun of.” What an empowering feeling! Teens can come in and try, succeed, AND fail. . . without worrying. Lifts will be missed. WODs may not be finished. Trying to do a double-under for the first time sure can look silly on ANYONE. But the freedom to experience all of these things without fear is amazing. In addition, teens also learn how to take constructive criticism without taking it personally, and to learn and grow from this instruction. They know that no matter how they perform in the WOD, they are unconditionally supported, will be cheered on, and get fist bumps in celebration of their effort when done.
“CrossFit helps me with my baseball. I come in at 5am with my parents. It’s something we can do together as a family.” ~ Ty, 17
Teens need (non-parent) adult role models. Many times, these people may take the form of a coach, pastor, or adult relative. However, when a teen comes in to work out with the class, socializes with the adults, and gleans from their knowledge, members can become mentors as well. From a dad who has completed his first pull-up, to a former athlete that can finally squat past parallel, to a member who ends up being a top competitor, what amazing role models! They all show the young athlete that consistency, patience, and perseverance pays off.
“Sometimes it feels weird to be one of the few teens in the whole gym. But the adults make me feel welcome and happy! CrossFit has changed me for the better physically and mentally. I honestly feel like I have the guts to do certain things since I started CF.” ~ Lacey, 16
A good part of the teen years is often spent trying to find your place in the world. Some youth already have their thing – sports, academic clubs, creative interests – but many may not. CrossFit has become a “thing” for many of our young athletes. We have some that join us to augment their sports training, but some come in never having participated in a sport before. One young athlete’s dad told us, “I don’t know what you guys do in there, but this is the only thing I ever see him excited about!” (I can tell you as a coach that this young man has socially blossomed, and pushes himself to limits that he never knew before CrossFit!) Recently, one of our young ladies who had never participated in sports or regular exercise previously, recently entered, AND WON her first weightlifting competition!
“I used to go to another place to work out, but was never really excited to go. I like CrossFit because it’s different every time. Most kids my age are just sitting around on electronics, or going to parties. I want to be bigger, faster, stronger for baseball.” ~ Cannon, 15
Participation in CrossFit has the potential to positively influence so many young people in different stages of physical, mental, and social development. Healthier bodies, minds, and self-esteem during the transitional teen years can set a young person up for a long, happy, healthy, active life. And not only do the young athletes benefit from working out with some amazing adults, but we adults sure are inspired by their presence!
This is a guest post from Gina Sobrero, Ph.D., ACSM EP-C. Gina is currently living in Kentucky, coaching at Vette City CrossFit as well as a Consultant for several national fitness, nutrition, and supplement companies. Gina can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.