Edit ModuleShow Tags

Reading, Writing, and Reps

A Linda Vista charter school pumps up its curriculum with CrossFit Kids


Published:

Weighty Facts

Only one in three children in the U.S. is physically active every day.

American children typically spend more than 7.5 hours every day in front of a digital screen.

About 45% of American children who live in poverty are overweight.

Obesity-related illnesses cost the U.S. about $190.2 billion annually.

Source: President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition

Nine-year-old Luke Cano loves push-ups. He says his arms have gotten strong over the last year and he can see muscles forming. But like most of the general public, he could live without burpees, an exercise that moves quickly from a squat position to a push-up to a jump.

Exercise is a key part of the school day for Luke and more than 100 of his classmates at Empower, a Linda Vista charter school that focuses on fitness and health. The school not only meets the state recommendation of 100 minutes of physical education every five days, it also incorporates 80 minutes of CrossFit, an intense fitness program with a strong community following, and 50 minutes of mindfulness, which involves breathing and stretching exercises.

The school is the brainchild of Demi Brown, a longtime teacher who founded Empower in 2014 and serves as its principal. Brown also happens to be a credentialed CrossFit trainer. “It’s our vision to create critical thinkers who live healthy and fit lifestyles,” Brown says. “They’re not just going to P.E. once a week and being rewarded with treats. It’s a regular part of everyday life.”

Twice a week, students break a sweat learning fundamental movements such as lunges, thrusters, sumo deadlifts, and planks—all typically found in popular high-intensity CrossFit classes. That’s on top of three regular physical education classes a week and a daily mindfulness practice.

Staggering statistics about youth activity levels are part of what led Brown to form Empower. Just one quarter of American children between the ages of 6 and 15 are physically active for at least 60 minutes a day, according to the U.S. Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. The report also found that P.E. classes at elementary and middle schools are often taught by untrained teachers, resulting in less effective activity for students. “About one-third of children [in the U.S.] are overweight. We know kids are more successful when not just their minds are exercised, but their bodies,” Brown says.

Luke’s mother, Deena, whose younger son, Jude, also attends Empower, says P.E. was definitely lacking at the two schools her boys previously attended. “The routine was, sit in a chair, do this work, sit in a chair,” Deena says. “I felt like my kids were dying a slow death. They’re very active boys, so it’s impossible for them to sit in a seat all day, and it’s not healthy, either.”

Empower’s CrossFit coach, Russella Allison, says it isn’t unusual to find kids practicing their handstands during recess, and teachers often have students do jumping jacks or squats while they transition from lesson plans. On top of that, students don’t bother bringing unhealthy food: Snacks like Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are banned. “It’s interwoven throughout the entire curriculum,” Allison says. “All the students are physically fit kids. We don’t have any overweight children here.”

Any child in grades K through 6 can apply. (Empower had a lottery for the kindergarten level last year, when there was a surplus of applicants.) Some of the students arrive overweight but quickly slim down within a few months, and many enter with a disinterest in P.E. Most parents send their kids to the school just so they’ll become more active. A few parents say their kids rarely or never had P.E. previously, because although schools are required to have it, the enforcement of how much exercise kids actually get can vary widely.

As for any concern about CrossFit overworking a child’s muscles and causing injury, Brown and Allison insist their program is made with the kids in mind, and that no two grades do the same workouts. For thrusters and dead lifts, the kids do the motions without weights. Older students who master the form are then introduced to small weights of 2 to 10 pounds.

The focus on fitness is what engages lively 7-year-old Jude, who—unlike his older brother, Luke—loves burpees. “I like the jumping part. I can do 10 burpees in a row,” Jude says. “If you don’t exercise a lot, you could get diabetes. You’ll lose your fingernails.”

Survival of the Fittest

Test your CrossFit Kids skills with this Workout of the Day (or WOD, as the CrossFitters say) from Coach Russella

Place bases about 16 feet apart in a traditional baseball diamond formation. Bear crawl from base to base and perform the following movements at
each one:

First base = One push-up
Second base = Two squats
Third base = Three burpees
Home base = One handstand

The goal is to get as many home runs as you can in five minutes.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

San Diego Gets Its First Brick-And-Mortar Joie

The brand is known for breezy blouses and dresses

The World's Best Racehorse Heads to Del Mar

Arrogate, the highest-earning North American-based thoroughbred, charges into the Pacific Classic this summer

Inside the Funky, Eclectic Home of Rachael Lunghi

The Lace and Likes founder's Normal Heights abode is filled with plants and vintage finds
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Jason Mraz Is Growing Coffee on a Farm in Oceanside
    We spoke to the musician about all the whys — why food, why farming, why Oceanside, why coffee?
  2. San Diego's Best Restaurants 2017
    The top tacos, chicken wings, seafood, burgers, kid-friendly eateries, breweries, and more
  3. San Diego Fourth of July Guide 2017
    Celebrate Independence Day all weekend long with fireworks, festivals, parades, drink specials, and more
  4. The Man Behind San Diego's $26 Billion Company
    Will Illumina's new hotshot CEO be able to lead the San Diego genomics giant into the complex world of clinical care?
  5. Celebrating Women: Shanna Missett Nelson
    Like a good dancer, the Jazzercise president has mastered her balance—of career, family, and life
  6. The Oceanside Revolution
    The North County city has gone from an all-but annexed coastal town by Camp Pendelton to a thriving bed of culinary and artistic success.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.

Not Your Grandma's Orthotics

New year, new – shoe? Staying on your feet for long hours at a time just got a whole lot more comfortable with Wiivv’s BASE custom insoles
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

9 Reasons You Need a Better Barber

Get the look and service you deserve at this East Village salon

Enter a Drawing You Could Actually Win

There are more than 1,700 prizes in the Dream House Raffle
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags