Meet the Promix Athletes and A+ parents who are redefining what it means to healthfully raise a family. In a world of school projects and soccer games, temper tantrums and unexpected sick days, these parents work to master the ever-present challenges they face in their careers, within their households, and with their own personal health. Super-dads Daniel Pelham & Stavros Kalogirou share 6 valuable tips and tricks they’ve figured out along the way to (hopefully) help all of our moms and dads out there stay sane.
1. Decide what’s important.
Daniel doesn’t sugarcoat it. “You really have to want and value being fit, and consistently remind yourself of your values and goals when things get tough, because you are always tired and always feel like there are other things you need to be doing.” The stress of too much to focus on weighs on many, but it can be especially tough on parents. Stavros adds, that “if I allow excuses in, they spread like wildfire. There will always be a reason to do something else. If your life is anything like mine, there are far too many things reaching, grabbing, yelling, and crying for our attention.” But one of the biggest lessons he’s come to learn and accept is that he simply has to do his best, because “an exact balance will never be achieved.”
Athletes know this from the sports they play and the workouts they put themselves through: there is no such thing as perfection.
It doesn’t exist.
So what’s a Promix parent to do? They make up their minds, knowing that if they’re not feeling and functioning well, they can’t care for their families to the best of their abilities.
Fundamentally, focus on:
- Getting enough sleep (cue laughter from parents of newborns)
- Eating as well as possible (cue tears from the parents who just swiped their kid’s last bite of mac & cheese, we see you, you’re doing great, it’s fine)
- Moving in ways that feel good (cue groans from exhausted parents worldwide)
These three seemingly simple subjects are critical to keep batteries charged for the day to day (1). On a broader level, there are many other ways to continue to feel like your own person when the most important people in your life don’t call you by your given name.
- Date Nights give you and your partner a chance to connect like adults without anyone asking how come we never have Oreos at our house like Blake does at his house it’s not fair. Find a sitter you trust (this is key to be able to fully relax!) and enjoy dinner, a movie, or even a trip to Target to rage for a couple of hours sans kids. Yes, even Target is a whole new world when you can lap the isles with some leisure in your step.
- Alone time – in stark contrast – is also necessary for balance. Planning time where you can be alone in your own home can be a sneaky way to get to your personal to-do list or finally start watching Game of Thrones. We’re not here to judge how you use your alone time, we just want to remind you that you should definitely have it.
- Setting a clear goal for yourself, like increasing your strength by X amount in Y amount of time, or training to run a race, will provide you the reminder that you need to schedule in time to work toward it.
There is one word that pops up over and over again as our athletes break down what works for them and their families: consistency. “Being deliberate and consistent helps build routines that you can rely on. Kids and family… generally thrive with structure, habits, and routine. Creating that is time and work, but is worthwhile effort,” Daniel emphasises. Stavros, once a top performing athlete, finds that his transition into a different day to day holds many similarities, mainly because once he emerged from his not-so-healthy early 20’s, he’s been health-conscious ever since. When he outlines his priorities, it’s clear that they are largely the same as they were in his days on the podium. “I’m no longer at that competitive level” but it “doesn’t mean fitness and health aren’t near the top of my list.”
So where does one’s “list” come into play?
Putting plans in place for workouts and meals lays the foundation for success, even if you’re only able to take it one day at a time. Penciling in workouts “like an appointment or a meeting” helps Daniel compartmentalize his day. “It’s easy to feel selfish,” he says, “but taking care of yourself is how you can best take care of your family and responsibilities.” He packs his gym bags ahead of time, and fills them with all of his on-the-go essentials: Promix preworkout, for a little extra energy, BCAAs to accelerate recovery, and Protein Puff Bars for a clean, easy snack (BONUS: dangerously similar in taste and texture to a standard marshmallow treat with less than 50% of the sugar, Protein Puff Bars are the secret weapon to quashing whining from hangry kiddos without throwing a candy bar into the backseat of the car. 15 grams of protein fills them up for some peace and quiet for at least 45 seconds. You’re welcome). Daniel even leaves a few packed bags around the office and in his car to eliminate the inconvenience of not having everything he needs when he’s trying to hit the gym. Similarly, he stays on top of shopping, cooking, a pre-packing much of his food for the day while preparing food for the kids, proving that putting your kids first doesn’t mean you have to put yourself last.
