Friends, fun and front squats at summer CrossFit camp

By Sara Lafrance | Jul 13, 2017
Photo by: Sara Lafrance Lil Beasts campers perform a CrossFit exercise meant to help them "burn off a little energy."

Rochester — Even on a rainy day, Whaling City Crossfit’s kids' camp, Lil Beasts, is roaring with energy.

Lil Beasts, which takes place at East Over Farms in Rochester, combines games, group activities, and movement to make exercise fun for kids ages 5 and up.

“We really just want to make moving fun,” says director and co-owner of Whaling City Crossfit, Tess Hedblom. “We just try to keep them active as much as we can by showing them technique through games. Basically, every game that we do kind of has a CrossFit twist to it.”

Lil Beasts started five years ago with only ten children in attendance. Now, the camp runs for two weeks in July. Hedblom expects to see up to 20 kids per week in 2017.

CrossFit for children looks a little bit different than the usual CrossFit routine, incorporating weightlifting, gymnastics, and high-intensity interval training.

“When we think about CrossFit for kids we’re not really gearing it towards heavy lifting, like traditional CrossFit. We’re just aiming it towards getting them moving, burning energy, and having fun. We want to get them off the couch. That’s the important part,” Hedblom said.

“I like coming to CrossFit camp because I like playing games with my friends,” said 10-year-old Gabriela Pinhancos of Rochester. “I think I want to start doing the real classes.”

With a focus on teamwork, Hedblom and friend Caleigh DeSousa coach the kids in teambuilding activities and encourage them to support one another despite differences in age and ability.

“The point we’re trying to get across is that if you’re the first one finished then you should be cheering for everybody behind you,” Hedblom said. “That’s the benefit of CrossFit. If you’re the last one finished it means you’re the one getting the most support along the way.”

Another focal point for Hedblom and DeSousa is the social aspect of Lil Beasts.

“Nowadays kids are really into phones, laptops, tablets and videogames. We wanted to have something that would get them outside, get them moving, to disguise working out as a game," said DeSousa.

“Some kids these days don’t have good social skills, so we make it very important that they learn each other’s names and talk to each other and just enjoy being kids.”

Hedblom and DeSousa are both teachers at Rochester Memorial School during the school year, so they understand the importance of more movement and less screen time in kids’ daily routines.

“I mean, it’s summer and they could probably spend everyday inside staring at screens if they really wanted to," said Desousa, “You don’t realize it but you can get a workout just by going for a bike ride or taking a walk with your family. There’s so much more to working out than just going to the gym.”

In addition to fun workouts, Hedblom, and Desousa also talk to the kids about nutrition. “We just want them to kind of have an idea of what’s good for them. But kids are going to be kids and they’re going to eat whatever they want to eat,” Hedblom said with a laugh.

To learn more about Lil Beasts and Whaling City Crossfit, visit the studio on Church Street in New Bedford, or email

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