How to Not Get a Dad Bod
It's been several months since my last blog post and the primary reason for this is that my son, Caleb John Feldt, was born on June 22nd, 2018. This blog post is not about that experience, but let me just say that childbirth is a miracle and I am in awe of what the female body can do.
It is crazy to think through all the steps necessary to build a human being from scratch and that all this information is encoded into our DNA. This process provides a new perspective for me into our ancestral roots and what it means to honor your genes.
I've learned many things along this journey from conception, through pregnancy, to labor and the first 3 1/2 months. While it's been a life changing experience, one thing I have been in extreme short supply of is TIME. Being a health coach, working the “day job”, and supporting my wife, dog, and new son does not provide me with many opportunities to get in a full workout.
I've struggled to stay in shape and now understand the cultural crossroad most men find themselves at during this time in their life. THE DAD BOD.
These days it seems like a rite of passage for men to acquire a 'Dad Bod' once they have kids. Or, more likely, there is now an excuse not to care about their appearance or health.
“Life is just too hard. There are too many responsibilities. There is no time. I’m a dad now.”
Having a kid provides a challenge, but also an opportunity to refine my workout regime and make my workouts even more effective to accommodate my new life.
After 3 months of trial and error with the new baby, I am happy to say I am pretty close to the best shape of my life, in terms of strength, body fat, and overall appearance. Here are a few guiding principles that have helped me adapt to the family life, and I hope this will be useful to other parents.
Consistency is more important than frequency
I would rather one of my clients commit to one or two hard workouts per week for 10-15 minutes each than go all-in on a 5-6 day/week, 60 minute/day boot-camp/Cross Fit/yoga binge, only to burn out after a couple weeks, get frustrated and give up.
You only need 1-2 resistance training sessions per week to build muscle
The key is to go for muscular failure, which most people never reach. Either their weights are too light, they don't have solid form, or they just frankly don't want to push themselves. They view working out as a chore and something that needs to be done. Not something they can enjoy as a challenge and push their bodies to new limits. This is what every personal trainer is trying to achieve, they want their clients to push themselves beyond what they normally do or think is possible. That is how you get results, pushing harder and further to failure. Muscles grow bigger and stronger, and the process repeats.
Body weight is really all that's needed to build muscle
This is key when you have a kid, because thinking about driving to the gym, finding someone to take care of your child while you are away, and most importantly, the loss of precious time with your child outside of the 9-5 working hours. It's just not practical for most people.
Here is a sample workout that consists of 6 body weight movements and takes 15 minutes, courtesy of Dr. Ted Naiman
Instead of waiting to workout during the baby's nap, use the baby as part of your workout
Ok, pull-ups with a baby strapped to you might be a bit extreme, but how about wearing the kid while doing chores around the house? Bending down to pick something up with a kid strapped to you is a great way to practice good squatting form, as it’s impossible to cheat and bend over. The extra 15-20 lbs is also a good muscle builder.
Baby + dog? What better way to get take care of both while also burning fat?
I'm not sure about other parents, but my kid loves being outside.
Coincidentally, so does my dog. Fussy baby? That problem can be solved 99% of the time with a walk outside. It also gives you, the parent, some much needed headspace as you get out of the house and go through some mental cycles that are not focused on taking care of a baby.
Working out does not need to be super regimented, painful, or repetitive to produce effective results. The fitness industry pushes regiments and repetition because that's how the money is made!
In the real world, going back thousands of generations, humans have thrived from daily exercise, short bursts of high intensity efforts and lots of slow movement at a comfortable pace. There was no need to 'workout' back in hunter/gatherer days, humans were able to stay lean by using their bodies as tools.
For me, it comes down to my most important role as a parent, being a good role model for my son. Kids are incredibly impressionable and will look to their parents for the way to do almost everything. I think about the type of person I want Caleb to become and the set of values I want to instill in him.
What better way to subscribe to these core values than to be the physical embodiment of them? Making meals from scratch with real ingredients, teaches good food habits, exercising and healthy competition teaches self-esteem, and providing undivided attention to my son teaches presence. The list goes on…