It's so important to be fit when you're a dad, not only because it is a physically demanding job, but also because fitness is important for self esteem. I could write a whole blog about why self esteem is important for parents, but suffice it to say that if you want to raise kids that feel good about themselves, then you need to feel good about your self. You are their role model and they're learning from you all the time.
But the thing with exercise is that it takes time... something you can guarantee you'll have a lot less of when you're a parent. Before I was a dad, I loved keeping fit and setting myself physical challenges, from marathons to triathlons and even endurance events for people who should know better, like The Tough Guy. However, when my troopers came along, I quickly realised that there was never going to be free time in my day that I could train in (or to do anything else for that matter).
I recognised that I needed to get creative about how I could fit training in around my family commitments (which I have a lot of as a stay at home dad). It's wasn't always easy, but then nothing worth doing ever is.
So dads, if you want to start, maintain or revisit a training routine, here's my tips:
Don't believe the hype. People will tell you that it is impossible to train with a family and that there just isn't enough time in the day. I once said this and got the response, "You have the same 24 hours a day that Einstein, Marie Curie and other world changers had". Well, that puts things into perspective. We are only talking about scheduling in training, gentlemen. You can do it.
Make Sacrifices. Sacrifice everything that you do not know to be useful or believe to be productive uses of your time. If you cannot train because you need to schedule it in alongside playing on the Xbox, checking Facebook or tweeting for example, you need to re-evaluate your goals.
Gain Home Support. Ideally, you need the full support of your partner, or if you are a single parent, the person / people who help you out with childcare. Not only for their help in looking after the troopers while you train, but also as a motivating force to help to stick to your schedule. This can be tricky as you will be training at times that may currently be considered time for you to spend together (especially if you are training for an event and your training time is increasing). If this is an issue for you, tackle it now. It is not going to go away. Here's how I did it:
- I explained to my wife why I really wanted to train and compete.
- I worked to ensure she had as much 'free' time as I had training time.
- I stuck it out and proved I was serious.
Choose your moments. Some training can only happen away from base camp. If this is the case, avoid busy times in the family day: i.e. mealtimes, bedtime etc. All hands need to be on deck then. So either get up early and create time at the start of the day (I prefer this) or be prepared to go out once the troopers are bunked down.
Become more efficient at exercising. Create - or find - a fifteen minute routine that allows you to give yourself a total body workout. Fifteen minutes is the optimum amount of time because even a very young baby trooper will nap for 15 minutes.
Do exercise that requires little - or no - kit: sit ups, press ups, skipping and squats are all fabulous exercises that you can perform in confined spaces at a moment's notice. And that may be all you have.
Get exercise kit you can use at home and be disciplined enough to use it. My indoor trainer for my bike was essential to my triathlon training - I would thrash it at every opportunity.
Make it a family affair. Make your training a family activity as this will not only enable you to train during 'normal' hours but also to set a brilliant example for your troopers. Importantly, it gives your partner an opportunity to have time to themselves. For example:
- Take the unit to the park, and when your partner joins you, start your laps.
- Take the troopers out for a bike ride, then drop them back at base camp to your partner, and then get some serious miles in.
- Take the unit swimming, and when your partner either joins you or collects the troopers, get some real lengths under your belt.
- Invite your family to watch you compete. Hilarious pictures of me at The Tough Guy, in various stages of torment, have gained almost legendary status at our base camp.
If you've got any other tips, please share them with me - and other dads - on the Commando Dad forums: http://www.commandodad.com/forum/