Despite not being old enough to attend kindergarten, Prisais Brooklyn Townsend is a preschool beast at the gym. The four-year-old workout wunderkind is already a master at weight-lifting, pull-ups, and gymnastics. How was Prisais’ talent discovered at such a young age? James Townsend, her father, noticed when she started following along with his workouts. Townsend, the co-owner of Automo Crossfit in Moorpark, California, is a former NFL player turned personal trainer. When he saw his daughter taking an interest, he offered some light training. What happened next was, as the internet headlines go, unbelievable. But it wasn’t actually that surprising to Townsend himself, just his clients. He knew Prisais was unusual just a few months after she was born.
“She started crawling at three months and was walking at seven months. I knew that was basically unheard of,” says Townsend. In fact, she was walking so quickly that her foot was turned out to the side in a way that made it drag when she walked. Townsend mentioned his concern to her pediatrician, but the doctor assured her it was fine; babies just usually can’t walk that early on, and some parts of her body likely needed time to catch up to her coordination. It was extremely unusual, but nothing to worry about. That has been a theme.
Starting when she was 10 months old, Townsend started regularly bringing Prisais to the gym while he was training. He found that when he let his daughter out of her stroller, she would immediately begin exploring the space. “Anytime I would have a break during my training or workout sessions at Crossfit, I would let her run around and do whatever she wanted. She had such a natural gift for everything she tried in the gym.”
However, what really made Townsend take notice was his daughter’s precocious talent towards, what else, lifting weights. Before her first birthday, Prisais was already itching to get swole. “Right away, she went for the two-pound dumbbells,” remembersTownsend. “And she starts doing dumbbell snatches with it. I had never shown her how to do anything like that. She had watched me and figured it out. That blew me away.” By 14 months, Prisais was able to jump on to a plate that was nearly two-feet off the ground. When James saw that, he decided to put her athletic abilities to the test.
“I asked if she could do it again and she casually did it without hesitation,” he recalled. “Ever since then, I have been amazed by her.”
So have a lot of other people. Prisais has a growing social following – a theme among super young athletes – of people eager to scope her unbelievable acts of little kid athleticism, which have gotten even wilder as she has worked more with her father. Townsend has proven to be a very effective coach for his daughter even though he consistently sets the bar too low in order to make sure he doesn’t thrust unrealistic expectations or goals on his little girl.
“She took to my coaching incredibly well, which for someone her age is almost impossible,” Townsend says proudly. “If you ask a baby or a toddler to do a squat, they simply can’t or won’t do it. But she knew how to open up her feet, keep them shoulder-length apart, and seemed to instinctively understand technique and form.”
As Townsend kept training his daughter, he noticed that Prisais was constantly improving, picking up new skills at a remarkable rate. That’s when he decided to show off her skills on his personal Instagram page. Gradually, the videos of her began to get more and more attention, so he eventually created an account just for her. That’s when she really began to get noticed.
“This past August, there was a video of her doing five pull-ups and that’s when things really took off,” Townsend said. “Seeing a four-year-old doing pull-ups correctly blew people’s minds.”
As Prisais’ account has grown in popularity – she currently has 13,000 followers – some critics have, naturally, popped up. Some wondered if this extreme of a workout regime was safe for a four-year-old, while others questioned if James was pushing his daughter too hard. Townsend understands people’s concerns, but he notes that he is taking every precaution to ensure his daughter’s safety comes first. Thanks to his experience as a trainer, he is able to make sure Prisais has a great program and focuses on technique. As for making sure she that she doesn’t feel forced, Townsend is super sensitive about that. He’s been there.
“I dreamed of being in the NFL and I made it there for a couple months, but I gave up that dream because I felt so much pressure from my family. I don’t want my daughter to ever experience that or even come close to experiencing that. The day she finds that gymnastics and Crossfit aren’t fun, we move on,” James says. “Anytime she comes into the gym, I let her treat it like a playground. This needs to be fun for her. I would be devastated if she ever felt like she was doing it for any reason other than her love of gymnastics. I’m her dad first and her fan second.”
In order to make sure the experience stays fun for Prisais, Townsend only focuses on supervising her form for her safety; otherwise, she can do whatever she wants. For the most part, it’s not traditional Crossfit stuff.
“My favorite things to do at the gym are grabbing the three gymnastic mats and performing my bar routine on the pull-up bars!” says Prisais. “I like gymnastics because I get to do crazy tricks that no one else can do.”
As long as she keeps improving at this incredible rate, she is going to be able to do things no one her age should be able to do for a long time. Luckily, she has a dad that not only roots for her, but understands how to help her grow in a safe and fun way.