CrossFit Teens, Homeschooling and Isolation: “Every minute was spent working out or doing homework”
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The CrossFit teen population is growing, both in number and popularity, as more of them, along with teen division alumni, make waves in the individual ranks each year. There is also growing pressure for young athletes to sacrifice a lot for a spot on the CrossFit Games floor.
CrossFit teens put all their eggs in the CrossFit basket, and the motivation to sacrifice prom and football games and pizza for overtime in the gym can fade when you have rowing intervals and four left. hours of homework on a Tuesday evening.
That’s exactly what 2021 CrossFit Games 16th-place finisher Emma Cary went through for most of high school. For most of her young life, Cary dreamed of becoming a pediatrician in addition to being an elite CrossFit athlete. It meant taking an extremely heavy high school course load on top of the blood, sweat and tears it takes to be the Games champion at 15 in the teen division and an elite athlete at 16. .
Looking back now after graduating from high school, Cary acknowledges the difficulties of her school experience.
“It was from 6 a.m. to after midnight several days a week. It wasn’t something that happened occasionally, it was common. I didn’t feel good and I wasn’t seeing the progress I wanted,” Cary said. It was an extremely distressing situation for the teenager, going so far as to affect her recovery and her sleep.
“Every minute was taken up with practice or homework. Even while I ate, I did my homework. I just didn’t have time to relax, sometimes not even time to stretch or recover my body. It was like, I can sleep or I can stretch, and right now I need to sleep. It was hard.
“Nothing could make me feel like (CrossFit) was doing it…I found that maybe I should sacrifice other dreams for it and that’s okay.”
While looking forward to her senior year, which she had blocked out with her schedule as a more “fun” year to soak up the high school experience, Cary decided in the summer of 2021 to end the year. in line. Although it was a tough choice, putting aside his dream of becoming a doctor for now, Cary knew that to train hard for the CrossFit Games, it was a necessary decision.
“Nothing could make me feel like (CrossFit) is doing it, it’s just a whole new level of passion, it’s what I really love doing. ‘other dreams for it and that’s okay.
Cary finished senior year a semester early while attending online school, which she says has been hugely beneficial to her workout regimen and lifestyle. It was the first time she felt independent from school, she said, and it gave her the freedom to control her time as she saw fit.
Additionally, as she saw improvements in her CrossFit game, Cary learned the valuable lesson that having too much on her plate can lower the quality of her performance, but when she put her energy into a specific goal, she might be his best.
“Sometimes you think about what you lost, how many ‘teenage things’ you missed.”
However, Cary admits that online school takes out all the “fun” parts of school and leaves only the functional parts. Part of that was nice for the self-proclaimed introvert because she didn’t feel the pressure of being too social and could instead keep the connections she had with close friends.
On the other hand, however, isolation was admittedly difficult for Cary.
“I finished my last homework and it felt like I had just handed it in, I think it was just a random Sunday afternoon, and it was like ‘wow, I’m done with high school.’ Since no one was there, it just wasn’t what I imagined, and it was kind of a lonely feeling,” Cary said. “Sometimes you just think about how much you’ve lost, how many ‘teenage things’ you’ve missed.”
Cary maintains that despite those typical teenage experiences that she missed out on, she is content with the decisions she made, saying that it is because of those tough decisions to skip fun events that she is able to participate and participate in the experiences that really matter to him.
“I came away (from competitions) with so many lessons, so much love for competition, but all those feelings of competition fade, and it’s inevitable. But what stays strong are the relationships, and that’s such a cool thing,” Cary said, adding that the friendships she’s made with other CrossFit teens through competitions and social media are particularly strong.
“Being surrounded by teenagers during competitions makes me think that if everyone was as supportive as CrossFit teens are, the world would be a better place. It’s amazing to be part of it. »
While Cary has fully participated in CrossFit, with all the sacrifice, hard work, and sometimes loneliness that can come with it, other teens hold on to the values of the sport while maintaining a more traditional schedule.
Delia Moises, a 2021 CrossFit Games athlete who finished 16th in the girls 14-15 division, has been training at home in her basement for most of her career, mostly because until the start of this year she could not drive. That meant long hours alone doing tough workouts by herself, sometimes up to eight hours a day during the summer.
