There’s a high school in Ontario, Canada where kids are putting down their handheld video games, silencing their cell phones, and setting aside their differences during their lunch breaks. Each day, several of the 12-18-year-olds clammer into CrossFit Gage — the affiliate inside their custom-built high school fitness room — to partake in a lunchtime WOD. At the head of the class, is a world-renowned athlete; a national champion in taekwondo and hockey champion, a five-time CrossFit regionals athlete, and a Games competitor: Carolyne Prevost.
But to these kids, Prevost holds a different title: She’s a full-time French teacher at the Gaetan-Gervais school in Oakville, and she’s the driving force behind the CrossFit program that she runs for both the students and the teachers. It didn’t happen overnight, but after several years of work building her ideal program – Prevost can now proudly say the registered affiliate is thriving with five classes per week and a solid 10-15 students per class.
Here’s how she got it all started:
- For the first three years of her teaching career, there was no fitness room in her school. But she had already planted the seed with her school’s leadership, and once they moved into a new building she was given carte blanche to design and outfit a room specifically for a functional fitness program.
- “I immediately reached out to my CrossFit coach Paul McIntyre,” Prevost said. “We sat down and talked about how we could maximize the small space given for the fitness room. Let’s just say, I wish I could have had this gym when I was back in high school!”
- As soon as she started the fitness program she could tell the kids were hooked. A couple of kids turned into a few. Soon, students began bringing friends with them to work out. Prevost was already coaching them through the fundamentals of CrossFit, and as the program grew she knew she wanted it to become official. So she applied to become an affiliate. At the beginning of the school year this past September, the CrossFit lunch club officially launched. The rest is history.
- Now, she operates a full-schedule. Classes are held during lunch periods for everyone – students and teachers alike – on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, a special all-female class is held. Prevost has recently brought another teacher on-board to help with the program, and she’ll be going for her Level 1 Cert this month.
The result: a more resilient student body. The population within the school’s affiliate mirrors the type of community that develops in traditional affiliates – right down to goals and results.
“They say they are feeling more confident and stronger. They also talk a lot about having more energy after lunch for the rest of their classes,” said Prevost. “I love hearing when my students have specific performance goals like getting their first strict pull-up. What impresses me the most is how they want to teach each other what they have learned. They will bring their friends for a workout and I see them explaining something I told them about their own technique. It’s even more impressive when they are showing their friends different scaled versions of movements I have showed them in classes. It really shows how scalable CrossFit is for everyone.”
And she would know. Prevost has more experience in professional sports and CrossFit than most, in addition to holding a degree in kinesiology. And she uses her experience to her advantage when playing the role of both teacher and role-model to her students.
“I hope that my experience as a Games athlete shows these athletes that anything is possible… I especially want to teach young girls that they can do anything they want in life and in sports. They can be strong and confident. More than half of the athletes in the program are females!”
Despite her experience, Prevost says the intention behind the program isn’t to turn the young CrossFitters into competitors (unless they want to, of course). Rather, the main goal here is just to keep kids moving, teach them about the importance of physical activity, and help them improve their overall fitness. Prevost believes teaching those skills early will help set the students up for success as they move into adulthood.
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“I want my students to have the skills after they graduate to allow them to walk into any gym and have confidence in working out. It can be very intimidating for people to enter a gym with no experience. This can often be a reason why people choose to not be physically active. They don’t know what to do at the gym, so they don’t go. I am proud to say that most of the kids in my program are enjoying working out so much that they have signed up for local gym memberships to continue being active after school or on the weekends.”
So how can you start or help build a similar program at a school near you?
- Align with the school’s leadership. Prevost attributes the support of her school’s principal as the gateway to making this program possible.
- Agree upon equipment. Having the school’s leadership back your choices when it comes to equipment and layout can be instrumental in developing a proper program.
- Try a community partnership. If you don’t have the means to develop this type of program just yet, Prevost suggests reaching out to a local affiliate to see if you can develop a partnership to start.
You can keep up with CrossFit Gage on Instagram: @CrossFit_Gage.