You already know how difficult and exhausting it is to squeeze workout time into an already jam-packed schedule filled with work, family responsibilities and social obligations. Now throw four children and all of their activities into the mix and your own fitness goals could be a thing of the past. And what if you’re a single parent of those four children?

William “Wil” Dawson, 38, knows this situation all too well. The senior engineer at Westinghouse’s Churchill site is a single father with shared custody of his four children ranging from 3 to 14 years old. So fitting in time to exercise can be a tough task.

“It’s hard to find the time,” Dawson says. “When I have the kids, it is nearly impossible.”

Active Decline

Dawson’s story is one that’s quite common. He was an active high school student, participating in many sports, especially swimming. When he attended Clarion University, Dawson stayed active, taking advantage of nearby Cooks Forest and hiking, kayaking and camping on many weekends, while also participating in intramural sports on the campus.

But after graduation, marriage and having his first child right out of college, the young father found it was hard balancing everything, and he soon saw the effects.

“I gained some weight,” he says. “It was a new experience balancing it all. It was definitely a learning experience.”

Dawson says he gained about 20 pounds before he realized he needed to start exercising in a more formal way.

Running With It

Dawson took up running, but it wasn’t until about four years ago that he really started taking it seriously.

“I saw other people running and decided to give it a try,” he says. “I found it is one of the best ways to clear you mind.”

During the winter, Dawson spends a lot of time at the gym lifting weights, and despite hating the treadmill, he says he uses one to incorporate cardio and balance out his gym routine.

Even with his disciplined regimen, Dawson says it’s hard to fit everything in when his kids are staying with him. His solution: He uses his breaks at work to exercise. He runs 5 miles during his lunch break, three or four days a week.

“I have a route at work that is about 4.7 miles with lots of hills. I like to time myself and try to beat my time,” he says.

On the weekends when he doesn’t have his children with him, Dawson says he runs a longer distance with more hills to build his endurance. He hopes to run a half-marathon in the future.

For the Kids

Sometimes the kids help him get a little exercise. He enjoys going to their athletic games and often helps coach their teams. He also helps them with sports practice, from throwing and hitting a baseball or softball to playing basketball in the driveway.

“It can be very hard and very frustrating (to find time to exercise), but I try to make it work,” he says. “There are times when I go to the gym at 5:15 a.m., run at lunch, then go back to the gym after work if I can.”

Dawson has lost that 20 pounds and is determined to stay in shape—for himself and his family.

“I don’t want to be that out-of-shape dad at the pool,” he says. “I want my kids to see me eating healthy and working out so that they know you have to work at it and stick with it. If you don’t make time for yourself, no one else will.”

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