Play: Good for Children and Other Living Things

I must admit, I read the article “Is CrossFit Training Good for Kids?” with significant skepticism. It’s not that I’m a stranger to difficult workouts; I ran DI cross country and track, I have 18 marathons to my credit, and yes, I can do cleans. To me, these CrossFit workouts sound fun except for the fact that they’re taking place indoors.

My primary concern is not that the workouts are too hard for kids (though I think that’s possible if the staff is not appropriately trained or the workouts aren’t properly supervised), but rather that too much structure can suck the joy out of something that comes to kids naturally — moving our bodies. It’s not until the end of the article that author Lauren Silverman got to the point I was waiting for all along:

So, if your kid wants to do CrossFit and the class has good trainers, that’s just fine. But if your kid prefers doing cartwheels outside to lunges indoors, that’s fine, too. The point is to make exercise fun and a part of everyday life early on.

As for parents, my advice is to tread carefully in discerning what children actually want to do and what children want to do because it pleases their parents. I’ve coached too many kids and competed with too many athletes who push themselves trying to satisfy parents who can never be satisfied. It might be better if, instead of trying to shape children’s workouts to look more like adults’ workouts, it worked the other way around. Grownups go to the gym and children go to the playground; what would it look like if more adults approached life, and fitness, with the wild, joyful, un-self-conscious abandon seen on the playground?

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