No matter what anyone says, making better health choices as a dad is tough.
That’s why you need a strategy.
A good plan of attack.
I see this sort of thing all the time on social media:
‘Sleep is the key to fat loss.’
‘Meal prep is the key to fat loss.’
‘HITT is the key to fat loss.’
‘Moving more is the key to fat loss.’
I will tell you now – statements like these mean nothing if each day you have to get back home and do the nursery run,
cook the dinner;
get the bath ready;
get the PJs ready;
put a wash on;
have your dinner and get the bottle ready;
get the mini-me(s) to bed … and then have to get up in the middle of the night to calm the little one down because she’s dreaming that someone is stealing her teddy bear.
Sleep and food preparation become almost impossible (almost – this is where we need to be smart).
Habits are hard to break and sometimes even harder to make.
Having my daughter has given me a different level of motivation to succeed with my health goals, and I have really had to think outside the box.
Something that I heard someone say on a social media post recently made a real impact on me.
I had just spent the whole day in London with my partner and little girl.
We covered about 15-20 miles, and my partner and I had to carry our daughter here and there when she got tired. She weighs around 15 kg these days, and going up and down steps can be epic – especially towards the back end of the day.
‘What does fitness mean to you?’
I had a long think and wondered: how do I stay lean, how do I stay functional, how do I best serve my little girl as she gets older and more dynamic?
Here are my seven rules for staying functional and lean while taking on family life.
This is possibly the most underestimated fat loss tool there is.
We want to complicate fitness so that we can make excuses; so that we can explain why we can’t lose fat or why it’s difficult to get fitter.
The fact of the matter is that walking has benefits that simply can’t be matched by any other activity that is simple, free and can be done almost anywhere in the world.
A study review analysing the benefits of walking found that it resulted in a reduction in body fat (meaning looser jeans and more options in the shops) and an increase in aerobic fitness (meaning you will be able to go on longer walks with the kids).
There are now recommendations from the NHS that encourage three 10-minute bouts of brisk walking each day (‘brisk’ means between 3-4 miles per hour – download the Run Keeper App to monitor your pace).
2). Leave the leftovers
There is a temptation when the little one grows into eating solid foods to eat their leftovers (something I got into the habit of doing).
Whilst it isn’t good morally to let food go to waste, eating leftovers will instead go to your waist.
Before you eat the beans on toast that they haven’t even touched, think about whether this fits with your nutritional game plan (if you even have one, that is – I call it a plan for the simple reason that I plan every Friday when I do the shopping what I need nutritionally to support my physical activity).
In a nutshell: step away from the rusks!
3). Use Your TV time wisely
Dads are more time-poor than anyone else on the planet.
That’s why it is crucial to use your time wisely.
Once the kids are in bed, try doing some press ups and some planks rather than sitting in front of the TV.
Even if you just do this for 5-10 minutes, that’s 5-10 minutes more than you were doing before.
Every little thing contributes to the bigger things.
4). Be an early bird and catch a lean torso
As I used to be in the military, I am always an early bird.
Fortunately, these days my little girl can sleep right up until 7 or 7:30 am.
During the weekend, I can smash 45 minutes of walking before she has even seen daylight.
During the week, when my partner is at work and I do the nursery run, I get up and do some yoga (with a kettlebell; it’s a long story).
The point I am making here is that if you manage to get to bed for 10 pm and get up at 5:00 am, that’s 7 hours of sleep.
That leaves you 5:15 am to 6:30 am to get some Super You Training in the bag.
5). Complete a lunchtime circuit
Whether they get 30 minutes or an hour, people waste their lunchbreak talking BS about EastEnders and TOWIE, or scrolling through social media for 15 minutes to see what crazy statements Donald Trump has come out today.
Try just doing a circuit of:
5 x 5 squats;
5 x 5 lunges;
5 x 5 press ups.
This will be 10 minutes maximum – you’ll hardly break a sweat and will have an increase in motivation.
You’ll be ready to hit the afternoon like a BOSS!
You’d also contribute to the 150 minutes weekly of physical activity recommended by the World Health Organisation to stay healthy.
6). Stand up more
Standing desks are the new fad – or so people would be led to believe.
Actually, I don’t think they are a fad.
I think that sit-to-stand desks are one of the great ways to burn more calories.
A short study has found that standing can burn more calories.
If you can stand for up to 6 hours a day, that will mean you will burn 54 calories more sitting.
Over a year this equates to 5.5 pounds, every little counts.
7). Keep it simple
Simple strategies often aren’t sexy, so they are rarely marketed by the big fitness tycoons.
But the fact of the matter is, staying fit is pretty simple.
At times when I have been faced with a lack of motivation to hit the gym, I just go for a walk.
My body either tells me I can move on to do something else (and I will then break into some bodyweight conditioning), or it tells me the walk will be enough for today.