Doug Werner was startled when his nine-year-old daughter, Abbie, flunked her school fitness test in the fall of 2008. Sure, she’d never been as athletic as older brother Sevi, and she was a little chubby. But Doug, 55, who works in the fitness industry and ran marathons before undergoing knee surgery, had overlooked Abbie’s sedentary ways and frequent snacking. “My wife Jenny and I thought, OK, the kids are different,” he says. “We accepted Abbie’s inactivity as a part of her personality.”
When Abbie said she wanted Doug to help her prepare to re-take the fitness test, they began a new daddy-daughter routine: a 5 a.m. walk, hand in hand. Doug tracked Abbie’s progress on a chart, and gradually increased the length of their walks to an hour. Before bed, he coached her on stomach crunches.
Not only did Abbie ace the test six months later—she’s left her unhealthy ways behind. Today, at 13, she’s on a junior rowing team and is a “nutrition enthusiast,” says Doug. He attributes her success to her strong will and his involvement. “I was as committed to those goals as she was,” he says, often sacrificing his own workout to walk with Abbie.
Four years later, Doug and Abbie still walk together several mornings a week, and they cherish the deep bond they’ve developed in the process. “She’s more comfortable talking to me about girly things than her own mom as a result of this time we created together,” Doug says. “It’s changed our relationship forever.”