CrossFit DC’s “Lift and Learn” Club

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One of the great things about CrossFit is how easily lessons learned in the gym can be applied to situations encountered in everyday life. For many of us, Crossfit became part of our lives in college or mid-career, but imagine if you had started earlier. Imagine if you had started in middle school. Not only would you be able to master double unders before taking the SAT, but you’d be able to apply the lessons learned in the gym – hard work, belief in oneself, perseverance, growth through adaptation – to what is undoubtedly a formative, yet challenging time in life.

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Enter CrossFit DC’s “Lift and Learn” Club. Lift and Learn is a weekly club that gives DC middle school boys the opportunity to have fun through fitness, learn how to set goals, and reflect on how efforts and experiences in the gym can be applied to school and beyond.

Over the summer, Coach Thom and member Caitlin M. – U Streeter and Principal of KIPP DC: Northeast Academy – planned the logistics of the club and spoke with interested students and parents at KIPP Northeast Academy. On October 13, with a roster of 12 eager eight graders, Lift and Learn was launched.

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Each class is structured around a daily theme. The theme of the first class was a quote from Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” After warming up and learning the squat, the boys faced a 12-minute partner AMRAP of burpees, wall balls, and box jump overs. At the call of “3,2,1…Go,” nervous laughter shifted to quite intensity as the group moved through their first ever Crossfit workout.

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At the end of the workout, after the boys peeled themselves off the floor, they huddled up around the whiteboard. “So, how’d it go?” asked Coach Thom. Jamar raised his hand and said what most boys were probably thinking, “When I saw all that work written, I thought this is going to be impossible. But now it’s done and I did it.” His classmate Jakhi adjusted his glasses and chimed in, “Seeing my partner Jermaine on those burpees, it was like ‘whoa.’ It made me want to push myself harder.”

If you’re reading this, you probably know exactly what Jamar and Jakhi are talking about. What you might not know is how you’d apply that first dose of Crossfit to the rest of your life if you were an eight grade boy growing up in DC. Already after the first couple of sessions, the boys in Lift and Learn have been drawing their own analogies between workouts and schoolwork or chores. We sincerely hope that they continue to apply the confidence and empowerment forged within the walls of CFDC to the rest of their pursuits after the workout is done, AMRAP style.

Lift and Learn meets every week at U Street, and yes, there is always homework.

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