Neal - May 2019
This month’s Featured Fit Dad is Neal, who first found fitness as a way to help manage the stress of being a foster parent and then eventually an adoptive parent to his two sons.
Now, Neal is on a health and fitness journey that provides his family with an example of what a health and active lifestyle looks like, and what it means to sacrifice for the things you’ve made a priority in your life.
Here is Neal’s story:
When did you first get into fitness?
I suffered from a chronic kidney disease as a child, which kept me sidelined from most sports. However, music became my “sport,” and I was darn good at it! I loved marching band (band geeks unite!), and that started my love for watching football and enjoying the energy of the game. When I turned 34, we became foster parents to our twin boys, and the emotional drain was almost more than we could handle. I decided to take up running, as it seemed to be something I could do on my own without anyone needing my time or attention. I quickly fell in love with running and began researching programs, shoes, clothing, etc. I even began to run in 5Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons. After a couple years of a hiatus, I returned to a regular fitness routine on Sept. 3, 2018.
What activities do you do to keep fit and active?
II am working with an online trainer, who has me lifting five days per week as I look to build muscle and strength. Both of my boys are playing football and basketball, so playing around with them is also a key part of what keeps me active. Living in DC, we have some of the most amazing hiking trails and bike paths in the country, so you’ll regularly find us out and about on our bikes or just taking a family walk.
What is your favorite fitness memory or achievement?
Without a doubt my favorite achievement was becoming a Certified Group Fitness Instructor and joining the instruction team for a fantastic boot camp-style fitness program. The training was grueling, the hours were long, my body was tired, but when they conferred on me the title and the red pants that went with the uniform… it was truly my proudest moment.
A close second would have to be winning my age group for the biggest 5K race in Southeast Texas. I was in the 36-39 age group at the time and came in at just over 21 minutes. Getting that “gold” medal placed around my neck was an amazing feeling!
What is your favorite workout?
That’s a tough one. Although I’ve always hated anything to do with legs (I have chicken legs), seeing the recent growth in my quads and hamstrings is making me almost look forward to Wednesdays. I dare say my legs might be morphing into turkey legs at this point!
In what ways do you hope to influence your children through fitness?
Raising sons is quite a challenge. Make that twins, and you really have projects on your hands (two preteens at the same time is just hysterical)! One of my sons has severe behavior issues, and the other son has Crohn’s disease. Additionally, as adopted kids, they both struggle with their identity. I want them to see me making fitness part of my regular routine even though I’m faced with long work hours, temptations with food (oh, ice cream, how I love you!), and just making ends meet financially. Hopefully they’ll see me have some measure of success in this area and be able to draw strength from that.
What words of encouragement would you have for other dads out there who want to be healthy and fit?
Community is everything. I believe that we were not created to do life alone. My biggest tip would be to avoid the trap of feeling isolated and alone. As men and fathers, we are warriors, and there is power when we link arms and fight battles together. Find other dads out there who are on the same road as you and learn to gain strength from one another.