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Paddleboard yoga plus spinning makes Hong Kong dad fit to keep up with his kids

For Elliott Shadforth, being fit and healthy is as much a personal pursuit as it is a family one. A few years ago, the busy executive, father-of-three, and husband to an active wife realised it was a case of shape up or get left behind by his adventurous family.

“I did not want to be the dad who could not keep up with his kids,” says Shadforth, 42, originally from Australia.

A partner at accounting firm EY in Hong Kong, Shadforth admits his sportiness declined over the years as his career progressed. “I played plenty of sports in school and university, but – like most people – I found it became harder to maintain the activity when combined with work, and when the kids came along it became even more of a juggle.”

While he hasn’t experienced a “cycling midlife crisis”, Shadforth found that regular spinning sessions at Torq, an indoor cycling studio in Central, were the easiest way to tick the midweek exercise box.

“I was never a gym-goer, and wasn’t quite ready to embrace the dangers of outdoor cycling, so I found Torq struck a good balance. Each class is a little different, from 100 per cent cycling or a split class, where you may use the TRX [suspended bands that facilitate bodyweight exercises], smaller weights or other interval training.

“These days I’ve found spinning at least three times a week is a prerequisite just to keep up with the family; weekends are spent chasing after the kids or taking them on hikes, to their respective sports activities or to the beach.”

Another part of keeping up was also learning to slow down. Shadforth has also embraced stand-up paddleboard yoga and a course in mindfulness to round out his healthy lifestyle.

“Believe it or not, but my second ever yoga class was on a stand-up paddleboard – I thought I did pretty well, until I lost my sunglasses overboard during a spectacular fall from tree pose. Jokes aside, incorporating some sort of stillness into your routine helps you be more aware of your mind and body and provides some great skills to manage the day-to-day stresses of work and Hong Kong life.

“I am far from mastering it all, but I find a combination of staying active, staying calm and keeping everything in moderation is key to not being ‘that’ dad.”

How important is your health to you today?

Very important, it’s something I consider and think about regularly as I handle other life commitments. With three kids, not only do I want to continue to play an active part in their sporting lives, but I also want to continue enjoying things in my own life, be it snowboarding in winter or surfing in summer. I don’t want to miss out on the fun.

What are you looking for in a workout?

Motivation and direction. I used to think I knew what I needed to do to keep fit, but now I’ve realised having an instructor or trainer push you makes all the difference. A short, sharp session, which I can also use as an excuse to escape from the office for an hour, is perfect to make sure I don’t waste time. If I’m honest, I guess I am also after some healthy competition – with myself or others.

What’s another unexpected benefit you’ve gained from exercise?

The friendships, which I find carry over into the work environment. You learn about yourself and your teammates – both strengths and weaknesses. Sporting relationships and teammates last a lifetime, even for us “non-elite” sportspeople.

What advice do you have for other busy executives hoping to fit in the healthy lifestyle?

Schedule workout time like you do work meetings. I know which meetings in my diary I prefer to attend.

What about the best time to work out?

Mornings – I do feel better for getting up and getting going. It also seems easier to combine with all of life’s other demands.

Any fitness goals for the rest of the year?

No specific goals other than to continue maintaining good health. That said, I attended a black tie event recently, and being able to fit into my dinner suit was a bonus. I guess continuing to fit into that suit is a good goal for the rest of the year.

Anything left to conquer in your quest for a healthier lifestyle?

Absolutely. I have to continue drilling down on the diet side of things. You can exercise all you want but if you are putting poor food and too much booze into your system you will never get the balance right. Since last summer I have removed soft drinks and a few other comfort foods from my diet, and that has made such a difference. Knowing what is in the food you put in your mouth is truly the key.