Eric Weinbrenner does not want you to accept the “dad bod” as inevitable. Here are four tips to keep it at bay.
As a father of two, I’ve had my share of sleepless nights and stressful days that never seem to end (or days that can’t end quickly enough). Being a dad is hard work. Especially when you’re trying to balance all of your family responsibilities with being healthy and fit. Becoming a parent has been compared to getting a divorce or losing your job in terms of the amount stress it causes mentally and physically. Here are four strategies for building muscle and staying fit while juggling the act of being a new dad.
- You Can Be Fit AND Be a Dad (Make This Your Mantra)
The first thing you need to do is embrace the idea that It is possible to be a dad and be in great shape. Being fit is something every dad can do, including you. But thanks to the rise of the dad bod, guys everywhere are finding excuses to skip workouts, drink a few more beers, and generally let themselves go. Despite what seems to be overwhelming support for the dad bod, that’s probably not the direction you want to go.
As a new dad, you have a son or daughter who is going to look up to you. Your family needs a leader who is able to resist temptation, display self-discipline, and be a man who can take control of his life. Plus, carrying around extra fat on your body can lower testosterone levels and raise estrogen – not something you want to deal with.
- Make it a family experience.
When I had my son three and a half years ago, I realized how challenging it can be to make it to the gym while trying to balance work and family life. So I brought the gym to me.I bought some basic exercise equipment (a few kettlebells and free weights), and performed a few simple workouts in my garage each week. This may sound too minimalist, but there is no secret to getting shape. Consistency is the key.
For new dads, I recommend two-three full body workouts per week. Nothing too fancy. Pick a few exercises that hit all of the major muscle groups, set a timer for 25-30 minutes, and go to work. If buying exercise equipment for your home isn’t an option, find other ways to merge family activities with exercise. Take your kids to the park and crank out some dips, pullups, and bodyweight squats while watching your kids play.
A basic workout like this combined with chasing your kids around makes for a simple, sustainable way to build muscle and stay lean even when you can’t make it to the gym. The key to being in shape as a dad is finding ways to merge fitness with normal, everyday life.
- Work smarter, not harder.
When you’re running low on sleep and you’re stressed to the max (totally normal with a newborn baby at home), your ability to recover is severely compromised. Lifting weights and working out is a stressor on your body. It takes energy to repair muscle tissue and recovery from your workouts. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train, but it does mean that you need to account for what’s going on in your life when deciding what type of workouts to follow.
When you’re not getting enough sleep, dealing with the massive responsibility of keeping a baby alive and healthy, and trying to maintain a job and other responsibilities; this needs to be reflected in the way you work out.
Most dads would be fine working out three times per week, as long as they are keeping workouts short (45-minutes or less) and keeping the intensity lower by not training to muscular failure. However, for some dads, even this is too much. If you have a particularly stressful job or your kid just doesn’t care to sleep, you may need to scale things back even further. Maintaining (or even gaining) muscle while working out as few as two times per week is possible. If you feel continuously run down, this is probably the best option for you.
For guys used to spending more time than this at the gym, scaling back can be difficult, but you have to remember a few things:
- You’re a dad and you have new responsibilities and priorities
- Your overall health and wellbeing is most important
- It doesn’t have to be this way forever
You may even find that scaling back and spending less time working out allows for more balance in your life, providing time to spend with family, friends, and doing other things that you enjoy.
- Take a Big-Picture Approach.
It is okay to skip a workout every once in awhile. In most scenarios, suggesting something like this would be heresy, but when it comes to new dads, the idea of skipping a workout here and there carries some merit.
There will be times when you are so stressed, tired, and overwhelmed that trying to hit the gym is something that will actually make your situation worse. As noted above, working out – while really good for you – is a stressor on the body. If you’re running on repeatedly low sleep and experiencing a lot of other stress, it may not be a bad idea to take a break from the gym.
The trick is being smart about it and knowing when skipping a workout is a good idea that will actually help you stay healthier; and when you’re just making excuses and being lazy.
Don’t overthink it too much. If you’re coming off of a week (or more) of especially low quality sleep and are in the midst of a lot of stress, cut yourself a break.
Otherwise, push through and get a workout in, even if you can’t go 100 percent. Often, getting in a 20-30 minute workout (rather than one lasting an hour or more) will boost your mood and give you more energy than skipping it altogether.