Good to Go: Fitness trainer fathers share ways to exercise as a family

Patrick Avon, who leads athletic conditioning classes at Sarge Athletics, often takes his family on bike trips along the Chesapeake and Ohio trail. (Courtesy of Patrick Avon)
Tristan Baacke, 5-year-old daughter of personal trainer Troy Baacke, works out with kettle bells. (Courtesy of Troy Baacke)
CrossFit Koncepts trainer Michael Krivka lifts son Mak and a kettle bell at the same time. (Courtesy of Michael Krivka)
Michael Krivka's son Jak works out at his dad's studio. (Courtesy of Michael Krivka)
Hannah Howard, 5-year-old daughter of WTOP's Katie Howard, runs during a fun run at St. Raphael School in Rockville, Md. last fall. Both parents and their children ran in the event together. (Courtesy of MJ Zafis-Garcia/St. Raphael School)

Katie Howard,

WASHINGTON – Shhh. Don’t tell my kids, but I am trying to delay investing in a Nintendo Wii Fit or XBox Kinect system as long as I can before it appears on their gift wish list.

While I love the concept that you can exercise as a family — and I have heard great reviews about both consoles and their workouts — I just want to stay old school and as cheap as possible when it comes to working out together.

I’m not alone on my quest to work out as a family without spending too much. Three local trainers, who are also fathers, share their tips for keeping their families fit while having fun.

3 trainers, 3 fathers

Patrick Avon of Sarge Athletics in ljamsville, Md. specializes in athlete conditioning classes for sports teams, kids and adults. His wife and his 14-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter have a goal of exercising 10 minutes together every day in addition to participating in other sports and fitness activities.

“A family has to make the decision, make the commitment and make a plan,” Avon says.

Their workouts combine stretching, active yoga poses such as planks with a mix of push-ups and pull-ups on the family pull-up bar, which hangs on a door frame in the home.

The Avon family runs and bikes together often along the C&O Canal trail and is planning a spring break bike trip. They also hike together and are fans of leaving the family car at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain in Dickerson, Md., and they hike down and back up again. Avon counts other recent family outings like bowling, skiing and even Christmas caroling as quality family workouts.

Troy Baacke, a certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist at Full Circle Fitness in Silver Spring, Md., has a 5-year-old daughter. He says he bought her first set of lightweight dumbbells when she was 3. Now she’s up to lifting 5 pounds.

Baacke says the colder weather does present a challenge for parents and kids, but he says to “just get out and get moving.”

He points to the Washington area’s good fortune of having numerous parks. He suggests walking — not driving — to your local neighborhood park to play together and utilize the jungle gym to get your own workout in at the same time.

Baacke says he and his daughter will run around and play tag or create their own obstacle course using the playground’s equipment. While his daughter plays on the jungle gym, he says he stretches or gets in a set of pull-ups or bench dips.

Michael Krivka, owner of CrossFit Koncepts in Gaithersburg, Md., who specializes in Russian Kettlebell instruction, has two sons ages 10 and 5. He says both have “boundless energy and want to do something all of the time.”

Krivka says family exercise has “got to be a game.” His family recently took up paddle boarding together and practiced in the waters of Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg. He also makes playdates with his kids whether it’s wrestling, walking or “hanging out in the park, ” which are all free.

He points to skipping, doing wheelbarrows together (the exercise where one crawls as a partner lifts up the crawler’s legs) or fireman carries, which he describes as throwing your kids over your shoulder while you run or walk, as exercises that the kids will love while parents get an upper body workout.

Equipment for the whole family

Parents tend to be conservative today about what they think kids can handle when it comes to physical exercise. Avon says he relates to parents, but asks them, “Did you climb trees as a kid?”

“The average kid today can’t do a pull-up or a good push-up,” he says. “They don’t play outside like they used to, and we have to exercise with them.”

Avon suggests one piece of home equipment worth investing in is a pull-up bar. Avon says he finds all kinds of fitness bargains on, and his wife is a fan of the local library for fitness DVDs and nearby recreation centers which have exercise programs for kids.

Baacke’s arsenal of low-priced exercise equipment includes squishy, small 2- to 4- pound medicine balls, resistance bands and Frisbees for kids.

My family’s exercise container is filled with yoga mats, jump ropes, small hurdles, a floor stepladder and light weights. All of these pieces of equipment range from $5 to $100.

For those who don’t want to spend a lot on exercise aids, Krivka says, “the cheapest piece of equipment you’ll ever get is your own body.”

He suggests a workout of running together as a family for at least 1 mile and taking quarter-mile pauses between the runs to do a set of 10 pushups, 10 sit-ups and 10 squats together. He guarantees that will be “the hardest mile you have ever run.”

DO try this at home

Avon and his family have created a family recipe for a 16-ounce vitamin-packed smoothie, which he says they eat as a “shared healthy small meal” and have a race to drink it. He shares the recipe:


  • 1 cup frozen berries
  • 1 cup frozen kale or spinach (Avon suggests freezing kale or spinach in a bag)
  • 4-5 whole almonds
  • 2 cups of water
  • 4-5 pitted prunes (if desired)
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1-2 scoops of whey protein
  • Additional or substitute ingredients can be used including frozen mangoes, fresh carrots (but just a few because he says they don’t blend as well) and bananas


  1. Blend almonds and water.
  2. Add prunes
  3. After almonds become liquefied, turn off the blender.
  4. Add berries and blend until smooth.
  5. Add 2 tablespoons of yogurt and 1 to 2 scoops of whey protein
  6. Blend all together.

Enjoy and maybe try that race too, but hopefully with no brain freeze.

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Editor’s Note: WTOP’s Katie Howard is a mom on the go. With two children under age 5, she’s always looking for ways to provide her family fast and healthy snacks, meals and activities. Katie share her go-to food and family fitness tips every Tuesday on her blog “Good to Go.”

Follow @WTOPLiving on Twitter.

(Copyright 2013 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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