11 Fit Dads’ Advice For New Dads
At one point in my 30s, I was playing hockey twice a week and hitting the gym four times a week. Those were the days. Fast-forward to a decade later and now I’m a dad and there’s no more hockey. Don’t worry, though, you sporty new dads – I didn’t drop being fit because of fatherhood. More on that in a second…
After learning about the athletic accolades of the dads who contributed to this article, I’m actually starting to question if I even qualify as a “fit-dad.” But with children ages 3 and 1, I’m still in the new-dad zone and have been able to crank out three gym sessions per week. Fortunately I’ve kept a little muscle on and extra weight off. But I’ll take a back seat to these other dads’ weight maintenance, muscle and cardio tips to instead focus on posture and back. If you’ve had any sort of back pain prior to being a dad, it will likely rear its ugly head again – because fatherhood is not back-friendly. In my experience, back health and good posture are pivotal because the resulting pain can cripple your fitness routine, or, worse, your fatherhood duties.
Let’s rewind again. I played hockey twice a week for almost a decade. I also started getting pretty severe back pain that made removing my equipment post-game a struggle. Eventually I dropped one of the hockey sessions. Then, it wasn’t long before I quit playing altogether. It scared the hell out of me because I’ve been athletic for the majority of my life. Was this surrender going to spell the end of my not-so-legendary recreational beer-league career? Plus, I wanted to be a father one day and I started to worry I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my kids.
Then the situation got a little worse and I began adjusting my remaining gym routine to avoid any movements that might result in back pain. I decided to focus on my core and turned to kettlebells twice a week for about a year. That training was a great experience. Yet when I occasionally attempted to make a glorious return to the ice, I didn’t see any major improvement with pain following those games. Plus, I still struggled from time to time in non-athletic, day-to-day situations. So what the heck was going on?
I realized I was sitting too much and with poor posture. I also wasn’t moving enough throughout the day and when I did, it was with poor posture. My back was taking a beating whether I was sedentary or in motion. The kettlebells were a killer workout but my form probably wasn’t what it should have been. Those few hours at the gym didn’t undo the rest of the week when I moved with poor posture or sat slumped over a computer desk.
Then I did two things I highly recommend. (For the record, these are NOT affiliate links.) The first was reading and putting the theories into practice from a book called, “8-Steps to a Pain-Free Back” by Esther Gokhale. Using these steps, you learn to internalize back-friendly posture, movement and form. It’s not an exercise-related book per se, it’s more passive. It re-teaches you how to stand, sit, walk, bend and even sleep with optimal form. It’s a great precursor to my second recommendation, which is more exercise-based, but mostly in the form of strategic poses. It’s a program/DVD called Foundation Training. This program helps you take the load off your lower back and transfer it to the muscles best designed to support it. Once I consistently practiced the teachings of these two programs, I naturally started to integrate proper form into my daily life. Something as simple as bending over to pick up your baby, you’ll now execute with perfect form, pain-free. And both of these programs can easily be practiced alone at home without buying additional gear – a huge selling point during the chaos of the new-dad era.
Now let’s jump to about a year later, when I returned to playing hockey once a week. This time I was happily pain-free, despite also navigating the not-back-friendly territory of new fatherhood. Ironically, I haven’t played hockey in about a year and a half now. This time, though, my decision wasn’t due to back pain. I have two small kids, so it’s fair to blame my benched status purely on the time constraints of fatherhood. (Sorry, sporty new dads!)
MORE ADVICE FROM FIT DADS
I’m a Father of three girls (aged 7, 5 and 3) and keen runner presently training for his second marathon.
While running is great for overall health and weight loss – when I got back into it in 2011, when my firstborn was one, I lost eight kilograms in a two months purely from running – it also has great meditative, head-clearing qualities. Make some “you” time a couple of times each week and I guarantee the positivity will permeate the rest of your life. And you’ll be a better partner and dad!
– Daniel Lewis, The Dad Website. Check him out here.
EXERCISE & MUSCLE BUILDING: With a newborn, you likely won’t have a consistent amount of time to work out, but you can still get a metabolism-boosting workout in while you bond with your baby. Hold your little one at chest-level in a secure fashion. This can be done by wearing them in a carrier on your chest or even holding them across your arms.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly squat down so that your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your back straight and remember to maintain control of your balance. When you’re as low as you can go, pause for a three-count and then slowly raise back up to standing.
Start by trying to do 3 sets of 10-15 reps and increase the number of reps and/or sets as you feel able to.
