Local families who make fitness a priority.
For some, exercise is an outlet. For others, not so much. Healthy eating habits share a similar story. Making health and fitness a priority for the whole family can be just one more thing to add to the schedule. Isn’t life busy enough? Hey, we understand. But, if it’s health you’re after, take a look at the lifestyles of three local fit families. They share what makes it all worth it.
The Business of Fitness
Ted and Karen Dreaver are no strangers to working out. At Ted’s gym, CrossFit Iron Legion, both of them are used to climbing ropes, jumping boxes and crushing personal records. And now, with three young children, Ted and Karen are still going strong and raising their children to do the same.
“I mean, why not teach your kids early that there is no shortcut,” Ted says. “You have to work, and you have to commit to the things that are going to change your life. And they’re only going to learn that from their parents.”
Though Ted and Karen have always been active and fit, Ted first got into CrossFit eight years ago when Karen was pregnant with their first child—their now 7-year-old son, Logan.
“I was always just looking for something that’s not the standard back-bis-and-tris boring routine,” Ted says. “And, when CrossFit came on the scene, it was just so unique that you could actually pull off a workout in four minutes and feel like you’ve been training for 45 minutes. And it really kind of blew my mind.”
He started training at CrossFit Firebase in Orlando, and it wasn’t long until he was certified and training families in his own backyard. But, when more and more families showed up to his backyard CrossFit session, he and Karen realized they could do something with this.
“He took three weeks of vacation, and I asked him what it would take for him to break even. He said 30 members.” Karen says. “When the three weeks was up, he had 30 members, and he called and gave his two weeks’ notice. And it’s just blown up from there.”
Ted left his career in construction and adds, “I just jumped in and went full head first, and I’ve never looked back. But I love the risk of it; I love the adventure of it.”
And since then, the gym has grown to 500 members, and Ted has several different coaches who train gym members in classes of all kinds. He focuses on running the gym and then fitting in his own workouts.
Meanwhile, Karen manages more than 100 horses at Glen Hill Farm, along with caring for their three children—ages 7, 2 and 3 1/2 months. But she makes it a point to get to the CrossFit gym between two and three times a week. For her, it’s all about time management and staying organized.
“I’m anally organized and good with time management—which, I mean, I’ve had to be,” says Karen. “The day starts at 6, and you’ve got to get everything taken care of, including your family life. But I can’t not work out—I’ll go crazy. I’ve been a competitive swimmer since first grade, and so I’d go absolutely insane if I couldn’t work out.”
She swam through her entire first pregnancy when Ted had just gotten into CrossFit. She laughs and remembers that he just kept getting fitter, and she kept getting fatter. After she had Logan, she kept swimming but couldn’t shake the last 10 pounds.
“[Ted] was like, ‘You gotta do CrossFit with me,’ so I started doing it just twice a week in the backyard with him, and that 10 pounds flew off so fast,” says Karen. “Then, I did CrossFit almost my whole pregnancy with Kiera. I adjusted what I needed to, but it made for a speedy delivery.”
Now, just three-and-a-half months post-pregnancy with her third child, Karen is so close to being back in the fit shape she was pre-pregnancy. Karen and Ted feel it’s their personal responsibility to stay fit and healthy. This drives them to raise their kids to be just as active, fit and healthy as they are.
“[Logan] grew up in the gym. At 2 or 3 years old, he was swinging from rings and jumping off of boxes. For him, it’s a natural environment,” Ted says.
CrossFit Kids classes are set up so that the kids feel like they’re playing the whole time rather than being in a structured, boring environment. The kids learn functional movements, and that’s basically how the adult classes are set up, too.
“They’ll have a different life growing up in this gym and in this environment than most kids will have anywhere,” Ted says.
His advice for other families trying to adopt a fitter, healthier lifestyle?
“It’s OK to prioritize yourself a little bit. If you don’t take care of you first, you’re not going to be able to take care of your family at all,” Ted says. “Keep your family involved, but never make an excuse where you know, ‘I can’t do this because I have kids.’ You may not be around for those kids if you don’t start taking care of yourself.”
Both Ted and Karen have worked hard to introduce their values to other families, and their CrossFit family continues to grow.
A Family Affair
Julia Crisp knew it was time to make a change. Her husband, Derek, had to start losing weight if he wanted to qualify for an operation. Derek is medically retired from the military, and several months ago, Julia felt it was her job to support her whole family in developing a healthier lifestyle. Her excuses had reared their ugly heads enough, she thought.
One day, Julia scrolled through Facebook. A studio she had never heard of crossed her feed. She read that Studio SC focused on a holistic approach to health—taking care of mind, body and spirit. It was January, and new beginnings stared her in the face. Julia and her 7-year-old daughter and sidekick, Anyiah, decided to look into it.
“We’re like ‘Oh, let’s go check it out.’ And we just loved it,” Julia says. “We do unlimited classes, so we’ll do barre, hip hop, Zumba. We do all sorts of yoga—I do restorative yoga and then aerial yoga as well.”
