Growing fit: Intense gym expands, targets youngsters

news-crossfitkidsCrossfit trainer Gretchen Kittelberger supervises squats during an introductory class.
PHOTO BY COURTENEY STUART

A new gym opened its doors two summers ago riding a wave of research asserting that short-but-intense bursts of exercise trump moderate-but-longer sessions. Eighteen months later, CrossFit Charlottesville is going so strong that it has tripled its footprint in the old National Linen building on Market Street.

"It's not for everyone," acknowledges co-founder Kyle Redinger. "But if people make it two or three months, they never leave."

Now, says Redinger, he's expanding to a younger demographic, with twice-weekly fitness class for children ages 5 to 12. The concept of the kids classes, which begin January 26 and cost $69, is similar to the grown-up version: relatively intense and varied movements. But while adults may grab heavy weights, the kids classes aren't for turning children into mini-Schwarzeneggers.

"It's a lot more body weight, more gymnastics," says Redinger, who notes the classes will be taught by Gretchen Kittelberger, a former collegiate gymnast who recently obtained special training and certification for the kids' classes.

Redinger attributes the success of the adult CrossFit program to its social nature, as the workouts happen in groups with no mirrors, no TVs, and–- although there's music playing–- no one plugged into iPods. And in an industry that profits from no-shows, a recent internal survey Redinger cites shows his clients are averaging three visits per week over the year–- three times the industry average.

"From a business perspective, that is not a good thing," says Redinger. "But doing the right thing for our members is an awesome thing."

CrossFit Charlottesville isn't the only gym engaging members in group cross-training. At both ACAC locations and Total Performance Sports and Fitness on 29 North, classes that incorporate plyometrics, agility, body weight resistance training and speed training have become a big draw.

"Shorter, higher intensity workouts make the heart work harder, lungs work harder, and therefore the benefits are greater," says Total Performance c0-owner Todd Proctor, "not only for athletic performance but for fat loss and getting heart and lungs in better shape."

Total Performance has long offered over-8 kid classes, which cost $20 per hour-long session. (Unlike most other workout facilities–- with the exception of Snap Fitness on 29 North–- Total Performance offers 24-hour access.)

Recently, a group-exercise competitor has arrived in the form of CoMo Functional Fitness, whose owner Courtney Modecki offers intense workouts at various locations, including outdoors. Redinger says he's not surprised to see businesses blooming in the group-training world.

"People are social creatures," he says.

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Those interested in witnessing top-level Crossfit athletes from all over the East Coast compete can attend this weekend's Superfit Games, held at at Crossfit on Saturday and Sunday, January 22-23. Spectators are asked for a $10 donation to benefit the local chapter of Boy Scouts of America.

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22 comments

Ditto, Meg! Crossfit Kids is great. It's another opportunity for kids to get fit and focus on good play and nutrition. Bravo Crossfit Charlottesville for getting this off the ground. And, as you say, let's hope that schools continue to make sport AND fun fitness a routine for good living. By the way, are Albemarle County and Charlottesville City schools including this as an option?

I thought Frank Zappa was dead!!! My mistake!

I don't ever see anyone discussing overeating as one of the major killers in this Country.

How about military type PE? Would that be acceptable??

deleted by moderator

Yawn... When is the McRib coming back?

Sarah - We provide safe and effective physical education services for children in this town. PE classes are essentially non-existent from local schools, kids are getting fatter and many lose the enjoyment of exercise. There is a disconnect between what schools can offer and what children need.

We've trained hundreds of children in local elementary schools and been invited back to do more. We're happy to discuss the benefits of a program adapted to children, but I'd encourage you to not make untrue implications before you've actually seen what we do.

My earlier question was for Courtney Modecki (CoMo Functional Fitness) not Courteney Stuart. Just realized there might be confusion. Sorry.

Anybody else care to answer? What types of fitness training certifications does one need nowadays to start a high-intensity fitness business? More than a one-day seminar and 50-question multiple-choice test I hope.

I don't know anything about P.E. in the local schools, but when I was a kid in another school system in Virginia, P.E. was all about playing sports. We did a 10-minute warmup and then spent the rest of the time playing vollyball, baseball, football, tennis or soccer. Great for the kids who were good at those sports, but nothing for the rest of us. I think it's great that CrossFit is offering these classes to add to the list of sports and fitness activities available in the area for young people. Kudos to them. I hope that our public schools are doing the same thing, especially for the sake of those kids whose parents cannot afford private classes.

