We are excited to bring you Part 1 of the What’s Up, USANA? interview with Kristy Lee Wilson, fitness champion, successful entrepreneur, certified personal trainer, and former Cirque du Soleil star.
She also recently contributed to the best-selling The Definitive Guide to Youth Athletic Strength, Conditioning and Performance and is a fitness expert for Dr. Mehmet Oz’s ShareCare site.
WHAT’S UP USANA: Please talk a little about The Definitive Guide to Youth Athletic Strength, Conditioning and Performance, the new book in which you wrote a chapter. Why is this book and subject matter so important?
KRISTY LEE WILSON:The Definitive Guide to Youth Athletic Strength, Conditioning and Performance (pick it up here) is a book written by a number of the world’s leading fitness experts. It explores the subject of fitness through conditioning the body for optimal results in young athletes. We look at the factors of mindset, nutrition and exercise — all which play a part — from all angles and for all ages.
We discuss the benefits of training, techniques, and the indelible influence of coaches on young athletes. Such influence often stays with individuals for a lifetime and I’m so passionate about this because it’s been the case for myself. As an 8-year-old elite gymnast, the influence my coach had on me has lasted a lifetime — no matter how hard I try to change some things, some old habits really are hard to break.
Whether you have a toddler or a teen, the experts in this book have found success in teaching and coaching all age groups life-lessons, skills and mindset. Whether our students have grown into professional athletes or responsible citizens, appropriate coaching and teaching methods are key to helping them mature into healthy, competitive individuals on and off the field.
The Definitive Guide to Youth Athletic Strength, Conditioning and Performance provides an opportunity for coaches and parents to read and adopt successful, tested and proven ideas in their daily roles.
On the day of release, The Definitive Guide to Youth Athletic Strength, Conditioning and Performance reached best-seller status in two Amazon.com Exercise and Fitness categories — reaching #1 in both the “Injury Prevention” category and the “For Children” category. This was very exciting for all of us involved in the book!
WUU:What is one of the most important things children (and parents) should know about physical fitness?
KRISTY: Physical fitness is the foundation of living a truly fulfilling life. I think the most important thing for people to know when it comes to fitness is that children are not miniature adults and cannot be trained like miniature adults.
I see fathers taking their sons to the gym and teaching them how to lift weights all the time. I know the intention is good but most of the time this causes the young athlete more harm than good. Just like good nutrition, we need to teach and build an extremely well built and solid foundation for physical fitness from an extremely young age. Many young athletes burn out and don’t want anything to do with fitness by the time they are teens.
Strength training was always used as punishment for me as a young child. Why would I want to strength train as an adult with such a negative association to training? We need to make sure we make fitness fun and beneficial for children, rather than use it as punishment and a form of power as coaches. What we teach children at a young age helps shapes them as adults.
Research shows that strength training is both safe and effective for children. Strength training in children has been shown to have positive effects on motor skills (such as running and jumping), body composition, and bone mineral density. It has also been effective in reducing the risk of injury — especially in youth sports. I believe children should participate in physical fitness and strength training, we just need to make sure they are doing it in a safe, effective, and beneficial way.
For children participating in a strength training program, it is essential to be supervised by a qualified professional who understands correct training techniques, and proper training progressions.
WUU:Anything you would do differently as a child, knowing what you know now (eating habits, exercise, etc.)?
KRISTY: Knowing what I know now, I would do everything differently as a child.
As an 8 year old, which was when I received my scholarship to the Australian Institute of Sport, I knew nothing about how to put together an appropriate conditioning program or how to eat for top performance and recovery. I knew exercise was good and made you stronger, and I knew which foods were considered healthy and good for you. But as an 8 year old, when you are told you cannot eat certain “healthy” foods because they are bad … you start to get confused.
I remember going to see a sports nutritionist and her talking to us about which foods we should eat, then going back to the gym and our coach telling us we couldn’t eat half of those things. When that happens what and who are you supposed to believe? The coach is the one in the gym with you every day and the one who weighs you and decides your punishment if you are “overweight” every time you weigh … so what do you do as a young child? You listen to the person who has the most influence on you, and as an elite athlete that is the person you spend 8-9 hours a day in the gym with six days a week … your coach.
I talk a lot about how being weighed twice a day, every day, before training sessions led to me developing what would go on to become a severe eating disorder by the time I was 10 years old. At the time I didn’t even know what an eating disorder was. All I knew is that to be the weight I was supposed to be every day I either couldn’t eat, or I had to eat and then get rid of the food I ate somehow — whether it be running for hours in the sauna, doing hundreds of V-ups, taking pills or purging … most of the time if I ate I’d be over my weight, yelled at and kicked out of the gym until I lost the weight.
Beautiful gymnasts were skinny girls. I had to stay skinny and somehow prevent gaining weight even though as a child you are growing! Training was also extremely tough. Spending 8-9 hours a day in the gym six days a week does make it difficult to prevent overuse injuries and overtraining, as we all know how important rest and recovery is for the body.
Now, I look back at the way I did things and I honestly don’t know how I got through it — although it does make sense my gymnastics career was cut short due to injury (3 knee surgeries in a 6-month period). A malnourished athlete cannot stay competitive or healthy for long. I learned this the hard way and now I use my experiences to help other young athletes and coaches prevent the same struggles, unnecessary injuries, and psychological issues I experienced as a young athlete.
Coaches, and parents for that matter, really need to be aware of just how much influence they really do have on young children. We need to make that influence such a positive one because what we experience as children really can stay with us for life.
Stay Tuned for Part 2
Thank you to Kristy for sharing your thoughts with What’s Up, USANA? readers.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of the Q&A in which Kristy talks about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, why USANA is such an important part of her life, her experience as a fitness expert on Dr. Oz’s ShareCare site, and why she loves social media!
If you’re not doing so already, be sure to follow Kristy on Twitter (@KristyLeeWilson) and like her on Facebook. To pick up a copy of The Definitive Guide to Youth Athletic Strength, Conditioning and Performance, visit www.kristywilson.com.