JIAN Pablico is a man of many passions.
A love of CrossFit, martial arts and working with youths are a few of the things that drive him and through his launch of a new North Shore fitness program, he's found a means of fueling them while simultaneously firing up local teens.
Pablico is the founder of the Vars/ty Initiative, a North Vancouver project serving high school students (males and females) ages 13-18. Fitness-focused, the program's format is more akin to that of a youth group in light of its goal to encourage young people to "become first-string in athletics, community and in life."
"It's not just a fitness program, I'm going to be supporting them in empowering them to be a part of the community," says Pablico. Participants are challenged to not only commit themselves to living healthy, active lives, but to being local leaders.
A North Vancouver resident, Pablico is a CrossFit coach at CrossFit North Vancouver, a former longtime capoeira instructor and the current youth program developer and diversity co-ordinator at the North Shore Multicultural Society. As part of his job, he leads anti-oppression and social responsibility workshops in local high schools through the society's Neonology program. He's also a facilitator for anti-bullying initiative SafeTeen.
Pablico launched the Vars/ty Initiative in an effort to fill a void he felt existed for local youths who are interested in getting active and working out, though are uninterested in involving themselves in typical sports programs. "I think all youth need to be active, whether or not they're going to use those skills in sports or just in everyday life, like feeling good about yourself on an everyday basis."
While the program will serve teenagers looking to excel in specific sports, like basketball and hockey for instance, it's catered towards those who just want to get fit in general. "It's involving everybody in fitness and encouraging them to have fitness as a part of their life, not just something that they do, but an actual part of their lifestyle," he says.
The program is grounded in CrossFit, a strength and conditioning program that is increasing in popularity. "It's a good vehicle because it doesn't matter what sport or activity you do, it will help you in whatever it is that you do to make you better at that," says Pablico.
"If you think about a CrossFit gym, 90 per cent of the people who go there just want to work out and feel good and they have other things going on in their life," he adds.
Despite the growth of the sport and its physical benefits, Pablico's gym has very few teenage regulars. He hopes the Vars/ty Initiative helps change that by providing them with a non-intimidating space to give it a go. "The mission is really getting youth involved with non-traditional fitness elements, which is CrossFit, yoga and different kinds of movements, like parkour and martial arts," he says.
He'll lead the 60-75 minute sessions which will be focused on functional movements, skill development, balance, agility, mobility, and strength and conditioning. Exercises will include sprinting, pull-ups, rowing, jumping rope, climbing rope, flipping tires, weightlifting and gymnastics. Special guests will lead sessions on other types of activities, like yoga.
Time will be spent introducing the day's activity, looking at proper technique, how to do the movements safely, how to scale them to each person's ability and how participants can progress before actually engaging in the workout.
"It's different from a gym because we want to create that atmosphere of everyone doing it at the same time. . . . The CrossFit community is all about encouraging others that are working out alongside of you as opposed to a regular gym where you just do it and you may talk to the person next to you during a water break. But if (they're) done, or if (they're) struggling through a workout, the youth hopefully will encourage each other and wait for each other," says Pablico.
The last 20 minutes or so will be spent on stretching and cooling down, in addition to a discussion about community and leadership. He plans to connect his participants with local volunteer opportunities, as well as draw on his professional experience as a youth worker and offer support related to any issues they may be struggling with - school, relationships, bullying, employment included.
"The fitness will always be the number one for it but it's also just the vehicle to engage youth. The youth are into fitness, the byproduct is them getting fit, but the idea is that they're being empowered with skills that they can use in school," he says.
The program's website is intended to aid in connectivity among participants, offering workouts they can do on their own, and sharing healthy recipes and event listings.
Pablico is launching the Vars/ty Initiative this week with a special spring break six-session program ($90) starting tomorrow, March 18, at the project's homebase, CrossFit North Vancouver at 2455 Dollarton Highway. Once school resumes, the group will meet weekly, after school on Tuesdays ($120 per eight sessions or $18 drop-in). Sponsorships are available for students unable to afford the cost of participation.
Pablico hopes to eventually expand the program to multiple sessions per week.
For more information, visit varsityinitiative. com.