Today’s teens are more interested in fitness than ever before. No longer satisfied with one level of fitness, such as lifting, cheering, playing football, field hockey, baseball, or other sports, many young people are engaging in athletic activities that take training to a new level—one that encompasses a full-body workout across the fitness spectrum. CrossFit and Cross-Training are two such activities that encourage strength-building, aerobics, endurance-building, running, and more.
Cross-training is a fitness program in which an athlete chooses two or more fitness activities for more well-rounded training. An example could be a field hockey player who also swims and does yoga or a runner who also strength trains.
CrossFit is similar to cross-training in that it involves training in multiple areas of fitness, but CrossFit is a branded fitness regimen that also includes changes in nutrition for an entirely new, healthier lifestyle. CrossFit Games Open includes a teen division for interested CrossFit teens to compete against each other.
But when a young person decides to increase their fitness level through such demanding and rigorous fitness programs such as cross-training or CrossFit, it’s important to be sure that they are doing so in as safe and healthy a way as possible in order to avoid injury, muscle fatigue, and other negative consequences that could take them out of the game. So how does a young athlete keep healthy?
According to fitness experts, there are five important points to keep in mind for keeping a young athlete healthy and safe.
The Warm-up Warning
While the benefits of any athletic or workout activity far outweigh the risks, injuries can occur which then puts an athlete out of the game for a recovery period, or worse. One of the most important things a young athlete needs to do to prevent injuries when they are involved in any sport or fitness activity, but especially in rigorous training such as CrossFit or Cross-training regimens. is to learn the importance of a proper warm-up. A warm-up routine helps to prepare the body for the more vigorous activity ahead and can prevent injury. Warm-ups increase circulation to the muscles to better prepare them for vigorous activity.
Because young athletes may still be growing, their potential for injury is higher than that of fully grown adults.
According to youth fitness experts, a young athlete should begin with a slow jog as a fitness warm-up. Then, a sport-specific warm-up should follow. Some examples are a slow swim before increasing speed, or a gentle warm-up on a stationary bike before a spin class.
During a warm-up it’s especially important to stretch the specific muscle groups you plan to use in your fitness activity. A good example is doing arm and shoulder stretches before a tennis game.
Warm-ups should last 20 to 30 minutes before beginning more strenuous activity.
The Importance of Food as Fuel
While CrossFit programs stress the importance of treating food as fuel, for many other athletic or fitness regimens, nutrition isn’t an incorporated part of the program. It often falls on the young athlete or his or her family to stress the importance of properly fueling the body. If a young athlete doesn’t get proper nutrition to support their fitness regimen, they could suffer consequences such as unintended weight loss, more frequent illnesses, muscle injuries, decreased performance, and moodiness. Very young athletes may even experience poor growth and delayed puberty as a result of very intense training and poor or inadequate nutrition.
It’s important to learn about sports nutrition for teens or young adults before beginning any new fitness regimen. Young athletes burn calories very quickly. A young athlete’s diet should be about 70 percent complex carbohydrates. It’s also important to eat healthy fats, high-protein foods, and vitamin- and nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits. Vitamin D, calcium, and iron are critical for young athletes who are still growing.
Balanced meals should be planned in advance to prevent dependence on quick fixes like fast food. Athletes should also avoid consuming sugary foods before exercise in order to prevent a post-workout crash.
Keeping well-hydrated is essential for young athletes at all times, but it’s especially critical before, during, and after physical activity.
Getting the Gear
While athletic gear for any sport or physical fitness program can be hard on the budget, having the proper clothing and equipment is critical, not only for enhanced performance, but also for safety. Not only should athletes who participate in sports wear all the required and recommended safety gear for their particular sport—such as helmets and pads—but also the proper shoes to prevent foot, ankle, knee injuries, and more. Wearing incorrect shoes can result in damage or injury that can put a fitness regimen on hold indefinitely. The correct shoe type for specific activities will also help athletes to utilize energy in the most efficient way.
Just as some sports require cleats and a runner requires running shoes, CrossFit requires the best CrossFit shoes in order to allow the wearer to better support and balance their weight during specific activities, such as strength training.
Cross-training requires special shoes as well. Typically, the best cross-training shoes are more rugged than running shoes because they are meant to support an extensive number of athletic activities across the fitness spectrum.
Attend to Injuries
It’s important to attend to any injuries immediately in order to prevent a small problem from becoming a larger one. Any strains, pains, or aches should be seen and treated as soon as possible by a medical professional. All too often, people confuse the pain of an injury as normal muscle soreness from a workout. It’s important to know your body and what’s normal for you. While normal muscle soreness feels stiff, sore, and achy, an injury usually causes a sharp pain—sometimes with inflammation and a feeling of heat in the injured area.
Experts tell us that normal muscle soreness from a new workout routine will typically peak 24 to 48 hours after the workout and lasts from two to three days. If pain is experienced during or immediately after athletic activity, it could be an injury. If the pain or discomfort doesn’t subside after three days, it could indicate an injury that requires medical attention.
Rest is a Requirement
Getting enough sleep and rest time is also critical for any athlete but especially for young athletes. A lack of sleep can have a negative impact on both physical and mental performance during intense physical activity such as sports, running, or workout routines such as CrossFit, or cross-training. Lack of rest can not only contribute to higher instances of injuries, but it can also slow healing rates.
In today’s world, we tend to be very busy and are often overbooked and over-scheduled. It’s important for young athletes to allow downtime between vigorous physical activities and to get plenty of sleep in order to perform at their best and to be in peak health—and after all, isn’t that the point?