NUTRITION: When you have a newborn in the house your entire schedule is thrown in the trash. You score a power nap any time you find yourself with ten minutes and a spot on the couch and you eat what’s within arms reach. The best piece of advice I could give is to be mindful of what you feed your body. Sure, donuts and prepackaged foods are convenient but you’ll quickly notice you’re constancy running on empty.
Keep an eye on the sugary foods you eat and try to cut back. Drink water with a lemon wedge in it instead of soda. Eat a piece of fruit instead of a package of crackers. Put a little less sweetened creamer in your coffee. By fueling your sleep-deprived body with quality foods, you’ll start to notice that your energy levels are more balanced. Oh, and take a daily multi-vitamin. Every little bit helps!
– Daniel De Guia, Fit To Be Dad . Check him out here.
I’m a 47-year-old writer/strength coach living in the mountains of northern Japan with my wife and two young sons. My advice to new dads is simple:
The best program is the one you can stick to in the (reasonable) worst-case situation, not the one that promises the fastest results or sounds the most awesome in theory.That applies to weight loss, strength training, running or anything else. So, figure out the minimum rate of progress that’s both sustainable for you and you would be satisfied to make. That could be losing 2 pounds per month or getting in two 30-minute workouts per week. Then if life eases up a little, you can always shoot for a little more. But if you plan around the best-case scenario from the outset, you’re more likely to throw in the towel when life gets in the way.
– Tim Blake, Super Fit Dads. Check him out here.
I’m a Digital Marketing Professional, living in Toronto with my wife and our 2 kids, aged 3 and 5. Since university, I had always been a gym rat, but our kids’ arrival, combined with my recent 40th birthday, has definitely altered my routine. I have shifted away from going to weight room and focused more on running, in-home workouts and eating well. To run, all I need is a pair or running shoes and a sidewalk, and workout videos on YouTube or through a subscription service are inexpensive but challenging activities that I can do in my home, much to the amusement of my kids.
In lieu of a gym membership, I have been signing up for 5 and 10 K races. I’m also doing yoga at least twice a week, which really helps to ease my body and mind and keeps me from getting injured while running. Lastly, I had to make some tough diet choices. I never eat desert, mainly because I refused to stop drinking beer and knew that I should focus on controlling just the one vice. Potato chips are another love that I now only eat on occasion. Eating healthy is something I want my kids to do as well, so we plan our trips to the grocery, and I have a mental list of the foods to buy and the ones to avoid.
– Chris Murphy, Baby and Life. Check him out here.
As a personal trainer, nutrition coach and stay at home dad to a toddler, I know the battle well. I talk to my clients all the time about the small wins to succeed in the battle of belly bulge––every little bit helps. There may not be time for a 60-minute chest workout or a 10-mile run, but even 5, 10, or 15-minute workouts can prove to be effective. Alternating 10 push ups, 20 air squats, and 5 pull-ups for 10 to 20 minutes with minimal rest will smoke your body more than you can imagine. On the nutritional side, aim for minimally processed foods (fruits, veggies, etc). If you blow your diet at lunch, shrug it off and live to fight another die. If you focus on efficiency––think quality over quantity––we can still have our cake and eat it, too. Bad analogy. Don’t eat the cake. Have a protein shake instead… that’s way more brosome, bruh.
– Pete Cataldo, Daddy Mind Tricks. Check out his workout here.
I have two children, a girl and a boy and I run a lot. I run 5ks to full marathons and I even participate in obstacle course races: Warrior Dash and Spartan Races.
I knew that before my daughter was born that I would have to get in some type of shape to be able to keep up with her when she got older. Trust me, having good cardio will help you when you child starts walking around the house. So in order to get prepared I started running. I would walk round the block a few times with my daughter in her stroller and slowly started speeding up to a jog, then eventually running. Look into good running stroller if you want to go this route, they can be a little pricey, but are well worth it.
As for obstacle course training, I have two children that I can use for weight training. I put my children on my shoulders and do squats or walking squats and just carrying my son around when he is tired it also great weight training. While things may get busy with dance classes and soccer practice, I try to get a good seven-minute workout in when I can. There are a lot of great apps for that and I use “7 Minute Workout” to get my workout in. I hope these tips help you out and congrats on entering an amazing phase in your life.
– Victor A., Fandads. Check him out here.
I have 2 boys ages 9 and 3, the youngest with severe non-verbal autism. This year, I was able to run my first half-marathon.
The year my first son was born, I was overweight and out of shape. I had done nothing but play video games for the first several years of our marriage. The key for me to get in shape was to use competition to do so.
