February 23, 2017, Jean Kottemann
So what exactly is NOLA Fit Kids?
The short answer is that NOLA Fit Kids is a program designed to:
- Teach proper strength training exercise protocol;
- Introduce movement patterns that are fun, appropriately challenging, and that will build structural integrity;
- Develop balance and flexibility;
- Introduce kids to mindfulness (meditation) and yin (releasing) yoga.
This is a program that was developed because some of my clients did not like the way exercise was being introduced to their kids in sports programs and in school, often haphazard, unspecific, and potentially harmful. They wanted a foundation-building program that would introduce fitness as a way of life.
The long roots of NOLA Fit Kids began a few years ago when, after a lifetime of training adults, and encouraged by research showing the effects of exercise on body, mood, and receptivity to learning, as well as those effects over a lifetime, I became interested in developing a program for at-risk teens in New Orleans. So I contacted Covenant House to see if they wanted to partner up.
Of course, my program would include weight training, something I’ve taught over the course of 3 decades. However, I had always worked one-on-one with clients using equipment, and this was going to have NO equipment and be class-style sessions. I had to re-teach myself body weight strength training exercises. I have a background teaching yoga (Kundalini) and added yoga/mindfulness meditation to round out the program.
In the end, that program did not last. I tried to get other local trainers involved, and to their much deserved credit, Downtown Fitness Center and personal trainer Iina Antikainen were very open to it. However, CH wanted to limit contact with the teens to only one trainer (me). After a few months it was clear that there were other constraints, the byproduct of Covenant House’s commitment to the safety and protection of their teens, that usurped the effectiveness of a physical training program that needed to push the teens out of their comforts zones.
I continued to be interested in building a foundational program, something kids could grow up with, and into, and use for the rest of their lives. That means not just teens, but perhaps kids as young as 10-ish. They are really at risk of never learning proper exercise. When I was a kid, our introduction to exercise was going outside and playing. Kids DO NOT go outside anymore. And as I had learned many times over, if kids are eventually introduced to “exercise,” it is often ego-driven, hazardous, unprincipled nonsense.
The missing piece came when I became aware of Ido Portal, and his animal movement patterns. If you don’t know who that is, watch THIS and THIS. I became excited about the potential of adding the more simple animal pattern movements to round out a program for kids. I am not a gymnast and do not have a capoeira background, so I took his movement philosophies, approached them from my yoga and strength training viewpoint, and began practicing some animal patterns. The movements are not obvious, are just hard enough to make them work, will get you breathing heavy, and are easily achievable (no flips and handstands in the class). They are “get-able” with a little practice, but could take a lifetime to master. My kind of exercises.
As I talked more and more about my movement practice and kid friendly program, several of my clients became interested and allowed me to use their children — their dear darlings — as guinea pigs. These kids are AWESOME and helped me to understand how to communicate all of this information to young-uns and get results that we could build on. They gave me plenty of honest feedback which helped me mold the class and, as a result, we now have NOLA Fit Kids.
NOLA Fit Kids is ideal for kids ages 10- and up, but younger kids are okay, if they have the physical and mental maturity to participate in the class.
NOLA Fit Kids is offered Saturdays at 11:00 a.m., however I may soon add classes as it is kind of popular!