How a fitness boss talks about exercise with his kids


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It’s one thing to exercise for yourself. But when you’re a parent, staying fit can help you in so many ways (hello, stress release!) while also inspiring your children to develop a love of movement and activity. Barry’s Bootcamp CEO (and Well+Good Council member) Joey Gonzalez, a father of two, makes fitness a priority for his family. Here’s how he makes it happen—and how your family can, too.

My husband, Jonathan, and I have two children, and like most parents, we’re busy. No matter how packed our schedules get, though, we’re never too busy to prioritize fitness. As the CEO of Barry’s Bootcamp, working out is part of my job—but during my off hours, our family stays active together, too. Jonathan and I love taking our little ones on a hike, for instance, and our 2-year-old daughter Frankie loves a good old-fashioned race.

I believe that if you encourage children to be active, you’ll help them create a lifelong habit of fitness. This is important, particularly when you stop to realize how much kids aren’t moving. Most children need at least an hour of physical activity each day, but one in three American children spend no time being physically active every day. None. And that affects everything from how well they sleep to their self-esteem—now and as adults.

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This is part of the idea behind Au Fudge CAMP in Los Angeles, which my partners and I recently opened. It’s an offshoot of our restaurant, Au Fudge, which invites parents to enjoy a grown-up meal (cocktails, too, if you want!) with their kids—or to have the kids play in our supervised creative space. Au Fudge CAMP stands for Center for Art Music and Play, and that “play” part is in my background. We have classes for kids like tumbling, rock climbing, yoga, dance, and karate. The curriculum helps us engage with children and to keep them active in a way that feels fun.

Fun is the key, isn’t it? When we’re kids, we run around and climb trees and get sweaty…and exercising is called play. How sad it is that as adults we call it work: working out. When do you flip that switch in your brain to think that it’s not fun anymore, it’s work? My goal, at least with my own children, is to try to find ways to make sure that staying active is fun for them.

Here are some ways you can make fitness fun for the whole family.

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Make it a (friendly) competition

As I mentioned, our daughter Frankie loves races. We’ll race her over and over (and over) again. I remember thinking, “Okay, how long will this last?” But we recently had a party with kids of all ages, and they started racing from one side of our yard to the next—for hours. We had elimination races, group races, relay races, and more. The kids saw that it’s fun to use your own body to move and compete with somebody next to you.

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Use your imagination

Story time, music, and dress-up are a lot of fun for younger kids. Of course, there’s always a time to sit still and pay attention—but there’s a time to unleash energy, too! You can appeal to your child’s imagination while giving her an opportunity to get physical. If she’s obsessed with Wonder Woman, for instance, why not suggest a game in which she, as the superhero, has to chase you down? Use age-appropriate props, costumes, and plenty of make-believe.

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Choose your language wisely

As parents, it’s our responsibility to encourage our kids to develop positive behaviors and body image. The way you speak about fitness will shape the way your children do. So, along with “play,” I use words such as healthy, movement, and activity. Those are much better for kids to hear than terms like skinny or fat. I also focus more on the mental and emotional benefits you get from exercise and physical activity.

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Lead by example

Setting a good example, whether in the workplace or at home, is a priority for me. Kids model what they see, and that shapes who they are as adults. My kids see me exercising, but more importantly, they see the benefits of exercise. Talk about what you do, whether it’s yoga or weights. I’ll say, “Look how strong Papa is. Papa feels healthy, and now Papa will sleep better.” Things like that will help kids develop a healthy approach to fitness—one that should last a lifetime.

As a trainer turned CEO of Barry’s Bootcamp, Joey Gonzalez has a holistic view on wellness that includes family, mental health, and, of course, fitness. Since he took the top job in 2015, he’s grown the popular fitness empire to 41 studios—11 of them international.

What should Joey write about next? Send your questions and suggestions to experts@wellandgood.com

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