My wife’s family started a “Biggest Loser” contest with a $20 buy-in and 20 people participating. We had to weigh-in each week. The person who lost the highest percentage of weight at the end of 15 weeks won the money. Because of my fierce desire to compete every week, I made it a priority to find time to workout. It started with just jogging for a half-mile, and gradually worked up into jogging 2-3 miles, and eventually jogging 4-5 miles. My wife and I would take turns working out and watching the baby until he was old enough to go to the “Kids Club” at our local gym.
I also chose to eat healthier foods and ditched the “fast food.” I wasn’t focusing on “winning the competition,” but instead “winning this week.” Each week I would be amongst the top “losers.” I ended up losing 30 lbs during the competition and an additional 15 lbs that year, which totaled 21% of my starting weight. Oh, and I won the competition by .07% (I actually shaved my head at the final weigh in). Did I mention, I am a bit competitive?
I hate running. But I found it is the most efficient way for me to burn the highest amount of calories in the shortest amount of time. I have put it on my “bucket list” to run a full marathon as my way of “conquering running” once and for all. I am still working my way up to it.
My wife’s family continues to have the “biggest loser” competition every year and I make myself do it each time. I hate losing. That is what keeps me in shape.
– Jason, A Touch of Ausome. Check him out here.
As a busy dad, husband and entrepreneur with 20+ years in the health and wellness industries, I know how challenging it can be to make and take time for myself. There’s meal prep for the fam, commuting between home to school to work, working a career, family and professional engagements, playing and teaching our kids to be awesome people… and that’s just Mondays! If there’s one thing I want to hammer home to the dads I coach is that you should be selfish when it comes to making or taking time each day for your health and fitness.
For all the dads that say, ‘I don’t have time!’, you are right! If there’s thing I can tell you, you’ll always be busy. That’s life. There’s always going to be something popping up that will throw your day for a loop. Most of us dads go from parent-dom to martyrdom, always putting the needs of the family ahead of our own, and as noble as that is, it’s not a sustainable model for long. Health and happiness will suffer in time.
To be the best version of you, to provide the best care, love and support for your growing family, you MUST have a strong, healthy body, mind, and spirit. That’s it. This is a non-negotiable. Don’t stress about trying to maintain a 90-minute, 5 day a week commitment to go to the gym. Start with something you can do and do easily every day. Block out 2% of every 24 hours (30 minutes) for your health and happiness. Body weight exercises for 15 minutes, 5 minutes of mindfulness (developing the power within) and 10 minutes of personal development (feed the muscle between the ears), and that’s it! Try this for 28 days and see the compounding effect at work. Not sure how to start? Try my free Whole Life Fitness Manifesto program and become a crusher of Mondays (and every day thereafter)!
– Dai “Coach Moose” Manuel. Check him out here.
Drink water! Don’t have a water bottle nearby? Go get one! I’ll wait… A lot of this mindset stems back to my time in the military. Every medical ailment in the military is cured by water and motrin, I swear. I specifically remember in basic training, reciting over and over that we needed to drink “1-3 canteens per hour, not to exceed 12 canteens per day.” Your necessary water intake depends largely on your body weight, activity levels, and the weather. I drink about 65% of my body weight in ounces, for example. Additionally, I use a water tracking app (Waterlogged) to keep me honest about how much water I’ve had. The app also gives me pop-up reminders to keep me on pace.
Often the body misinterprets thirst as hunger, so you end up snacking unnecessarily. That could be part of the reason your six-pack has turned into a kegerator. The next time you get hungry at an awkward time of day, reach for a glass of water instead. You should feel that hunger subside. It’s the bare minimum that you can do to get yourself headed down the right path toward your body goals, but the benefits are immense. Just keep a bathroom nearby.
– John Connor, The Veteran Dad. Check him out here.
After getting married and having a daughter, weight was creeping back on and I was almost back at 200 lbs (at one point I was 266 lbs!)
I’ve found that losing weight is 80% diet and the rest is exercise. When you’ve got a new baby to look after, gym isn’t a priority, but looking after yourself is. Eat what you need, but nothing more. Instead of going for drives to put baby to sleep, strap on the baby carrier and walk.
You have a responsibility to stick around and be in shape enough to run around after your little one. I know it’s hard sometimes, but just keep at it. There’s always an excuse for a small treat, and that’s fine. A cake won’t make you fat but a lifestyle will.
– James Smith, Social Dad. Check him out here.
If you’re a new dad or an experienced one – please share your post-fatherhood fitness survival tips below!