This month’s Featured Fit Dad is definitely one of my favorite interviews to date.
Craig is an NBC / MSNBC news personality, having covered everything from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio to the 2016 election to live events happening all over the country. He’s the co-anchor of the Weekend Today Show, and it was originally because of his start in the TV broadcasting business that he got into fitness as a way to drop weight.
But what started out as a short-term professional goal has blossomed into a full-on passion for fitness, as Craig believes keeping active and healthy benefits both himself and his family.
Craig is married to ESPN’s Lindsay Czarniak. The have a 2-year-old son, Delano, and just welcomed their daughter, Sybil, into the world.
Here is Craig’s story:
When did you first get into fitness?
It was post-college for me. In college, I didn’t play a sport, and I was having a little too much fun – beers, fast food, stuff like that. All of a sudden, you graduate and you’re 30 pounds heavier.
Then, when I started in TV, I still had a fair amount of weight I was carrying. For professional reasons, I knew I need to drop some weight. I connected with a trainer in South Carolina, who spent time teaching me about diet and fitness and how to exercise the right way. My journey into fitness started as an attempt to drop a few pounds and it’s turned into what’s become a passion.
Exercising started with traditional gym stuff, and after a year, my trainer suggested I do a 5K. To that point, I’d only ever done a mile or two. But I ran a holiday 5k, and I loved it. I trained for it, and then after you do it, there’s this great sense of fellowship among the runners, and right afterwards, you can eat as much as you want too!
That’s really how it all started.
What activities do you do to keep fit and active?
Running, for me, is what I do the most. It became obvious, when I first started out, that it was the easiest way to lose weight and keep the weight off. I couldn’t stop after I got into it.
I also really enjoy free weights. I do a fair amount of free weights. I also go through phases where I want to spend more time with the BOSU ball, or do more crunches. Things like that.
But running is at least 50 percent of my workouts, especially during the spring and summer when the weather is so beautiful in Connecticut and I can get out on a run and see so many beautiful sights around town.
Not only that, but fitness and running is an excellent way to reduce stress. To discover mindfulness. To be alone with my thoughts. If only for 30 minutes.
What is your favorite fitness memory?
I’d say the New York City Marathon. As hard as it was running through the five boroughs, having random strangers cheering you on to get you to the finish line, that was a powerful thing.
Marathons are for crazy people. I did one to check it off the bucket list. But honestly, I’ve committed to never do that to my body again, because I feel you can do a half marathon without severely altering your lifestyle the way a marathon does.
But, I did it because I was running for a cause that was near and dear to my heart. I was running for a purpose. I ran to raise money for pediatric cancer research. I lost a niece to a rare form of pediatric cancer. After that, one of the hospitals reached out to me and wanted to know if I’d do the New York City Marathon to help raise money. I couldn’t say no.
And so I did it, we raised a fair amount of money, and I can say that I felt accomplished once it was over.
My second favorite memory was probably the first half marathon I ran in Columbia, South Carolina. If you’re like me and you’ve never done something like that, there’s a nagging idea in your mind that you might not be able to do it.
And halfway through, you think, “This is great!” Proving that you can do something that six, nine months before you didn’t think you could do, that’s a really powerful thing.
What is your favorite workout?
During the spring and summer, it’s a long run. I get out on a long run, and I pass my favorite restaurants, I pass my son’s school, I go over bridges and run by the beach. I live in a great running community.
My second favorite is a HIIT workout. Getting on the treadmill, doing planks, mixing in pushups.
We’ve put in a gym in our house with a treadmill, an elliptical, a cable machine and some free weights. It’s been amazing. In the morning, before the workday starts, I’m in the basement getting in a workout.
I will say though, I’ve never gotten into the kettlebell movements. For whatever reason, I just remember trying them out and I didn’t get them.
In what ways do you hope to influence your children through fitness?
That they start active lifestyles at an earlier age than I did. And that they don’t stop. In college, if I had spent a reasonable amount of time at the gym and on the track, I could have done, at the least, preventative maintenance. It wouldn’t have taken until after college and starting a career to get myself in gear and in shape.
But my parents weren’t terribly active. I played a sport but stopped by 10th grade. I came to find fitness later in life, you could say.
But my wife and I spend time running around the yard, at the playground, running around the block with our son. He likes to run. Plus, it makes it easier to put them down at night when you wear them out!
What words of encouragement would you have for other dads out there who want to be healthy and fit?
First, find whatever time you can find. Sometimes, people think they need an hour or two hours. Some days, I only get 25 minutes in the morning. Find any amount of time that you can spare, and just do something. Find some time to get started.
Secondly, let yourself off the hook. I travel a fair amount for work, and after a while, I start to think, “I haven’t been to the gym in two or three days,” and I start to beat myself up. Then I get back in the gym and I try to make up for it, and I overdo it. Let yourself off the hook from time to time.
There are people who are fanatical about exercise. I’m not one of them. I find it to be cathartic. I work out primarily so I don’t get really fat. That’s my motivation. You need to find your motivation. Does heart disease run in your family? Are you getting soft around the edges? Do you want to run around with your kids. What’s your why?