How Young is Too Young?

CrossFIt Kids is a great program. For the last three summers both my kids (twins, a boy and a girl) participated in this introduction to CrossFit.
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CrossFIt Kids is a great program. For the last three summers both my kids (twins, a boy and a girl) participated in this introduction to CrossFit.
CrossFit Kid

CrossFIt Kids is a great program. For the last three summers both my kids (twins, a boy and a girl) participated in this introduction to CrossFit. As my daughter (the only one of the two who wanted to keep training) got older I began to wonder what would be the appropriate age for her to start on-ramp classes? After asking around, both at our local box and through social media, no one really had a definite answer.

According to the official rules of the 2014 CrossFit Games Open, a competitor must be 14 years old in order to officially submit scores for each of the workouts during this event. I know from experience that we have had quite a few high school kids in and out of our box in the past four and a half years that I was there, so why not get an 8th grader started?

The main factors to consider were: 1.) Could she safely work within the parameters of the WOD and 2.) Would the added stress of trying to compete lead to her pushing herself too much and sacrificing form to try to keep up. As I addressed both these issues with my coach, I realized that these are some of the main issues that face anyone who trains. She’s done the movement (with PVC pipes and very low weight 15-pound training bars) and has the athletic background (cross-country, competitive soccer and track), so we enrolled her in the on-ramp classes at 13.

Each morning this month, she got up voluntarily on her summer break (a brand-new teenager, let it be known) at 5:30 a.m., grabbed a bottle of water and we headed off to the box to warm up and get ready for the 6:00 a.m. on-ramp. She worked in a class of seven others while our coaches walked the group through the “What is CrossFit?” basics and then moved them through basics of Oly lifts, wall balls, how far the turnaround point was for the 400 meter runs, abmat sit-ups, box jumps, deadlifts and banded pull-ups.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we pieced together some of the basics so that the on-ramp attendees could take their new skills and use them to complete a short workout each day. Once the on-rampers could show us that they could safely demonstrate the ability to safely complete each movement, we would scale both weights and movements and times so that we could put them through some elementary versions of WODs.

I know that each box has their own version of a foundation or on-ramp or beginner’s class, and I think that progress training is the heart and soul of any CrossFit affiliate that’s worth a damn. When I did it back in 2010, it was nowhere as streamlined, efficient and productive as our coaches have developed it today.

The keystone to our on-ramp (and one of the fundamentals of why CrossFit works in a measurable way) is that all the participants do a baseline workout on day one which is a 400 meter run, 40 air squats, 30 abmat sit-ups, 20 push-ups and 10 banded pull-ups for time. The goal would be that all the participants, through training, practice, focus on diet and proper nutrition and increased skill and confidence, would be able to improve their times and results in just three weeks.

I can attest that this program works. My daughter (although she was just 13) did the baseline workout at an initial time of 7:25, and after three weeks she completed the exact same amount of work in a time of 4:52 (more than two and a half minutes better). Now that she’s completed the initial three-week introduction, she is starting to attend regular classes and do scaled versions of the workouts, and she loves it.

I would recommend to any parent that they start their kids off in CrossFit Kids. There is no one real answer to the question, “How young is too young to start them in regular classes?” This is simply a decision that you, your coaches and your child will have to figure out. As long as they can do it safely and are monitored, I say start them young and begin to develop our future CrossFit champs.

What are your thoughts about how young kids and teens should begin doing full classes? Leave your thoughts in the comments below for email me at jtolgrinder@gmail.com.

Stay on the Grind.
Jamie Toland (JTol)
Twitter @JTolgrinder