Stavros, now a firefighter and paramedic, has a similar strategy, but an additional observation worth noting. “I’m 42, a husband, and father of 4 kids with a demanding but rewarding full-time career,” he clarifies. “I’m taking far better care of myself now than I did in my youth. Why? It was so much easier when my schedule was clear, when other people didn’t depend on me.” One of his biggest realizations was that “easier isn’t always better.” Without the luxury of time and independence these days, Stavros has grown to manage the precious opportunities he does have more efficiently. With others depending on him, he’s more organized than ever. “If I shared today’s calendar with you, it would look like a rainbow, so many different things. Three basketball playoff games, two baseball practices, one school dance” – we’re talking a 16+ hour day, here. And none of that includes “trying to keep the ones who aren’t busy engaged – while, oh yeah – my wife is out of town!” However, this is a pretty typical schedule for him and his family. “I share that to say, if we let all that’s going on dictate how or when we take care of ourselves, for most of us, it won’t happen.”
So having plan is beneficial for many reasons. But don’t get too attached to your schedule, folks, because guess what?
3. Be prepared for all of those plans to change in the blink of an eye.
Consistency is the goal, but it’s important logistically (and for the sake of your own mental health), to be able to roll with changes.
Picture it: you planned on going to your favorite class right after work, and the timing couldn’t be better – you’ll be done before the kids get out of after school practice, and even have time to pick up something great for dinner! But (of course there’s a “but”) there’s a stomach bug going around. Your late afternoon sweat session is off the table, and you reroute to execute an early pick up. What should have been an average day with a fun class and a healthy meal around the table becomes a swirling vortex of sadness as you clean up the bug’s aftermath. The kids are miserable and no one in the house has an appetite.
It can be ultra disheartening when carefully laid plans turn to dust, but doesn’t have to throw you for a loop. Daniel knows firsthand that he’s got to be prepared with a Plan B (and maybe a C and D, too). “Having lots of options helps. A gym is great. Going for a run or a bike ride or whatever is awesome. Sometimes I have to just hit the garage where I have a rower, some kettlebells and dumbbells, and a jump rope.” He notes that if “even if I can only get into the next room for 15 mins, I can workout. Sometimes it’s just air squats, push-ups, hollow holds, burpees, or whatever I can do where I stand before bed or upon waking.”
Stavros agrees. “We have to get creative at times, otherwise life can paralyze us.”
But Stavros reminds us that it doesn’t all have to do with just working out, even though that can be one of the hardest things for which to find time, plan for, and commit to. As a firefighter, when he’s on duty, he expends an enormous amount of physical and emotional energy. “We could have been running calls all night, or had a long, involved incident, and all I want to do [when I get home] is veg out.” Pretty understandable, given the circumstances. But Stavros tells us he often has to alter that mindset. “That’s not what I committed to,” he says. So on nights when he dreams of being horizontal the moment he walks in the door, he reminds himself to be prepared to give his family the energy and engagement he knows they deserve. After all, his “small army” has been waiting all day to see him.
4. Surround yourself with people who support you.
Stavros’ wife and kids aren’t just important to him: he is important to them. He and his wife are on the same page, valuing physical fitness and healthy eating, so they make a conscious effort to teach those values to their kids. And overall, the support and encouragement they provide to their kids is reciprocated. “I’ve gone into my garage before with intentions of getting my workout done. I’ll have plans, a program, etc., but of course, one of my kids won’t leave me alone.” So rather than discouraging his kids from being excited to cheer him on, he takes advantage of their support to make them little heroes, too! When it comes down to it, “my options are to put them in front of a screen or invite them in.” He opts to set the screens aside, relaying that he’s “had some great workouts with my kids! If I’m doing an EMOM, I let them play in the area that I’m not using, or I’ll get something out (a light weight or a small box, etc.) so they can do the movement as well.”
Daniel can relate, expressing that “having a village and support network helps, whether it’s friends or family… Include your family in your activities. It’s hard to do things with kids sometimes, and sometimes you have to be willing to throw the whole activity away if necessary, but you can also have great workouts and fit activities as a family.” A brilliant idea? Finding friends to form a trade with (meaning you and your partner workout or do some selfcare while your friends take the kids, and you return the favor so they can do the same). Outside of your family and immediate friends, there’s often times ample support to be found out in communities. “A lot of gyms, workout groups, and running clubs” expand your social scope and provide that supportive environment (2). Some of them even have “groups of parents who watch kids during one class and then they take the next while you watch the kids, or go in on hiring a sitter to watch kids while exercise happens.”
It’s pretty clear that the more positive support you surround yourself with, the more likely you are to succeed. And even more fun than moving with your team? Fueling with them.
5. Eat together.
Keep in mind that support shouldn’t be limited to activity. Aligning on nutritional values with your partner, or, for our single parents, being very clear with yourself about your own (shout out to our single parents! Standing ovation!), is critical for giving your kids one of the most important things you can provide: a healthy relationship with food.
