At age 35, former Division 1 Georgia Tech running back Kimatni Rawlins looked at his 250-pound frame in the mirror and decided, “Enough is enough.” A self-proclaimed “couch-potato” at the time, he was partying too often and eating too much fast food.
Nearly eight years later, Rawlins has changed his life. The Silver Spring resident is 50 pounds lighter and is now the founder of Fit Fathers, a Silver Spring-based nonprofit that provides men with strategies for healthy living. On June 17, Fit Fathers will host its fifth annual Fit Fathers Day event in downtown Silver Spring to pair Father’s Day festivities with activities that promote sustainable healthy lifestyle changes.
The annual Fit Fathers Day celebration, which will take place at Veterans Plaza from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., will include zumba and boxing classes, an interactive playground for children and prizes from area exercise stores and gyms.
Nearly 500 people attended last year’s event, which is more than double the 200 or so attendees who attended the first Fit Fathers Day in 2011, which also took place at Veterans Plaza in Silver Spring, according to Rawlins.
“The idea for it is for dads to do something life enhancing for an hour with their families before he goes and does his brunch,” he said.
After not liking what he saw in the mirror nearly eight years ago, Rawlins decided he would follow a vegan diet and start exercising. The lifestyle changes were also aimed at serving as a positive example for his two daughters, now 11 and 14.
“I used myself as a barometer as the father of two daughters,” Rawlins said. “After playing football at Georgia Tech, I became lethargic. I wasn’t leading a lifestyle that was energetic.”
In the years since Rawlins redesigned his diet, he has run multiple marathons and half-marathons. He participates regularly in 5ks and he exercises at least five days a week doing yoga, attending boxing classes and hiking, among other activities.
After recognizing the transformative effect of a healthy diet and regular workout routine on his life and his relationships with his family and friends, Rawlins decided to try to help other fathers around the Washington, D.C., area adopt healthy habits. He started to organize “social workouts” for his relatives and friends, where attendees participated in an organized workout while they socialized and were able to catch up with each other.
“I lost 50 pounds and started feeling great. I had more encouragement and positivity towards myself and that translated to my daughters who were playing sports,” said Rawlins, whose daughters now play six sports between them. “We had the energy to make examples for my friends and my colleagues.”
In 2011, Rawlins expanded his reach when he founded Fit Fathers, which creates educational programs that provide recipes, nutritional advice and a calendar of local family-friendly activities for fathers and their families to promote sustainable healthy lifestyle changes. The programs are published on the Fit Fathers website.
“Our motto is ‘Lead by example so that our child becomes the example,’ ” Rawlins said. “If [the children] already have the values to make these decisions on their own, the job for the parents isn’t as challenging.”
Fit Fathers strives to create easy ways for fathers to adopt permanent healthy living habits that increase both their own health and that of their families.
“We try to reprogram the way they think about food, chronic disease and overall how they look at themselves,” Rawlins said. “If they can change some of those mental errors that keep you from moving forward, it makes it easier to make those changes.”
In addition to Fit Fathers Day, the nonprofit hosts free events throughout the year that reinforce the benefits of leading a healthy life.
For Rawlins, the goal of the Fit Fathers Day celebration and the other events is “to have everyone walking away feeling positive about making an impactful lifestyle change.”
“Our message is ‘Eat well, stay active and energize your life,’ ” he said.