WOMO Feature: TJ Houske Knows What It Takes to Be a Fit-Dad

What is the best thing about being a fit father?

I never have to worry about missing a moment to play with the kids and create those memories that matter most.  I can keep up with them (well, most of the time).

Being an active father, how do you still find time to workout?

It’s not “finding the time,” it’s making it a priority. It may not be convenient – 5am workouts or even late-evening – but the alternative is a non-option.  There are many things that I choose to forgo so that I can prioritize the time for my health, set the example, and benefit from the outcome.

Could you give an example of where your fitness was tested in your role as a father?

Nothing as brave as fighting off a mountain lion or grizzly bear with my brute strength, but I use fitness daily to carry my kids to bed when they fall asleep downstairs, picking them up after a long day at school, and just giving them a hug or being there for an encouraging moment when a knee gets skinned. You don’t realize how much strength it takes to carry them upstairs when they are out cold – dead weight is no joke when they get older.  Ha!

What are the keys to being (and staying) a fit-dad?

Set your purpose.  Know why you must stay fit and then keep it in front of you – pictures of your family on the wall, your phone, etc.  Provision starts with proximity.  You can’t lead your family if you aren’t around to do so.  Take care of yourself so that you can care for those you love most.   

Enjoy the pizza night but don’t eat the whole pie.  Fitness is a very subjective word.  I believe many think, “I can’t have fun; ever.”  This is so untrue.  I enjoy birthday cakes, pizza, and the many other family memories we are blessed to experience.  I do not, however, give myself permission to do it daily. Set boundaries and don’t feel guilty when it’s time to “cheat” and don’t behave as if you are “miserable” for choosing wisely for healthy-choice days.

Exercise – especially when you don’t want too – period.  Never give yourself the permission to accept the excuses we all make at times.

Remember, “it’s not about me.” Everything we do is teaching our children through modeling.  Model good health and prioritizing fitness and you will instill the value of being healthy and stewarding it well.  Life is precious, therefore make sure they understand that health is a blessing and exercise is a reward, not a burden or chore.

Were you always a fit-dad? If not, how did you transition?

I’ve always been “fit,” but not always healthy.  In 2012 I found myself skipping breakfast, smashing energy drinks, and eating on-the-go.  The demands of my then corporate career were taking priority over the focus of leading my family well; in all areas.  I chose fitness and health in 2012 because I couldn’t stand how I felt. 

I’m human and of course I’m conscious of how I look; we all are.  That said, not having the energy to play or the fresh mindset to demonstrate patience after a long day were no longer acceptable.  I knew that disciplining my fitness and health would force discipline in all other areas of my life – that’s simply how I’m wired. 

Do I fall off the wagon sometimes; YES!  Am I guilty or shamed, NO!  It’s a lifestyle where 80% is disciplined and focused with 20% accepting that “life happens.”  Enjoy the ride… life is short and equally amazing.

How do you personally define the term “fit-dad?”

Ah, excellent question.  I define fit-dad as leading with a grateful heart of stewardship to those things entrusted most to me:  faith, family, friends, and health.  I do not do them well always but I do focus on improving always.

What is the easiest way an unfit-dad can start to become one?

Simple and free (to start).  Drink water, sleep 7 hours, move three days a week, and set goals.  Start with drinking 50% of your bodyweight in ounces of water daily, make sure you eat a balanced and healthy breakfast, and shut off your technolog two hours before bed. 

Grab a book, read for 15 minutes before bed, and then hit-the-rack.  Movement – go simple and effective.  Push ups (yes, do assisted with the knees on the ground if needed); air squats, walk up and down your stairs or street, and do it three times a week for a month.  Establish these new habits before you overwhelm yourself with trying to change everything at once. 

You didn’t get where you are currently overnight, but you can change how you think about where you are immediately.  Start today…people are counting on you!

Any recommendations to motivate future fit-dads?

I guess I’d like to keep it simple, put pride aside and work backwards from the obituary.  Morbid?  Maybe.  I’ve learned that you must begin with the end in mind. 

What do you want your wife and children to say about you when you are gone?  What about friends and colleagues?  Fear not; you will not always get it “right” but you can always have a focus on making the heart right-minded.  It’s hard to have folks speak of your discipline, integrity, and focus when you don’t walk-it-out. 

This does not mean “six-pack and skinny jeans,” it means simply finding a fitness level that honors your health and demonstrates to your family that it’s a priority to be respected.  Think of it this way… first impression matters; it’s lasting.  Make the lasting impression and become and remain fit for life.  People are counting on you, so stay focused, vigilant, and make it FUN!

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