However, when she started training seriously at the age of 13, it was not a problem for her.
“I don’t think I was alone because I had never experienced anything different,” said Moses. “I think it was just because I had never experienced a difference, so it wasn’t like ‘I have to do this long workout on my own, this sucks so much’, it was like ‘ I can choose my own music it’s so cool!
While Moises is still training to become a competitive CrossFit athlete, she’s also taking steps to pave the way for her future career – in February, Moises applied to Arizona State University’s online program, which she will attend the next year in addition to its regular high level. school lessons. While the workload will be extremely heavy, Moises is ready for the hard work it will take and credits her willingness to be busy and engaged in CrossFit.
“I can still be a functioning member of society. Training isn’t all there is.
“You know how Pat Vellner was, ‘I don’t need to spend more time watching Netflix and sitting on my butt during recovery, I can be productive and learn and do things’ so I feel like I don’t want to get in the habit of just being like, ‘I just eat, sleep, and exercise,’” Moises said.
Even at only 16 years old, she recognizes the dangers of sequestering only in the CrossFit corner. “I can still be a functioning member of society. Training isn’t all there is.
Along the same lines, Moises is also wary of disconnecting from “real life” friends. Although she says she has met some of her best friends at competitions, even though they only see each other occasionally and mostly talk to each other online, she says that just wouldn’t work. As Moises says, elite CrossFit isn’t the norm for most countries in the world, and it can create standards that are unattainable.
“When I watch (CrossFit videos) online, I was like, ‘oh I’m working out, I’m going to be in the gym all day! I just have to grind,” but that’s not the reality. There’s a lot more to it than “I’m going to be happy and working out at the gym all day”, you definitely have to be around other people who are like “yeah, I’m not motivated all the time “. ”
Simon Wilke, a senior at Three Rivers High School, a few miles from The Pit Fitness Ranch, has just gotten into CrossFit after a life of school sports. Wilke quickly found a strong group of friends his own age with similar goals at Triple River CrossFit, and even qualified for the North American Quarterfinals in March after doing CrossFit for less than a year.
Wilke comes from a different background than most CrossFit teens, who basically start doing burpees right out of the womb, but says it’s because of his time playing football and baseball at his school. that he was able to excel so quickly.
“(You learn) that if you don’t know how to do something, just keep working on it. As a younger person, I remember not being good at something and I would come home and practice more and more and put time into it,” Wilke said. “It doesn’t happen right away, and that’s how it is with (the start of CrossFit) too.”
Being so suddenly and completely immersed in the world of teen CrossFit, going to the most invested gym in the world of teen competition with competitions like the Elite Teen Throwdown and other teen-specific events, Wilke has already been exposed to the different lifestyles of elite athletes. .
And while he recognizes the values of elite homeschooled athletes to focus on training and athletic development, Wilke is content with his school experience.
“I think in (the school in person), you learn what to keep to yourself, what to (share), how to act professionally, how not to get in trouble, you learn a lot. Definitely social skills,” Wilke said. “(If you’re homeschooled), you don’t learn how to talk to a teacher, how to ask questions. You can ask your parents questions, but they are your parents, it’s easy.
If in-person relationships are so clearly important for adolescent athletes, as Cary, Moises, and Wilke have all stated, why are so many teenagers opting for a non-traditional educational experience?
Simply put, that’s what it takes to make the Games as a teenager. Especially with CrossFit constantly back and forth with teen division qualifiers, young athletes are fighting hard for a spot on the competitive field that could be swept away from under them. Long gone are the days when the three-times-a-week CrossFit Kids WOD could produce a 14-year-old with their name on a Games jersey.
Cary and Moises both placed 16th in their respective divisions, and although the 14-15 division is considered a “junior varsity” competition, both girls practiced for hours and hours before school, after school and non-stop during the summer to solidify their places among the fittest on Earth.
With only a year separating the two, Cary and Moises would, under more normal circumstances, be regular full-time high schoolers, but chose a different path instead. And for the most part, they seem very happy with those choices, being the 16th fittest on Earth, but they still miss those “regular” teenage experiences.