By Lauren Strait

Fun and fitness
So many adults have misconceptions about fitness that they rarely pair the words together.

“The common denominator is ‘fun’,” said Chris Powell, best selling author and transformation specialist from the popular ABC show “Extreme Weight Loss.”

When you consider fitness fun, you and your family won’t be among the 60 percent of Americans who don’t get the recommended amount of physical activity and 25 percent are not active at all, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chris and his wife Heidi Powell share what they have learned from their own children and how that is shaping a new culture about raising fit families.

Gamifying Fitness
The “Powell Pack,” which is how Chris and Heidi refer to their family of now six (daughter Ruby was born in November 2013, generating a new nickname of “six-pack”) invented a new term which they incorporate into their daily family fitness routine: “Gamifying.”

Heidi explains to “gamify” is to turn everything into a game.

“Our family was in the garage one afternoon and my son Cash and daughter Marley started placing street cones all across the yard. In no particular order, they spread them all out, made up rules and competed against each other. They taught us to use things you wouldn’t normally use for fitness, and adding ‘fun’ to it,” she said.

“Why don’t we do more of that ourselves?” Chris added. “Competing against ourselves and making team games out of everything we do? It [fitness] lost the fun factor. Adults need to play, too.”
That is why Heidi and Chris are passionate about what they do. They take individuals who hate athletics and get them to love fitness.

“Crossfit and interval training are great examples of ‘gamifying’ fitness. It has turned fitness into fun. You get to race against people. It’s empowering and makes it scalable for every person. Kids, elderly, you name it,” Chris said.

That is exactly what 13-year-old Jackson saw when he was introduced to a new studio in his neighborhood called Orangetheory Fitness.

“Jackson came to me over summer and looked at me and said ‘I’m not happy with this’ and pointed to his stomach. He was feeling the pressures of middle school and continued with ‘I’m embarrassed and tired,’ explained Angela Schmacher, Jackson’s mom and Paradise Valley resident. “I brushed it off and didn’t think much of it at the time.”

Jackson was riding his bike around the neighborhood a few months later and saw Orangetheory Fitness setting up a booth with information.

Jackson flew in the door and explained to his mom that he just learned about a fitness program that was “different than anything else.”

“At that moment, something shifted in me, and I said, “Ok. Let’s go.”

Daren Parks, personal trainer and studio manager of Orangetheory Fitness Paradise Valley, said he didn’t think much about it when 13-year-old Jackson asked questions. “But I explained the concept of our energetic group interval training, challenging yourself and the one-on-one instruction you would get from our unique approach to fitness,” he said. “Then, he showed up with his mother.”

Parks gave both mother and son their orientation and explained to them Orangetheory’s unique fitness concept that is ideal for kids, and anyone, at any fitness level.

“The group personal training is broken into intervals of cardiovascular and strength that monitors your heart rate throughout each one-hour class,” said Parks. “Each member wears a heart rate monitor that “live streams” your heart rate and caloric burn on TV screens throughout the studio. The heart rate-based system makes sure that you are working at a fitness level for your body, while also incorporating the “gamifying” aspect of challenging yourself against others in your class.”

“My light bulb went off when I walked in and said ‘this is my orientation too’ and we started the next day,” Schumacher said.

Jackson’s inspiration eventually led his dad, R.C., and 17-year-old brother Max to join Orangetheory as well.

“We sleep better, we feel better, and we really do this together,” said Schumacher. “It’s a wonderful way to spend time with each other and the community with a lot of support.”

“Although it is a group setting, each Orangetheory class is taught by a personal trainer that motivates you and gives you one-on-one help, so you know that you are doing each exercise right, taking the intimidation out of working out,” said Parks.

Incorporating the fundamentals of fitness early with your family can start a new culture.

“Be active. Run. Jump. Push and pull. Our biggest hope for them is to provide an avenue for our family to bond and relate to one another,” said Chris.

Start with Nutrition
“Our kids are not as regimented as most people would think,” said Heidi. “I have a strong opinion that limiting them and restricting them too much will lead them in two directions – binge eating and weight gain or starvation.”

The Powell’s simply teach their children about nutrition: the difference between proteins and carbohydrates, the right amount of fruits and vegetables to eat daily, and the appropriate amount of calories. Most importantly, they lead by example.

“We went to a birthday party recently and one of our friends was shocked that we let our kids eat cake,” Heidi chuckled. “When they do eat junk food, we intentionally don’t say anything. We don’t shame them or make a big deal of it. The bigger deal you make out of junk food, the more they will obsess about it.”

The first thing Schumacher noticed about her family’s nutrition was the dramatic drop in their fast food bill. “We needed to make some nutrition decisions as a family and knew we were not going to find them outside of the home,” she explained.

The Shumachers began preparing meals as a family in their own kitchen. Someone washes the vegetables; someone else cuts the vegetables. “It’s not just me in the kitchen, and because of that, we prepare our meals more consciously,” she said.

Family Fitness Activities
Now that we have read about the tools and successes other families have shared about family fitness, where should you start?

“Just move,” said Chris. “It’s the key to exercise no matter how old you are. Why shouldn’t we learn from our own kids and start moving with them to burn off energy?”

Other ideas of enjoying fitness together as a family include:
Sharks and minnows. “It’s so simple, we do it once a week with season four of ‘Extreme Weight Loss,’ it’s so fun, keeps them running back and forth and tride and true,” said Chris. “You can even play it on land.”

Tag. Old-fashioned tag burns calories, keeps you moving and, well, what kid doesn’t like tag?

Soccer. “You can’t go wrong with soccer, Chris said. “Putting a ball in the middle of the field keeps you running back and forth.

“Hiking is amazing,” said Heidi. “Here in Arizona, there is not a shortage. [There are] countless hikes within minutes of our doorstep. They [kids] love it too. They love the outdoors.”

Join a fitness center and do your workouts together as a family. Orangetheory Fitness has family packages available at n

For more information about Chris and Heidi Powell, visit their websites at and