Julia says everything just clicked in her mind. She had reached a point where nothing was going to stop her. After about a month of faithfully attending all the different classes offered at Studio SC, Derek saw that she was serious, and he joined The Zone and started meeting with a personal trainer.
“He started to see results immediately because he cut off all those comfort foods. We got rid of everything,” Julia says. “So, he lost 10 pounds quickly. He started to feel good about himself, and that changed everything—even the way we were communicating.”
Julia’s life changed, too. Her mindset, perspective, energy levels, eating habits, happiness—all of it improved. She and Derek started going out more, and they did more fun things together as a family. And Anyiah has benefited, too. She loves the barre class the most—just like Julia.
“You know, she’ll grab her little weights—whatever she feels. I don’t push her,” Julia says.
Julia has adopted a new way of eating after getting into her exercise routine. It all goes hand in hand for her and her family. Now, they only go to the produce section when grocery shopping, and she finds she can make complete meals out of whole foods and produce.
Before Julia started going to Studio SC, she wasn’t nearly as active. Because she and Derek moved around a lot for a couple of years while he was in the military, she adopted the role of a stay-at-home mom. Studio SC has been the perfect fit for her.
“For me, the gym is more intimidating with the machines. With this, I’m working out with my own weight,” says Julia.
Julia’s had her fair share of excuses, though. Working out takes time, and she had to get to a point where her whole family was in it together, supporting each other. And for her, the goal to feel better trumps any physical goal she could have because it’s continually encouraging. Her advice for anyone trying to squeeze fitness and nutrition into their life is to go in with a clean mind and no expectations.
Julia is also excited for Anyiah to develop an active, healthy lifestyle at an early age. Besides the exercise she gets at Studio SC, Anyiah also does ballet, jazz and tap at The Dance Company of Ocala.
“I want her body to just be ready for anything,” Julia says. “For me, I started out older, so it’s something that I’ve had to fit into my life. So, if I start this now where it’s a part of her life, whether it’s through dancing, she can use this for the rest of her life.”
Not only have Julia and Anyiah developed completely new lifestyles, but Julia’s husband has already met and exceeded his weight-loss goals.
Making the Time
Chris and Yvonne Whitler have four kids—ages 12, 10, 4 and 2—and they make it a priority to talk with them about making healthy choices.
“They’re very into talking about nutrition because we talk about that a lot at home. So, you know, what foods are good for you, what foods aren’t good for you,” Yvonne says.
When Yvonne was pregnant with their first child, they decided it was time to make the move to a family gym. The YMCA has been perfect for them. Yvonne can drop off her two youngest children in the child care center, which they call Y School, while she goes to her classes. And her children actually love it.
“There’s been plenty of times I’ve finished my class and they’re like ‘Mommy, not yet, not yet,’” Yvonne says. “They’re getting something out of it, too.”
For Chris, being active has always been part of his lifestyle. He’s always been a runner, and he has completed one Ironman and several triathlons and half marathons. He graduated from the College of Central Florida before graduating from the Florida State Fire College and paramedic school. Because he’s a firefighter, he has to work around an unconventional schedule to get his workouts in.
“I try to do cardio in the morning, and then lift later in the afternoon or in the evening. I do swim a lot, I run a lot, I ride my bike,” Chris says. “[With] my schedule, I just make it work.”
Yvonne works as a substitute teacher and tutor with Blessed Trinity Catholic School. She grew up active and maintained a healthy lifestyle through high school sports, but once she became a working mom, her exercise routine became a bit more sporadic. With her fourth child only 2 years old, she’s been back at it and has almost reached her goal.
“Sometimes I’m working more, so I have less freedom to be here, and it’s a mood-changer for sure,” Yvonne says before mentioning that she used to have ‘mom guilt’ about taking time to work out. “I thought, ‘Oh, I can’t take another hour away from the kids,’ but I feel like when I am active and healthy, I’m a better mother because of it.”
Yvonne’s favorite class is the Wednesday morning boot camp class with Diane. She gets to the gym around three to four days per week, and when she started taking the boot camp class in January, she saw that there was a core group of people who attended without fail, and she loves that.
“They have become my friends, so it’s a nice atmosphere,” Yvonne says. “But I notice that it’s that way with every class I take.”
Both Yvonne and Chris believe in modeling a healthy and active lifestyle for their kids, and their kids love all the sports teams and activities they’re part of. But, as a family, they enjoy playing at parks like Jervey Gantt Park, Brick City Adventure Park and the Greenway Park.
“We’ll go to Jervey Gantt, and the big kids will run off and the little kids will play on the [playground],” Chris says.
“We used to jokingly say we were ‘playground connoisseurs’ because we knew every [playground] in town,” Yvonne adds.
Their advice for adopting a healthier family lifestyle?
“You have to create time. It’s not just going to appear,” Chris says.
And Yvonne says, “Just take that first step. That’s the hardest one, I think.”