Fitmomma and the Freerunner may sound like a new TV series, but it’s actually the best way to describe a real-life couple based in Redondo Beach, CA. Get to know the Darnells, and find out how they thrive spreading a message about healthy living and performing extraordinary feats every day.
What would life be like if your dad could actually leap between tall buildings in a single bound, and your mom could do handsprings across the dining room while whipping up a batch of homemade banana ice cream? Only the children of real life super couple Melanie and Paul Darnell know the answer to that question, but at ages three, two, and two months, the Darnell children might be a bit too young to describe it yet.
A lifelong gymnast, Melanie takes care of two toddlers and a baby while offering help with fitness, nutrition, and good health to all moms on her website fitmomma.com. Her husband Paul is a stuntman and parkour artist who spends his days literally scaling walls, running across skyscrapers, and using cityscapes as his own urban jungle gym. He also trains Hollywood Freerunners, which provides parkour and stunt services to movie makers.
Their Origin Story
Before they were a super couple, Paul and Melanie became close friends in college at Virginia Tech. Although Melanie was an accounting and political science major, she took a class in global environmental issues that changed her life. This class inspired her to help save the planet, starting with her own diet. She became vegetarian, and then went fully vegan.
After graduating, Melanie worked as a CPA in Washington DC doing financial audits for the federal government, while Paul moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of becoming a stuntman. When Paul’s work took him to New York City, the couple reunited and starting dating. Inspired by Melanie, Paul tried vegetarianism and felt so healthy, strong and energized that he too soon transitioned to a vegan diet.
After getting married and relocating to Los Angeles, Melanie became pregnant with their first child and started to research exercise and vegan nutrition for pregnancy. She had to battle with her OB to convince her that she could have a healthy pregnancy on a vegan diet. Next came the tough task of proving to her pediatrician that her children could get all the nutrients they needed as vegans. Whatever nutrient the doctors would express concern over, Melanie would research and demonstrate that a vegan diet could easily provide it all.
Melanie wanted to document her journey and share her extensive research to help other moms navigate vegan pregnancy and child-rearing, as well as realize that working out is possible, and beneficial, both in pregnancy and as a new mom. Thus, @Fitmomma4two was born. Her sites offer resources for moms, such as exercise routines and recipes, as well as a four-week course that will help you and your family transition to a vegan lifestyle, along with tips on navigating the social hurdles that might emerge.
When Paul isn’t playing the role of super dad at home, he’s on a set performing stunts and parkour moves movies. Most recently, you can catch his gravity-defying work in the film Baby Driver. Often, Paul has to travel to movie sets in San Francisco and Atlanta on short notice, so the couple tries to maintain a flexible schedule—a tough ordeal with three small children.
Home gym, reinvented
Instead of leaving the kids and heading to the gym, Melanie has made working out an organic part of her daily activities at home with her children. She sneaks in workouts during nap times or while her kids play next to her. Her daughter actually loves to try to copy all of her mom’s workout moves. To make family-friendly workouts even easier, Melanie and Paul decided to transform their formal dining room into a workout/play area. The room has foam flooring, swings suspended from the ceiling, workout equipment, and toys. Paul also transformed their backyard into a parkour obstacle course for the kids to play on, complete with a bar system, gymnastics mats, and air tracks.
To round out their healthy lifestyle, Melanie and Paul also use Nokia products. Melanie loves the design of her Nokia Steel activity and sleep tracker and gets compliments on it as a regular watch before people even realize that it is also a health and fitness tool. And Thermo, the smart temporal thermometer, is her favorite Nokia product right now because of the quick, accurate reading she gets with a simple touch to the forehead and the sync to her phone for a precise timeline of her child’s fever trajectory.
The Darnell family serves as an inspiration and a reminder that we all have the opportunity to be creative and courageous in our choices about our wellbeing if we focus on what works best for the health of ourselves — and our families.