While most branches that offer health and wellness programs for youth include some strength training, the Hoover YMCA is taking weight training to another level. Healthy Lifestyles Director Kelly Kidd began using the new Mobile Fit system along with weight training to help some of the young athletes at Hoover who were struggling with injuries.
“What we’ve been asked to do is help athletes strengthen and stabilize their joints because that helps to prevent injuries,” Kidd explained. “We had to figure out a way to accomplish that without compromising the safety of the fitness floor and their safety.” The result is a program for 11-13 year olds who, with proper instruction, can be on the fitness floor without interfering with adult members who are also working out.
Originally, Kidd said, the tweens were keeping up with their workouts with a paper and pen which, she said, proved to be ineffective. Realizing how naturally kids take to technology, she enrolled an entire youth basketball team onto MobileFiT which gives them the opportunity to compete with each other, earn points by achieving certain goals, and to interact with technology.
The goal, she said, is to familiarize tweens with proper form and technique, and to get them more familiar with the fitness floor. “Not only have they become stronger and more fit, but we’ve seen very few injuries with that team,” Kidd said. “We have also seen their self-esteem improve dramatically, with a lot of them going through that awkward growth-spurt phase where they don’t know where their body begins and ends.”
Weight training for tweens is growing in popularity, which leads to worries about safety and appropriate behavior on the fitness floor. Kidd said she believes — based on what she’s seen — that these worries are unfounded. “These young people are some of the most well behaved individuals because they have received more training than most adults.”
Parents are also coming around to the idea, such as Frank Poe whose 12-year-old son Jonathan lifts weights on a regular basis. A baseball player, Frank and his son have seen improvement in his swing and his speed, also, he is happy to see his son enjoying his time at the Y. “I like that he enjoys coming with me,” says Frank. “I come for the cardio and he comes in here like he’s on a mission and he does his thing.”
Jonathan had five sessions with a personal trainer, and after passing a test, earned a badge allowing him to exercise on the fitness floor. Frank says he doesn’t worry at all about his son while he’s working out because he knows he has been shown the proper way to build strength for his age.” (The trainer) showed him exactly how to do everything, and didn’t load him up to where he’s trying to see how much weight he can lift every time,” he said. “He does what he’s comfortable with and is-working his way up. If you do it that way then I don’t think that you’re too young. It hasn’t hurt him any. I think it’s good for him.”