Shocker. Courteney Stuart gives another shout-out to her pals at CrossFit.

But seriously, classes for five-year-olds? Wonder how they treat compartment syndrome in a kindergartener?

Courtney,

I agree that proper coaching and guidance are critical to preventing injury. How much education or training did you receive prior to becoming a fitness trainer yourself? I believe that CrossFit requires a seminar and multiple-choice exam.

Frank Zappa (dead or alive)- What would be an acceptable level of exercise? Military PE is fairly successful isn't it?

yes, overeating is discuss quite a bit- my error- unfortunately most discuss it while overeating....

@HarryD: "What would be an acceptable level of exercise? Military PE is fairly successful isn’t it?"

Well gosh Harry, I suppose "Military PE" (whatever that means) is fairly successful at preparing fully grown soldiers for combat. However, I am not sure that subjecting children to long-distance runs with fully loaded packs, pugil stick fighting, or live-fire obstacle courses is such a swell idea. I suppose my reservations would be somewhat lessened if the childrens' instructors/trainers were adequately trained and accredited themselves - which may not necessarily be the case with CrossFit.

Don't get me wrong. I don't want you to get the idea that I am "anti-fitness. Far from it. I believe that physical education is extremely important. I just have reservations about the safety and wisdom of the CrossFit approach (which was the original topic).

"yes, overeating is discuss [sic] quite a bit- my error- unfortunately most discuss it while overeating”Š."

That's too bad. I'm sure if we think hard enough, we can devise some sort of draconian process whereby those who are deemed too fat might be denied "surplus" nourishment. (TIC)

@ Uncle Rhabdo (and Sarah) ââ?¬â?? It is true there are injury risks with high intensity exercise, as there are with nearly any activity (or inactivity!). The best thing to do is take steps to prevent potential injuries. With proper coaching and guidance, extreme injury such as rhabdomyolysis can be avoided. That is why, at CoMo, we take a very personal approach to training. We are experienced at scaling to current fitness levels and injuries, and provide a heavy focus on nutrition and recovery coaching as part of our program.

"PE classes are essentially non-existent from local schools"

This sounds like hyperbole, based on speculation. Frankly, I disagree.

"I’d encourage you to not make untrue implications....."

Why delete what I wrote? Crossfit DOES kill people.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Glassman, CrossFit's founder, does not discount his regimen's risks, even to those who are in shape and take the time to warm up their bodies before a session.

"It can kill you," he said. "I've always been completely honest about that."

Look up rhabdomyolysis for a start, "Uncle Rhabdo" to the Crossfitters. It's not something to be taken lightly.

I don't think she was questioning the nature of your work but rather the propriety of an advertisement running as a news story.

Rhabdo is very unlikley, especailly if you have a good trainer. People die from walking down the street sometimes too.

You win-

Uncle Rhabdo- Overeating can kill you- what is your point?

HarryD,
I would not presume to speak for someone else, but I take his point to be that the type of high-intensity training espoused by CrossFit might have a higher correlation to rhabdomyolysis than would other types of training programs. A quick Google search of the term rhabdomyolysis+CrossFit reveals quite a few articles on CrossFit induced rhabdomyolysis (including at least one that resulted in a lawsuit http://www.navytimes.com/news/2008/08/marine_crossfit_081608w/).

Concerns that I have found online include CrossFit trainer quailifications and the emphasis on speed/high-reps over form/safety. The last paragraph in a New York Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/22/fashion/thursdaystyles/22Fitness.html?...) I found to be telling. It quotes CrossFit founder Greg Glassman:
"But for Mr. Glassman, dismissals of his extreme workouts merely help him weed out people he considers weak-willed. 'If you find the notion of falling off the rings and breaking your neck so foreign to you, then we don't want you in our ranks,' he said."

@HarryD: "I don’t ever see anyone discussing overeating as one of the major killers in this Country."

Really, where have you been hiding? Because I see it discussed all the time. Yearly best-seller lists usually include a number of diet books, and "The Biggest Loser" is one of the most popular shows on television.

@HarryD: "How about military type PE? Would that be acceptable??"

(Scratches head) Huh? I'm afraid I'm missing your point. But to answer your question, no, it would not be to me.

"Overeating can kill you- what is your point?"

Uncle Rhabdo was probably mistaking Crossfit with my program, Crossfat, which involves intense bursts of cheese and fried food eating interspersed with extreme lethargy and immersive mayonnaise baths.

Youth packages are now available, btw.