Local man works to instill his fitness passion in children

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Steve Williams has spent his entire life as an athlete, competing all the way up to the Olympic level in wrestling.

Now he's trying to instill that same fitness passion in kids.

He started Team Williams, a local family fitness facility in Apex, and one of the classes offered is called "TW KidFit" - a play on the popular CrossFit trend.

Which cues a few raised eyebrows - are we talking about the same CrossFit workout that features powerlifting, plyometrics and even some Olympic-style weightlifting?

Not quite.

"It's similar in terms of maybe the terminology," Williams said, "but we just want kids to be fit. We want them to have fun in the process, and it's a little more relaxed in how we do it, and we still see results."

Williams' workout is focused more on the social aspects of fitness. He hopes to get youngsters engaged with one another while working towards a common fitness goal.

"They actually talk to each other," he said. "They challenge one another, and they encourage one another instead of texting or playing video games."

Travel across the country, though, and you'll find a more strenuous workout modeled after the intense workout called CrossFit Kids.

According to its official website, the program was started in 2004 by Jeff Martin and his wife Mikki and has more than 1,800 registered locations in the United States. The CrossFit Kids Facebook page also features over 70,000 'likes' and includes daily exercises, like kettlebell swings, burpees, box jumps and squats, for kids as young as age three to 18.

That type of activity has some pediatricians and folks in the medical field concerned.

"I think CrossFit has its place maybe for the more elite athletes, the one who is conditioned already and trying to take it to the next level," said WakeMed Physical Therapy supervisor Chris Billiar. "I just don't think it's appropriate for kids."

In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its previous policy on weight training for kids, saying that it's safe in moderation for those over age eight.

Without proper form taught in these CrossFit Kids classes, though, the risk of injury is high.

"If it's too strenuous, it could cause damage to the growth plate, which could reduce their height," Billiar said. "If they do something that impacts their lives now, they might pay for it when they're 20 or 30 and their shoulders are shot."

The pressure of obtaining the "perfect body" can also cause psychological effects in adolescents.

"With children, you'd need to want to watch for that," Billiar said. "Their body image is very important at that age, and if they're trying to look thinner or more muscular, they're not even going to develop true muscle mass until after they reach puberty."

Williams and his gym, again, work against the CrossFit Kids grain when it comes to quantifying results.

"They get a chance to see their bodies transform, and it's not about weight cutting or shedding," he said.
"Although it is competitive, it's as competitive as they make it, and we're not coming down on them for not achieving what the person next to them is achieving. We're allowing them to grow and improve at their own pace and their own level."

Ultimately, both Williams and Billiar agree that exercise should be enjoyable for children, and an effort as simple as just putting down the tablet and heading outdoors could make all of the difference.

"Kids get enough exercise if they would just go outside and play just a simple game of tag or play kick ball, things that you don't really do now," Billiar said.

"If they did that, they'd be more than physically fit."





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