By Vincent Boucher
3:00 PM PDT, August 30, 2013
Outside of team sports and oft-dreaded physical education classes, exercise for kids has always been a catch-as-catch-can affair. And nowadays, drawing any youngster from ever-present computer screens can be a daunting challenge for parents.
Some of the latest success stories take a page from popular fitness trends favored by adults. Scaled to suit budding athletes, these activities are designed to engage a kid's mind and provide a good workout.
CrossFit Kids at CrossFit Hollywood
You wouldn't immediately think of kids at this typical CrossFit "box" — a bare-bones gym replete with old-school pull-up bars, kettle bell weights and medicine balls — not to mention the program's tough-guy reputation as the workout behind the "300" movie army.
But here's kid's coach Amanda Douglas guiding four girls through their warm-up in the ages 10-to-14 class (usually classes are fairly equally split between boys and girls). Just like for adults, the hour includes instruction in a couple of exercises, then the signature Workout of the Day, a cool down and some feedback. Kids' classes, though, end on an up note with a brief game period (there's also a class for ages 5 to 9).
Douglas' attention seemingly darts everywhere at once to keep up with the room's nonstop energy and the girls' constant questions, mixing shouts of "Nice!" and "Keep it going!" with the occasional bit of tough love — "I need you to show me two perfect reps!" They work through six rounds of an impressive mix of assisted pull-ups, push-ups, lunges and wall-balls (a combo squat and throwing move), timing each completed round. Afterward they sit and talk about whether they did better in their early rounds or later, getting a takeaway lesson in stamina for the next time.
"By working more on form and technique, we allow their strength to build naturally," Douglas says. "It's so cool to see kids work on things and want to get better."
And sometimes a bit of the CrossFit signature swagger rubs off too. Owner Andy Thompson recalls hearing one little girl as she trailed off with her father: "You know, Dad, I'm stronger than you. And your friends."
CrossFit Kids at CrossFit Hollywood: (323) 782-1045, email@example.com
Zooga: Yoga for Kids
"Parents are amazed; they have no idea what their kids can do," says Antonio King, founder of Zooga Yoga in Culver City. "They think they can just kick a soccer ball around."
King — a mother of three, ages 3, 5 and 8 — has seen kids upend expectations again and again in the year since she opened Zooga, the only yoga studio in the Los Angeles area dedicated to the whole family, including babies, expectant moms, kids and teens. King opted out of a 20-year career in the entertainment industry that left precious little time "for really having a moment to be in touch with ourselves."
Zooga offers a full range of yoga-based sessions, such as Happy Babies, in which new parents bond with infants, and Dancing Doggies, where parents and toddlers alike bark during downward dog and hiss in cobra pose. For the big kids, there is a tween Warrior Class and beginning and intermediate Teen Yoga. Special activities include a monthly Kids Night of yoga, movie and pizza so that parents can steal away for a date night.
For kids, the importance of "learning how to just sit in one spot and breathe" is just as important to King as the yoga poses and the camaraderie. "You don't always have to be moving."
Zooga Yoga: (310) 839-6642, zoogayoga.com
This Pasadena-based group fitness program devoted to kids with special needs or on the autism spectrum is the brainchild of professional trainers David Liston; his wife, Jodie Liston; and clinical psychologist Gwennyth Palafox.
The program serves about 25 youths ages 5 to 20. David Liston says that, even though society has good intentions to include them, most of the kids can't go to regular exercise classes or be in situations with children who don't have special needs.
"What has really blown me away is that when these kids get the opportunity to exercise, so many of them are very, very athletic. They have the balance, strength, the stability," Liston says.
The kids thrive on the consistency of the training and the coaches and lots of positive talk and high-fives that they all get points for. Though they think they're coming in just to exercise, he says, they're working on self-esteem, social skills and even leadership — as most of them can lead a set in class themselves after repeated visits.
"They don't get this anywhere else in their life. Nowhere else is anyone letting a child with Down syndrome or a kid on the spectrum lead anything, and that's where the power comes in," Liston says.
Brain-Body 360: (626) 799-5800, bb360training.com
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