“B is for Burpees” Teaches Toddlers (and Parents) About Functional Fitness

December 29, 2020 by
Credit: Courtesy of Marcus Lowther
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Every parent knows the phrase, “A is for apples.” But what about “B is for burpees?”

B is for Burpees is the third children’s literature release from CartoonFit Comics, a comic account inspired by well-known cartoons The Oatmeal and Dilbert that’s all about fitness. The author, Marcus Lowther, a CrossFit coach, uses humor as a “light-hearted entry into the fitness world,” for both kids and adults.

The books: Lowther started CartoonFit in 2016, as satire geared mostly towards adults in the CrossFit community. In 2017 he published his first children’s book, The Race Against Time, which brings functional fitness to life through the travels of two characters, Platey (an Olympic lifting plate with a face and legs) and Tina.

  • “I was a little naive initially,” he says. “Children’s books are hard.” 

His second book, The Lost Bikes, tells the story of two children who discover functional fitness as they’re on the way to retrieve their bikes from the garage, their parents’ gym. Each piece of equipment has a personality to go with it, dividing them into two categories: the evil “Stationeries”, and the good “Mobiles.” 

  • “There are some pieces of equipment that lead to some bumps and bruises (like the jump rope and rope lashes when learning double-unders) that translate to these characters being ‘evil,’” he says.
  • Platey (weight plate), Belle (kettlebell) and Balloo (medicine ball) are friendly characters because there’s usually versions of these movements that people enjoy (and a friendly face helps to give an extra push),” he continues.

B is for Burpees: Lowther’s latest book – a coloring book of functional movements – is “something simple” that he thought more kids could appreciate. It’s a good chance for young athletes to see what their body can do. 

  • “Simple illustrations allow kids to add their own color and creative touch to the letters,” explains the description of B is for Burpees. “Fitness and functional movements are becoming more and more a part of our daily lives, and this is a great introduction to the equipment and toys that make movement fun.”

Lowther has completed the CrossFit Kids curriculum, and thinks of B is for Burpees as a supplement to those concepts, “not a replacement.”

The book goes through the alphabet, attaching movements and illustrations to each letter: “F is for flexibility,” “S is for squats,” and “J is for jerk.” Characters from his previous books – Balloo, Platey, Belle – make appearances, along with drawings of well-known athletes, like Tia Clair-Toomey, who perform some of the words. 

B is for Burpees is also translated into Spanish. Lowther, who is Black, says this was a way to encourage diversity and accessibility in fitness.

  • “There just aren’t as many Black people in the CrossFit space, and that’s become more apparent this year than ever,” he says. “I think the Latinx community is also not highlighted enough.”
  • Lowther’s wife is Peruvian, and he says translating the book was a “good opportunity to speak a little bit more to her community and the Latinx community in general, who face a lot of the same problems the Black community has.”

To translate the book, Lowther worked with his wife and translator to come up with equivalents and changed or added drawings. He gives the example of Z: in English, it’s for “Zzzz” (sleep), but in the Spanish version, it’s for zapatillas (sneakers). 

In the future, Lowther plans to work on a story keeping diversity in mind, with more characters and children that would be “recognizable to minorities.” 

The details: B is for Burpees, along with Lowther’s other books, can be purchased on Amazon. Lowther says the coloring book is both kid and parent-approved. 

  • “I think kids can enjoy it for the simple pictures and adults can enjoy it as a coffee table book or conversation starter about fitness,” he says. “In 2020 when kids are schooling from home more, it’s also a relatively cheap option to keep kids occupied and curious about getting moving for a few more minutes out of the day.”

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