The Dad Bod is everywhere.
It’s spreading across social media faster than the latest FaceApp trend.
What’s even more interesting is the fact a recent poll found that some women prefer the “Dad Bod” over the lean and muscular fit man!
I personally find that hard to believe and I’d love to meet the people who were polled!
But at the heart of the issue, the Dad Bod is synonymous with fatherhood. Guys who have children tend to sport “Dad Bods” more often than those who do not!
Now, you may be reading this article, thinking to yourself that you have three kids and a full-time job and believing no one knows how hard it is for you to stay in shape.
And you’re right. No one does understand your exact life, situation and responsibilities. But what I can relate to is that being a dad does indeed make maintaining your level of fitness much more difficult.
As a new father to a five-month-old boy named Noah, I’ve found my workout-life balance has changed tremendously since his arrival.
It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve managed to fight off the dreaded Dad Bod. In fact, I’m willing to say I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I’m about 168 pounds, sporting 8-9% body fat, and capable of running a 5:00 mile. I actually feel the best I have in years, which totally defies convention for new dads.
In this article, I want to share some strategies that have helped me adapt to dad life and be a loving father and husband while also still growing my fitness.
1. Stop the Excuses, Start Improvising
Those who tell you that you can keep your same schedule after a newborn arrives either have a pretty lackluster job or an exhausted wife!
Infants make their own schedule. You need to adapt. This doesn’t mean you automatically ditch your training altogether. It just means you may not be able to get to the gym at the exact time to which you’ve become accustomed for the exact length of time you prefer. You must learn to train around your infant’s schedule, which can honestly change every single day.
With Noah, there have been nights when he slept one hour, then nights when he slept nine. You never know, so you can’t bank on getting a solid workout consistently at 5-6 a.m. with a sleep schedule like that.
The message is that you need to get in what you can, when you can!
If you have 30 free minutes while he’s napping, head to your living room and knock out a quick kettlebell flow like the one here. Doing something is so much better than doing nothing. Just giving your body that stimulus of training is so big for your physical and emotional health.
And if you’re gifted with more time, go ahead and do that full-blown hour-long session!
Then there are going to be days when you feel like you have no time and you and your wife constantly have your hands full. Guess what? You can still knock out a few set of Push-Ups while playing “tummy time”!
When a new child arrives, the days of having a set plan of when, where and how you’re going to train each day become a thing of the past. You must become a versatile beast. If you don’t own a fairly heavy kettlebell or dumbbell for your home, now is the perfect time to invest in one. It’s also the perfect time to buy a jogging stroller and start hiking!
The reality is we have millions of ways to move. If you switch your mindset from “what I can’t do” to “what I can do,” your fitness can be maintained and possibly even improved. It’s when you stop doing anything for a prolonged period that your fitness falls off a cliff.
2. A Day Off Is Sometimes Best
One thing I realized the hard way was that I wasn’t going to feel like Rocky Balboa every single day.
You may be used to getting the perfect meal combinations, the best 8-10 hours of sleep, and the best darn recovery plan known to man.
But life changes with an infant. You rarely have the chance to sit down to eat, and taking time to stretch and foam roll may get you the evil eye from your wife. And sleep is obviously affected, big time.
If you find yourself feeling mentally and physically exhausted, I recommend getting to the gym and getting through your warm-up. If you’re still struggling and feeling tired and achey, take the day off!
This may sound conflicting with the last point, but I’m not saying to do nothing for day after day, week after week. I’m saying when those days come up where you’re really dragging, it’s OK to take a legitimate rest day even if you do have time for a full workout.
If you’re even more tired than usual, resting will do you more good than an intense workout. Even if you get through that workout, you’ll be shot for the rest of the day, and that added fatigue can impact you for several days to come.
There were days I felt terrible and pushed through a workout, and I was very happy I got through it. But then I let my wife down later in the day because I was so tired!
Remember, your life now revolves around more than just YOU, so you need to be able to have time and energy for your family.
3. Be Ferociously Efficient
I was always a guy who took my time with my workouts, but having a baby is a whole new ballgame.
If you are used to traditional bodybuilding and straight-setting, you may want to start doing some research on metabolic resistance training or even super-setting.
The opportunities for those 60- or 90-minute sessions may start becoming a lot more infrequent, so you need to be prepared to get more work done in less time. So if you’re used to resting 5 minutes between heavy sets of Squats, it can be a good idea to fill that space in with something else productive—perhaps some upper-body work.
Since having a kid, I’ve become a huge fan of circuit training, complexes, kettlebell flows and EMOMs.
These methods let you get a ton of work done in less time and get you home to your wife and newborn quickly.
4. Get Used to Meal Prepping
More often than not, the first few weeks you will be eating while standing up, quite often with your baby in your other arm.
And your wife will often be doing the same. If you think she has the time to prepare you top-notch, five-star restaurant meals, you need to think again!
One smart move we made was preparing mass batches of chili, meatballs and egg casseroles and then keeping them in the freezer for quick meals. Whenever possible, we also prepped our individual meals ahead of dinner time.
Well, if you haven’t heard of the 5 o’clock monster, you may be in for a rude awakening! Many infants seem to outburst right around 5 p.m., which is usually the time many people begin preparing dinner. This was certainly true with Noah, so I often tried to prepare individual dishes (or get them as close to fully prepared as possible) well before this time.
This leads to preparation. Before Noah came, I’d go to the store a few times a week to get what I wanted and pick up whatever I was craving that night for dinner.
When a baby comes, you need a game plan. You won’t have time to run to the store every single day. Having a big grocery list and knowing what you and your family need to eat for an entire week will save your time, your wallet, and your wife’s sanity!
5. Enjoy the Moments
More often than not, new dads are always given “friendly” advice from co-workers, friends and family members that are really just thinly veiled warnings.
They make sure to tell you how hard it’s going to be and how much your life is going to suddenly change.
But what people don’t bring up as often is how important it is to cherish the little moments. The baby stages go by so fast, so every little bit of time you can spend with them is precious and will help you be a better father down the road.
Take note of the small things. Wait for them to smile back at you, giggle and start grabbing your hands when you hold them. A father’s love for their children should be just as strong as the mother’s…but you have to be proactive. Be grateful for the best gift in life
There is no need to let your fitness and health go just because you welcomed a new family member. To me, that is like getting a raise at your job and then deciding you want to stop working.
Now is the time to up your game. Embrace fatherhood. Crush goals. Dominate your life.
And when you think you are at your wit’s end and having a bad day…remember who has it far worse than you …that’s right—the wife deserves the credit! They are the ones truly sacrificing their bodies, dealing with big hormone changes, coping with dietary restraints, and devoting all their time and energy to the child.
Having a newborn is indeed a big change. But by staying prepared and keeping an open mind, your fitness can grow right alongside your child.
Photo Credit: LSOPhoto/iStock