I just got back from the park with Ethan, where we spent our time ‘working out’ – although it felt like play. For any of you in the ‘Crossfit world’, we essentially turned our park visit into a kids-version WOD (workout of the day). It came about on our walk home from the library, when he stopped me to ask, “Mom, can we stop and do more pull ups like last night?” And so we did, and had lots of fun together (while probably getting some quizzical looks from some of the other parents there).
As a chiropractor who works with kids, I have always been an advocate for kids being active, with daily outdoor time, a variety of activities, and with exercise coming in the form of play. My advice to parents when they ask what their kids should be doing has been to PLAY; go to the playground, do monkey bars, climb, dance, do gymnastics, swim and so on. And the same applies when I’ve had kids in my practice who are facing postural challenges, with the accompanying evidence of lacking good core strength.
So it was somewhat to my surprise this past week while I was re-assessing Ethan that I noted postural patterns showing up that concerned me. As a child who has been checked and adjusted as necessary since the night he was born – and shows every evidence of being spectacularly healthy and strong – this discovery came with some questions I was forced to ask myself. (And given that I have a thriving practice full of kids – I realized that I would have to be okay with the possibility of my precious ego getting bruised (Dr. Amy, how could you miss this?!)) However, in order to fulfill my role as his mom in keeping him as healthy as possible, I would have to put my full awareness into WHY this was going on – AND what strategies would be required to change it. (Ego-be-gone, Dr. Amy – this isn’t about you. It’s about HIM and what his body needs to THRIVE.)
Firstly – as his mom/chiropractor, I had to ask myself: Had I been objective enough while checking him to provide the best chiropractic care possible to him? (While this may seem redundant to anyone who is not in this or another similar profession, classically the most difficult people for anyone to take care of are those people – like immediate family – who we are so close to that it blurs the certainty and objectivity we may have while taking care of other people in our offices.) Simply put – this makes it easier to potentially ‘miss’ things that we would see with other people or children.
Secondly – were there any habits that may be underlying this that we had become slack on? Had we started to allow too much sedentary time? (And why would this matter? Well, just picture the rolled in posture of kids on their devices – and you’ll quickly get the idea).
Thirdly – Why was he lacking in strength in some of his core muscles – and what could I do about it? Did I need to consider any other types of care providers to give us new actions to take? Massage? What type of movement did he require? And would it be enough?
My first step was to put these questions to my go-to resource of the other Life by Design chiropractors I collaborate with. The general consensus answered my questions in much the way that I anticipated: 1 – Consider having someone else assess him. And 2 – Look at whether the basic requirements for movement were being fulfilled. Despite the fact that I teach Move by Design and implement it for myself, I realized that the answer likely lay there.
At first glance, he’s an active kid. But with a more honest look here, I realized that over the winter months, he had been quite sedentary. And while now he was in the running club at school, doing track and field, and playing baseball, there was no focus on mobility work or strength building – nor a great variety in movements.
Here was my Aha! Moment: Why don’t I teach my kids their scaled version of Move by Design? (duh?!) (Despite a slight degree of “what was I thinking” mindset… DR. AMY…?!, I’d rather share this thought process and swallow my pride here, knowing it will probably help other parents and kids.)
So now we have a plan in place. It started today at the park. We did monkey bars, timed how long he could hang in place, did chin ups, jumping pull ups, and climbed the fire poles. We did push ups – with strict form, just like at crossfit – timed how long he could hold a plank, worked on proper form for squatting, and did burpees. We did ‘box jumps’ and step ups onto the picnic table. And he wanted MORE. We were having so much fun – possibly as a funny sight as I was still in my work clothes – that we didn’t even notice the other people at the park. I’m sure some of them may have wondered what we were doing – and maybe even “Why is that mom making him do that?!” Except that from the look of sheer joy on his face, and his excited cries of ‘What else can I do?!”, combined with our laughter – there was no doubt that this was still play.
As a mom who loves to work out, build strength and test my abilities, it was lots of fun seeing this in Ethan. (Obviously not for the first time). Just when I thought it should be time to call it quits, he insisted on more. And so I gave him a series of movements in the same form as a WOD at Crossfit:
2 rounds of:
3 step ups on the park bench
50 m sprint
50 m sprint
3 chin ups
Rest 30 seconds and repeat.
On our walk home, he was laying out our ‘plan’ of training 3 times a week. Once with a focus on strength work – pull ups, push ups, squats (etc); once with a focus on metabolic training – sprints, jumps and timed races (etc); and once with a focus on balance and gymnastics – monkey bars/bar work, handstands, headstands and balancing poses. He’s all game for doing it all – plus mobility work with the foam roller and lacrosse ball. And I’m thinking that my own weekly regime of working out 3 times a week may just have doubled… AND I have no doubt that Audra will be on board, too.
I guess our summer has just added to its routine. And I for one can’t wait to watch and measure how things change.
(Looking for more? Check out http://www.crossfitkids.com)