19th October 2021 — Since its inception twenty years ago CrossFit has been a popular form of exercise for people of all ages and fitness levels but is rarely practised in primary schools. It incorporates a variety of forms of physical activity including aerobic exercise, gymnastics and basic weightlifting and helps with all aspects of fitness including strength, flexibility, endurance, speed and stamina. The beauty of CrossFit is that routines can be tailored to suit each individual’s abilities so children can work together but at their own level and pace.
Paul Ross, Assistant Head (Teaching & Learning) and Year 6 teacher has practised CrossFit training for seven years and is a qualified CrossFit trainer. He recognised whilst teaching that not all children were keen on traditional sports like football, rugby, netball or hockey. He introduced CrossFit as a way of engaging all pupils in sports lessons and soon realised that it had huge benefits in terms of wellbeing, boosting confidence in those children who were not so happy on the sports field and less keen on team sports. CrossFit means that they can work as a team but at their own level. Children who were anxious became more engaged in the sports lessons in general and those with special educational needs like autism or dyspraxia particularly benefited from the new skills they learnt in CrossFit training which is all about finding enjoyment in movement and fitness for life. Children who are talented in sports also reap the benefits of CrossFit as it improves their general health and conditioning.
Headmaster Douglas Brown stresses the importance of inclusion and diversity in the curriculum and sees CrossFit as a key part of the Wellbeing initiative which the school has introduced.
“CrossFit has been ground-breaking in terms of helping the less confident children and those with special educational needs. Parents have told me what a huge difference it has made to their self-esteem, fitness, co-ordination and enthusiasm for sport in general. It is important that children learn to take care of their minds as well as their bodies as they have a lot to deal with in the current climate and need to build resilience.”
The school has teamed up with the Talisman Gym in Hertford. Each week a class ventures to the gym and the expert instructors there introduce new skills such as rowing, box jumps, rope climbs, handstand kick ups or skipping. The newly acquired skills are incorporated into a team WOD (work out of the day). This is an opportunity for the children to push themselves and to utilise the all-important team building skills in an environment that promotes confidence and demotes egos, helping the less able children to feel less anxious and to allow them to feel on an equal footing.
Exercise is widely recognised as being beneficial for positive mental health and one of the ways it is thought to boost mood is through the release of endorphins, which are commonly referred to as “feel-good hormones”. CrossFit is an ideal form of exercise for enhancing mood because it includes high-intensity bursts of exercise.
According to Paul Ross “A CrossFit WOD (Workout of the day) can sometimes be challenging. However, the sense of achievement the children get when they overcome these challenges and obstacles can really help to reduce any negative thinking and help build and develop mental strength. There is mounting evidence that CrossFit can help with a good night’s sleep which is known to be good for emotional wellbeing.”
The school places great emphasis on the importance of being active, offering a variety of sports lessons, dance, forest school and extra curricular activities from the age of 3 – 11. The children also learn about healthy eating and living as part of the PSHE lessons and are encouraged to select healthy and nutritionally balanced school meals which are freshly prepared each day by the school cooks. Cookery lessons also enhance the Wellbeing programme.