CrossFit /ˈkrɒsfɪt/noun: A high intensity fitness programme incorporating elements from several sports and types of exercise. We know it is a great workout for adults ... but for kids? Lori Evans gets the scoop on CrossFit Kids classes, Vondel Gym's fun new offering for Amsterdam's youngest set.
On a freezing December day, I make my way down a very icy sidewalk on my way to observe the new Crossfit Kids classes offered at Vondel Gym. Slipping and sliding, hoping I don't fall and break a bone, I wonder if anyone will even be at class today. I feel certain these kids must have to be dragged to a CrossFit class by their parents and the ones there today will surely be even more grouchy and cold than me.
Boy, was I wrong!
Serious Training with a Smile
What a surprise and delight my whole experience at Vondel Gym turned out to be! The intensity of the place is palpable: men boxing in a ring, women lifting gigantic weights, rows of black punching bags, stationary bikes whirring.
CrossFit Kids classes are held in a central open area of the gym – the children are not whisked away to a separate room, but are right in the thick of things, surrounded and inspired by the sight of all these adults challenging themselves and cheering each other on.
Today, Ronnie and Lorraine are team-teaching the CrossFit Kids class (there are always two teachers for both educational and practical reasons). Classes have a maximum of 10 students so as to provide a lot of individual attention, and are currently offered to three age groups: 4-7, 8-13, and teens 13+. The classes are new this year and are quickly growing in popularity. The teachers are all highly skilled personal trainers, gym teachers, and teachers of other athletic disciplines.
It’s awesome to watch the children get stronger and more confident. CrossFit is an excellent base for all other sports. Not only do you increase muscle strength and control, you also learn to be around other kids. You learn how to win and lose graciously, and how to encourage others.
Let the Games Begin!
I ask Ronnie the question that had been on my mind earlier – whether the kids did it for themselves or because their parents made them do it. He says that while parents might initiate the first CrossFit Kids class, it is the children who love it and choose to stay. I could see this was true when the children showed up. They all came charging in, eager to begin!
Ronnie explained to me that because many of the kids don’t yet read, he draws out the class agenda in pictures. The class begins with some guessing over what the pictures mean. With fun games, Ronnie and Lorraine introduce burpees (a challenging squat/plank/jump combination), jumping, pull-ups on low bars, and squats. They are right there, doing all the exercises along with the children, demonstrating, encouraging, helping, and holding when needed.
I am not sure how they did it, but they got every child doing squats and laughing in the process!
The children are introduced to real gym equipment. They lift small kettlebells, hang from bars, and jump on and off the round plates from the barbells. It’s a treat to put “fairy dust” on their hands so they can magically hold onto the bars better. During the short water break halfway through, the class marches proudly in a line through the gym to the water cooler in the café. I notice that the class for younger children uses a play-centered approach – pretending to be monsters and gorillas, going wiggle crazy and freezing with thumbs up. In keeping with their age, the class for older children had more difficult exercises – jumping on one foot on and off the barbell plates, or doing round the world, a sort-of push-up around in a circle.
When everyone is flagging towards the end of class, they have a game "Sneller dan de Juf" (Faster than the Teacher) and although they’re getting tired, the kids race to see if they can do an exercise faster than Lorraine. And it is NOT easy to keep up with Lorraine! The children are asked how many repetitions they did and are encouraged to beat their own score next time. At the end of class, there are high-fives all around – not just from the teachers, but among all the kids, too.
A side (but super!) benefit of Crossfit Kids classes: the parents do not have to stay. Many parents use the time for their own workout, some stay and watch, and others have time to run off and do errands.
CrossFit is taking what the kids already do on the playground and refining it ...
Good Form Can Be Good Fun
Lorraine says, “It’s awesome to watch the children get stronger and more confident. CrossFit is an excellent base for all other sports. Not only do you increase muscle strength and control, you also learn to be around other kids. You learn how to win and lose graciously, and how to encourage others.” Ronnie adds, “CrossFit is taking what the kids already do on the playground and refining it. It is teaching them good form, like how to fall safely, or doing an exercise correctly.”
I tell Ronnie and Lorraine they could have their own TV show and I mean it! I have been highly entertained through two 45-minute classes; indeed, they were so motivating, I wanted to jump up and try some of the exercises myself!
The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to come up with strategies for keeping fitness and health resolutions for ourselves and our families; Crossfit Kids classes can help make this an easy goal to reach.
Vondel Gym has two locations, one in Oost near the Wibautstraat metro, and the other on the Overtoom; visit their website for more information on CrossFit Kids as well as their other kids' fitness classes.
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Lori Evans is a musician, piano teacher, and writer from the USA, heading into her third year in the Netherlands. She lives with her techie husband, her delightfully moody 15-year-old son, and two cats that also braved the transatlantic crossing. She fiercely misses her 19-year-old daughter now attending college in NYC.
Photo Credits: Lori Evans, Vondel Gym