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Spotlight on Actor and Fitness Expert Boris Kodjoe

The co-creator of KOFIT shares his 5 minute morning workout routine, and how he is helping families build healthy habits.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Many parents put fitness on the backburner to make time for everything else that comes up in their lives —work, kids activities, cooking, cleaning, you name it. The idea of putting fitness first is the last thing on our minds. We make excuses like, “If I commit to this, then that’s time taken away from my family,” or, “Gym memberships are too expensive.” Boris Kodjoe and his brother, Patrick, a certified trainer and nutritionist, saw a need to change this kind of thinking. “Health and fitness has always been a part of our lives because we’re both athletes. He was a basketball player, I was a tennis player,” Kodjoe says. “We realized that we needed to simplify health and fitness — deliver it in bite sizes that everybody can take advantage of — and do it with our entire family.” A true family affair, their app KOFIT was made specifically for busy families featuring workouts and nutrition plans with his wife, Nicole Ari Parker, daughter Sophie, and son Nicholas.

“All of these mostly preventable diseases have befallen us as a society, not to mention the fact that there are a number of schools in the country cutting P.E., and our kids are not getting the physical activity they need,” Kodjoe points out. He wants everyone to stop using the “time” excuse, and is setting out to change behavior as a family.

He sat down with Thrive to share what works for his family, and how anyone can incorporate fitness into their family’s daily plan. “It’s what we do every day,” he adds. 

Thrive Global: KOFIT is a family fitness app. Can you share a little about its origins?

Boris Kodjoe: It’s how we have raised our children: with a conscious mind about their mind-body connection. We teach them mindfulness by way of meditation, and we do it in five or 10 minutes a day. We know for a fact that everybody has at least five to 10 minutes a day, so all of my workouts are 20 minutes or less. We don’t believe in depriving yourself of foods that you love. We subscribe to moderation, and we give people simple nutritional tips that they can follow. For instance, one of the things that my brother’s wife, Nicole, told people today in her workout is, “Let’s say no to sodas, just for today.” If you tell people to never drink soda again, they’ve already shut you down, because they might love soda. So how can you tell them never to drink soda again? It’s not a realistic request, right? So deliver it little by little in a bite-size way. If you tell people, “Look, today, let’s not have soda.” That’s something that they can wrap their mind around. So why not figure out a way to create these healthy habits little by little?

TG: What are ways we can be motivated to actually get moving, even if it’s just for 10 minutes?

BK: You know, motivation is a funny word because it’s been over-hyped so much. I think the truth is, sometimes we don’t want it. We don’t feel like it because our bodies are designed to protect us from anything that’s out of our comfort zone. It’s hard because we have to overcome that sort of first physical impulse to want to stay in bed, or stay seated, or just want to be quiet and not jump up and down. My wife put it perfectly. She always says, “We’ve all been blessed by God with the body and the mind and the soul. Taking care of yourself is showing gratitude for what you’ve been given.” Your body has carried you through through life. Your body has protected you from disease. And I think it’s just fair to pay your body back by way of taking care of it. If you look at it that way, motivation is really secondary. Once you get going and feel the effect of having introduced some healthy habits — all of a sudden you start feeling more energetic.

The effectiveness is obvious because once you do something a little bit every single day, you introduce positive patterns, or healthy habits. Family means fun. It has to be fun, because if it’s not fun, you’re not going to be consistent with it. You’re not going to do it.

TG: What is your morning routine?

BK:  It depends on how much time I have. I look at the clock and say, “Okay, I’ve got 20 minutes, or 15 minutes, or I only have five minutes.” Let’s say I have five minutes. I would literally roll out of bed, use the bathroom, and then come back in my bedroom and I would jog in place for a minute to warm up, and then pick four very basic exercises for my entire body: squats, push-ups, sit-ups, and maybe some deadlift swan dives. I would do 20 seconds of each, and do that again two more times. That’s five minutes. 

After that, I would get in the shower and I would stretch my quads in the shower and go to work. It gives you a sense of accomplishment that you’ve already succeeded in something today, and that bleeds over into the rest of your day. So mentally, you have an advantage. Obviously, physically, you have activated hormones in your body that make you feel good. All the endorphins are now active in your body. You’ve done something for your stamina. You’ve done some resistance work for your muscles. So it starts you off in a really, really positive manner for your whole day.

TG: What are some of the ways you work out as a family?

BK: My daughter Sophie runs us through yoga exercises on her own. It’s a lifestyle that doesn’t take a huge investment in terms of time. Every single day, we do a little bit of something, and as a family, we get closer, we connect, and we engage with each other. We laugh hysterically when we do it because people always come up with something funny. It just takes between five and twenty minutes, depending on what you choose to do that day. We all have a say in what we are going to do, which is an easy way to start bringing people together.

TG: Can you share a time you felt burnout, and how you overcame it?

BK: I felt burned out many times in my career, because I do a lot of things at the same time, and sometimes I forget to prioritize. When we try to balance life, it never works because you always drop three or four balls, which then creates anxiety. So I always remind myself to prioritize. I put my wife and kids first, and everything else falls into place after that. 

TG: What is your relationship with technology? 

BK: I’ve been in situations where somebody looked at me and said, “Whoa, you look tired. Are you okay?” That usually is my wife. I look in the mirror and go, “Oh my gosh, I need to dial back.” What I usually do in that moment is not touch my phone for an hour. That’s a deal I have with myself. Because when you do that, you’re protecting yourself from outside influences that keep you from being active yourself.

When you check your phone the first thing in the morning, you become reactive. It starts you off in a really, really crazy grind. So I leave my phone alone for an hour, and I spend an hour taking care of myself. I do my morning meditation, my prayers, I stretch, or I do a little workout. That’s how I start my day. And that takes care of me. And you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.

It’s the same with love. You cannot invest love in other people, in fulfillment, or joy if you don’t love yourself first. So it’s very important that we remember that when you get into that grind, into that hamster wheel, you’re bound to fall off unless you take care of yourself. 

TG: What is a mantra that helps you to thrive?

BK: The mantra that I live by is, “If you live your life in service to others, it’ll grant you great love and awareness.” What that means to me is that when you do things that have a greater purpose, when you can touch people, you’re being blessed a thousand fold. I think in our society, that’s super important to remember because we’re being so isolated with all the devices and social media. Sometimes we forget that there are other people around us. And when we touch others, we receive so much that we wouldn’t if we didn’t reach out.

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