How New Fathers Can Get Fit
Tips for achieving the Dad bod you’ve always dreamed of
Becoming a father is about making changes — in what’s important, in your relationships, in your free time and maybe, most noticeably, in your fitness routine. A 2015 study from Northwestern University found that men gain an average of 4 pounds as they transition into fatherhood. So yes, “Dad bod” is for real.
While hours-long grind sessions at the gym might be a thing of the past, these ideas will help you forge a new path toward becoming a fitter father.
Work Out at Home
Maybe it’s during your toddler’s nap or after putting him to bed at night, but there are ways to sneak in fitness time for yourself — even if it’s at home.
“With a wife who works full-time and two daughters, living room exercise routines are essential to me,” says Frankie Alt, owner of Third Level Fitness in Clayton.
Parenting parody YouTube sensation and Raleigh dad Penn Holderness says when he can't get to the gym, he'll do burpees, squats and run sprints on his neighborhood street.
"There are days I can't get out of the house, or the timing's not great, so I'll do a CrossFit-similar thing at home," he says.
Getting fit doesn’t require a gym membership or thousands of dollars in equipment. It could take as little as one piece of equipment. Alt says a kettlebell is “literally an entire gym that fits in the back of your closet.”
While kettlebells are handy to have around, Alt says all you really need is, well … you.
“Your body is the easiest and cheapest thing you can use to be fit,” he says. “The key is learning the correct form of basic movements, like squats and pushups.”
Once you’ve got those down, find an exercise routine that incorporates those movements. YouTube is full of reputable channels, like Fitness Blender, that offer hours of home-based workouts. (Search for “men’s fitness” on YouTube to find more.)
Include Your Child
Finding time to exercise doesn’t have to pull you away from your child. On the contrary, fitness can be a cornerstone of the bond you build with your little one. Enjoy the outdoors? Consider strapping your Mini-Me in the stroller, then walking or jogging the paved trails of the Capital Area Greenway in Raleigh; Bond Park in Cary; or the American Tobacco Trail, which runs through Apex, Cary and Durham. Wear your bundle of joy in a carrier while you hike up Hillsborough’s Occoneechee Mountain. Teach your kiddo the finer points of a jump shot, or take up a martial arts class together.
When Holderness works out at home, his 9-year-old son often participates. ""A lot of times Penn Charles will join me, when it's not too difficult," he says.
Alt makes it a goal to include his daughters in workouts regularly. “I like to accomplish fitness activities weekly, like going on a walk with my daughters, or including them in a workout … whether it’s yardwork, or a run, or martial arts — or even 15 minutes of a game of tag.”
Including your child in your fitness routine also sets a positive example. When you prioritize fitness, your child gains an understanding of the importance of healthy living.
Get High on Intensity During Lunch
Got an hour — or even 30 minutes — for lunch during your work day? That’s the perfect amount of time to squeeze in high intensity interval training, also known as HIIT. Local fitness specialist Stephen Urben advocates HIIT because it produces muscle-building and fat-burning results in as little as 20 minutes.
“HIIT is a proven training method — especially its use of rest — because it allows you to reach your maximum training zone over and over, shocking your body every workout,” Urben says. “The research shows just 20 minutes of HIIT leaves your metabolism raging hours after you’ve trained, resulting in 9% more fat loss. And it’s almost 20% more effective than steady state training.” (Steady state training keeps your exercise intensity within the same range for the duration of your workout.)
Being prepared is key for achieving a successful workout during lunch breaks. Make sure you have proper footwear and a change of clothes. If you don’t have access to a shower at work, bring hygiene products such as a towel, deodorant and wipes for freshening up.
And, of course, don’t forget to pack a healthy lunch. Not only will this free up your lunch break for your workout, it also helps prevent the temptation to grab something unhealthy to eat on the fly.
Block Out Time
If every hour of your workday is filled with meetings that are stacked on your calendar like a game of Tetris, it’s time to schedule a workout. Blocking out time for fitness means you’re committing to good health, and it prevents last-minute lunch meetings from sliding into your inbox and onto your calendar.
Fatherhood requires a balancing act that, all too often, lowers fitness on many dads’ priority lists. Achieving a healthier lifestyle isn’t just a decision you make for yourself, but something that affects your entire family.
Fatherhood will continue to redefine what’s important in your life. Put fitness near the top of your priority list, then embrace that Dad bod and make it as healthy as you possibly can.
Elliot Acosta is a husband, father and food blogger based out of Raleigh. He writes at eatraleighblog.com.
Quick Exercise Routines to Try
Got a few minutes to exercise between fatherly duties or during your lunch break? Try these workouts, created by Frankie Alt of Third Level Fitness.
Kettlebell Ladder Workout
Start with five reps for each exercise, then decrease reps by one after every set until you reach only one of each. If you want to keep going, increase the reps by one after every set until you are back up to five reps per exercise.
No-Equipment Max Workout
Do pushups for one minute and record how many you’re able to complete (30 pushups, for example). Divide that number in half (15), then perform that number of pushups at the top of every minute for 10 minutes. Once you can complete that number efficiently, shorten your workout to 8 minutes but add 30% more pushups (19). Once you complete that number, shorten the workout to 6 minutes and add 30% more reps (25). Continue by shortening the workout to 4 minutes and adding 30% (29), then go down to 2 minutes and add another 30% (34). Finally, redo your one-minute max. (This formula also works with situps and bodyweight squats.)
Photos of Penn Holderness courtesy of Morton Photography. Read our exclusive Q&A with Holderness here.