Our parent athletes think about bringing their families together for meals in different ways. Stavros and his wife have learned that the best way to pass on good habits to their kids is by “modeling what and how to eat.” They make this happen by having consistent family meals together around the dinner table. “It may be ‘old school’, but that’s okay with us.” He stresses that not every meal should be a giant production. “We make easy dinners using the crock pot, Instapot, our BBQ smoker, then add some sort of vegetables and usually a rice or pasta. We give our kids options, but not too many, so while they might not eat everything I put out on the table, they know that their options are what’s there.” In other words, he’s “not making one of them chicken nuggets, the other a PB&J, then the rest of us eat the meal I made.” Stavros believes “it can develop bad habits by making different meals for everyone if they don’t like what is being served.” Newsflash: he’s right (3).
That said, he’s not alone on this. While sitting down together for a meal at least once a day is an excellent goal and fantastic way to spend quality time together, with everyone in your household on a different schedule, it’s not always realistic. So often, this “eat together” theory has more to do with what you and your family eat as opposed to when.
“Kids learn what tastes good and get exposed to processed foods, sugar, and junk if you let them,” warns Daniel. He acknowledges that banning all treats is unavoidable (and ill advised as it can set the stage for binge eating disorders in the future), “balance is definitely key… so giving kids a variety of healthy foods” and instilling the value of eating “lots of plants” is critical (3). After all, “kids ate spinach in the 80s because Popeye taught us that we would grow up big and strong. And guess what? My kids do, too. I was told eating my carrots would help me see better at night. So my kids eat all their carrots and then pretend they can see in the dark, or see into the next room through a wall. We keep it fun and honest, and give a ton of positive reinforcement, incentives, and encouragement around any and all healthy choices.” Something that makes those choices easier for Daniel? “My kids happen to love the Promix Protein Puffs, so I put them in a lot of snacks for them, pairing them with fruit, yogurt, and waffles.”
Remember that your little ones look up to you, so while they might not love asparagus, if they see you eating it enough, they could decide it’s their favorite food (3).
That brings us to the fella’s final piece of advice:
6. Lead by example: “Do as I do.”
That’s a rewrite. The original wording is – say it with us – “Do as I say, not as I do.”
We all rolled our eyes at our parents for uttering this phrase to us, whether they’d just dropped a swear word or sent us to bed at 8pm while they stayed up watching TV. But when you think about the most important lessons and habits you picked up from your parents, were they commands they spoke at you, or actions you watched them carry out?
Stavros thinks the best way to pass on healthy habits is to “involve your kids in what you do and who you are.” For him, the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do model doesn’t fly.
And for Daniel, having the support of his spouse is everything. “We recognize that for us to be happy and strong, have energy, and sleep better, we need to exercise and eat right and help each other,” which they strive to show their children daily.
That’s not to say these parents never have moments where things get knocked off course. But they’ve learned to deal.
“Possibly the biggest thing I’ve learned – and am still learning – is to have grace. I need to have it for myself if I don’t get done what I want to, or what I need to.” After all, Stavros doesn’t just want his children to be strong and healthy, he wants them to be be good to themselves and to those around them. “I need to have [grace] for my family and kids if their needs take over.”
So the next time you’re feeling selfish for working out or guilty for not working out, ashamed for eating a piece of pizza or miserable for passing on it, crazy while spending time with your kids or indulgent for taking a moment for yourself?
Take a second to breathe and focus on what’s in front of you. Always remember that a deep breath and a little grace will get you through anything.
Have a story you want to share? We’re all ears! Email email@example.com and tell us anything. We love hearing how the clean nutrition Promix offers all athletes supports every lifestyle. Be sure to follow Promix Nutrition on instagram for the most up-to-date announcements and check the clean, convenient Promix products fit parents like Daniel and Stavros swear by!
(1) Roberts, Lindsay. Why Self-Care is an Important Part of Parenting, and How to Make Time for It. The Washington Post Website. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/on-parenting/in-defense-of-a-parents-day-off/2017/01/23/270ffafc-d8f2-11e6-b8b2-cb5164beba6b_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.c8c76f58de31. Published Jan 24, 2017. Accessed Feb 28, 2019.
(2) Road Runners of America Website. https://www.rrca.org/resources/runners/find-a-running-club. Accessed Feb 28, 2019.
(3) Parker-Pope, Tara. 6 Food Mistakes Parents Make. New York Times Website. https://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/15/health/healthspecial2/15eat.html. Published September 14, 2008. Accessed January 2019.