As a teen, Jonathan Royston was an unlikely candidate to own a gym one day.
“I was not an athletic person,” said the co-owner of Dissent Athletics, the 3-year-old coach-led gym in southeast Fort Worth. “I had bad asthma. My allergies were bad. I tried to play sports and wasn’t good. I was scrawny.”
In college, Royston fell in love with working out while he turned his attention toward nutrition. Once he combined a new diet that cut out processed foods and excess sugar, his asthma symptoms ceased.
“I never had to take asthma medication” after that, he said. “I wanted people to feel the same way I did.”
Dissent is focused on coach-based workouts that guide gymgoers through everything from nutrition and proper workout routines to counseling sessions that dig into the psychology of weight loss. The gym co-owners are launching a series of classes geared toward busy parents. Kelsey, who recently gave birth to the couple’s first baby, encourages mothers to bring their infants to her course that integrates baby-strapping and provides practical tips for time-pressed participants seeking to tone up. Jonathan will head an online workout program that focuses on guided exercise and nutrition tips for working dads. And if you are a parent doing their best to find time to better their health, be forgiving on yourself, Jonathan said.
“There are some days where you want to do back squats, but it ends up being a family walk,” he said. “Did you get to do what you want? No, but you got to bond with your family.”
When her daughter cries, Kelsey uses the opportunity to go outside and carry the infant around.
“Walking around calms her down,” Kelsey said. “Baby-wearing is helpful. There are carriers that hold the baby [close to your torso]. It’s like carrying a rucksack, and it calms the baby down.”
Newborns, she said, generally don’t want to lose sight of their mothers. Kelsey tries to sneak in a few outdoor workouts in front of her daughter, whom she places in a bouncy seat.
Even with the best planning, babies and toddlers will have the final say on Mom’s or Dad’s plans. Still, it’s always best to agree on workout times ahead of time.
“The number one thing we can do to reach our goals is prioritize,” Jonathan said. “The night before, [schedule] your workout time for the next day. Instead of saying you’re just going to work out, talk to your spouse, say, ‘Tomorrow at 2 p.m. — can we do that?’ Couples can get a lot more support when it’s a planned thing.”
Dads, he added, should be mindful that moms with newborns will need extra help and planning to find exercise time due to the realities of breastfeeding and the attention babies demand of their mothers.
Other general tips for busy parents, Jonathan said, include standing whenever possible and walking at least three times per week for 30 minutes.
“Involve the entire family in walks,” he said. “It can be at the mall. You’re also showing your kids that you prioritize exercise.”
Working out alone won’t lead to significant weight loss, Jonathan said. The team at Dissent Athletics promotes whole food diets free from processed foods and excess sugar. (Fructose from fruits is A-OK, though.) After a month of eating lean proteins, unprocessed plants, and grains, he said, going back to junk food is much harder because your body adjusts to feeling good and you see the weight loss benefits.
Kelsey recommends using a phone app to track what you eat.
“You don’t have to weigh and measure” everything you eat, she said. “Just put in whether you had chicken breast or Snickers. As soon as you start tracking everything, you’ll naturally cut down on junk food.”
Protein, they said, isn’t stored as body fat, so don’t skimp on the chicken breasts and steaks.
One hack for cutting down on beer consumption, Jonathan added, is to freely guzzle carbonated water, which mimics the suds of brews but without the calories or hangover-inducing alcohol.
“The general rule of thumb is try to have no more than two [alcoholic] drinks a day or seven a week,” he said, adding that saving up those rationed drinks for special occasions can make the occasional special night out all the more enjoyable.”
Buck Up and Get After It
Buck Elliott is a busy dude. The father of four, coach at Billy Ryan High School in Denton, and Weekly sports columnist learned early on that the most sustainable way to carve out predictable time to exercise required coordinating those plans with wife Jackie Elliott (a full-time professor and former Weekly contributing writer).
“It’s easy to tell someone to wake up earlier than their kids,” Elliott said, “but the more children you have, the more tired you tend to be, and sleep is precious.”
To squeeze in a bit of exercise time, work with your partner to establish protected time when you can hit the exercise bike or lift some dumbbells. Since Jackie is an early riser, Buck says, he juggles the morning routines so she has half an hour to do her workout routine.
“I plow through demands and distractions during that time and serve as the default parent,” he said, adding that Jackie “does the same for me around bedtime.”
This approach is sustainable for most couples, he added, because the sacrifice and payoffs are shared equally.
“Both parents receive an opportunity to focus on exercise, and both have the time where they shoulder the chaos all alone,” he said. “I’ve also found it helpful to plan my workouts at least a week in advance. This removes the guesswork and mental labor.”
Parents and folks with busy careers can preemptively fight cravings for unhealthy food by front-loading meals with veggies.
“Find a raw vegetable that you like: carrots, celery, bell pepper,” Buck said. “Eat some of those before every meal or snack. It kind of destroys your palate’s immediate gratification for salty or sweet food, it levels your blood glucose for whatever you’re going to eat afterward, and it helps increase your overall vegetable intake.”
Parents should set a rule of not eating their children’s leftovers, as tempting as not wasting those scraps may be, he added.
“My kids leave so much food behind,” he said. “If I come behind as the human trash compactor, I’ll inject several hundred sneaky calories regularly that I wasn’t planning on. Just throw it out.”