Los Prietos Gets CrossFit

CrossFit Pacific Coast Trains Incarcerated Teens

Eric Malzone gets the Los Prietos teens ready for a Workout of the Day.
Courtesy Photo

Exercise releases endorphins, and endorphins make you happy, right? Well, that’s the rationale behind Traver Boehm and Eric Malzone’s push to take their CrossFit exercise regime to a wider audience.

The co-owners of CrossFit Pacific Coast — or CPC, which just moved to East Cota Street from its longtime location on lower Anacapa — were presented with the perfect opportunity to do so last year. One of the gym’s regular clients mentioned that he worked at Los Prietos Boys Camp and suggested the trainers visit the facility to lead delinquent teens who reside there on one of the grueling CrossFit workouts.

“We thought going sounded like the coolest thing,” said Boehm, “and we saw the potential to have an impact, to be there for kids that probably never got much encouragement.”

The June 1 visit marked CPC’s second annual trip to Los Prietos, and this time, Boehm and Malzone invited other clients to tag along and assist them in conducting the exercises. Sarah Schultz jumped at the chance, because facilities like Los Prietos hold a special place in her heart.

“I’m a sucker for troubled youth and programs like these, and the mentors kind of helped fix me when I was younger,” Schultz said. “I’m an advocate because the mentors and structure teach kids how to take care of themselves and function in the real world.”

Boehm and Malzone were excited to see what reaction they’d get from the campers this time. “The first time we went, we just got 40 or 50 hard stares. It was a little overwhelming,” Malzone said. “But ultimately, we were there to enrich and exhaust them, and afterward, some of the boys said they’d never been more tired in their lives.”

As the boys walked into the gymnasium on June 1, hands behind their backs, wearing the camp’s blue and brown shirts and grey shorts, Boehm and Malzone informed them that the exercises they would do were the same as those that Navy Seals and their favorite NFL players do daily. Impressed by this information and newly pumped for their fitness challenge, the boys were split into teams and led through a timed series of push-ups, squats, four-count burpees (squat to plank position to squat again to upright standing), and sit-ups. Campers were encouraged to cheer each other on and keep track of their team’s total repetitions.

According to Malzone, putting the boys in teams again was designed to help them relate to each other and facilitate friendships, or at least some level of mutual respect. “At first, when we told them to cheer each other on, they were just swearing at each other,” Malzone said. “Many were in rival gangs before they got in here. But as time wore on, they started getting into cheering their teammates on, and this year, they seemed pretty supportive of their teammates right off the bat.”

As the campers — red faced, sweaty, and gasping — struggled to complete the workout, Boehm, Malzone, Schultz, and the other assisting client Matt Lum were right there, cheering them on to the finish. The camp faculty got in on the action, too, and a couple of the teachers dropped down and did some push-ups and sit-ups, much to the amusement of the boys.

After stretches and some final words from the CrossFitters, the boys saluted them and limped out, not defeated but newly determined “to get crazy fit,” in one camper’s words, like Boehm and Malzone. Another camper even asked what a CrossFit membership costs “for when I get out.”

For the CrossFit owners, the Los Prietos experience has been rewarding on a personal level and a way to bring awareness to the camp and their work with local teens. “We feel good when we leave there,” said Boehm. “We’re giving them a break from the monotony of their routine, and we let them know we have not forgotten about them.”

See crossfitpacificcoast.com for more info.


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