So, you’re a dad who just had his first child, and amidst the excitement of being a father to your newborn, you are worried that with all the responsibilities that come with taking care of a baby, you won't have time to exercise.
First, it’s a valid concern, after all it’s important that you take care of yourself so you can take care of your baby and family well.
A lot of our readers are young dads who are either too busy or too tired to exercise. Between all the baby gear, the constant feedings, and the lack of sleep (or sex), getting their sweat on is probably the last thing on their mind. But not working out isn’t the solution to their lack of time.
Whether it’s your first time with kids or you already have more, you need energy and focus to be there for them which you’ll only get if you work out. It’s like the safety instructions on a plane, you must put on your oxygen mask first before helping your family put on theirs.
Many dads are enjoying a balanced, healthy lifestyle even after having multiple kids, and there’s no reason you won’t be one of them. In this guide, I will share with you tips and tricks on how to stay fit as a dad so you no longer search for dad workout programs with results.
What’s the Difference Between a Dad Workout and a Regular Workout?
The short answer: a dad workout is concise and pragmatic.
First off, I’m not a pessimist and I do believe that you can get the hot, superman-like body that you want even if you're balancing your job and family life. But most men can’t do it for many reasons:
Financially: Pregnancy and parenting are expensive, and some men will work two jobs a day just to put food on the table
Habitually: Not everyone has David Goggins’ do it or die mindset. Our willpower is limited, and looking after a newborn drains you out every day and most likely you won’t have enough energy to hit the gym or eat properly.
Not getting enough support from your partner: Some women are mentally and physically strong and can get back to work a week after giving birth, but these are the exception, not the majority of women. According to studies, between 6.5 and 20% of new mamas suffer from postpartum depression. The rest are exhausted, sleep deprived and need every second of rest. Your partner won’t probably have time to cook healthy meals for you or watch the kids for another hour while you go to the gym.
You should drop perfection and your ego at the door when designing your personalized dad workout. Don’t try to bite more than you can chew just because it feels right. Find out how many days or hours you can dedicate to working out and stick to that number even if it meant doing a 10-minute body-weight circuit twice a day. Consistency is king, and there are many ways you can stay in shape that don’t include spending two hours in the gym every day, and this takes us to the next section.
The Ultimate Dad Workout: 9 Tips that Work
As a parent, you must be healthy for a plethora of reasons. Being in good shape helps you keep up with your kids and enjoy their growth. In addition, you’ll probably live longer and have a higher libido than most married men. Regular workouts will also make you feel better about yourself and improve your mental health which will boost your performance at work.
But still, for a new father, looking after another person whose survival depends entirely on him, is too much pressure to take and comes with many difficulties including:
- Sleep deprivation which will affect your mood and leave you lethargic throughout the day
- Performing poorly at work caused by lack of focus and mental and physical exhaustion
- Feeling guilty about leaving your baby, or partner so you can hit the gym
- Not knowing how to start a home-based workout either because you haven’t had one before or because you don’t have the right equipment
Also, there’s a chance your testosterone level drops if you stop exercising, especially after years of being physically active which can cause depression. Postpartum depression is something many men and women can suffer from. As a man, your only guarantee against this type of depression is by keeping your testosterone high which can naturally be obtained through exercising and proper nutrition.
So, what should you do?
Like I said earlier, being a fit father takes time and energy. But that doesn’t mean it’s not doable. Below are a few great tips for dads who want to stay in shape:
Start 6-8 months earlier
The best time to get in shape is months before the due date. It takes less work and focus, to stay in a good physique than if you try to drop 50 pounds of fat or bulk up for the first time.
Don’t wait until expectancy time to make a workout plan. You may find yourself uncomfortable or stressed. Start in the first trimester or as soon as you know there’s a baby then plan your maintenance period around the due date. This can mean working out two or three days a week rather than six or eating around your maintenance calories instead of cutting.
Set realistic goals
Don't expect yourself to be parenting for the first time and still gain a ton of muscle or get into the shape of your life.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to look good while taking care of a newborn, but this depends on many factors including your past experience, availability, income as well as the support you can get from your wife. That’s why, it’s better to focus on either setting modest goals such as losing 10 pounds, or maintaining your current physique. These realistic expectations are achievable and won’t feel like mountains to you when you plan them which will increase your odds of achieving them.
The first step to getting in shape is to actually make time for exercise. If your calendar allows, try to squeeze in some exercise every morning before your baby wakes up or at night right after he goes to sleep. Sometimes, you may only get 15 minutes of training before young Ben wakes up again, but 10 minutes here and 15 minutes there can make a decent workout if done right.
Involve your children in the workout
Repeat after me:
Anything is better than nothing.
It’s okay to feel grumpy or not have time for a full workout. It’s not the end of the world. There are many “safe” exercises that you can do with your newborn that won’t take time. Of course, they aren’t as effective as deadlifts or dumbbell curls, but they’re still better than sitting on your couch, plus you’ll have some good memories with your child. Here are some:
- Daddy-baby plank
- Putting your baby in a stroller and power walking
- Biking with your baby in a backpack
- Playing ball in the backyard (baseball, soccer, basketball...)
- Throwing frisbees around
- Father/child Push-up
- Sit down-sit up or squat as you hold your baby
- Bear walk or crawl race
- Jumping Jacks
- Tricep dips with a baby on your lap
Focus on compound movements
Compound exercises are those that involve multiple muscle groups and joints, such as squats, deadlifts, benches, and military presses. They're also called functional exercises because they help build strength in everyday tasks like lifting things and climbing stairs.
The only downside to compound lifts is that they’re hard work — both physically and mentally – and need equipment and space. But, they're more effective and time-efficient than isolation exercises (ex. Leg curls) since they involve training multiple muscles at once and will work your lower body, core, upper back, arms, and shoulders — all in one lift.
Set up a gym at home
Let’s be honest, home gyms don’t work well for everybody. Regular gyms have space, music, better lighting, and, more importantly, other members. Now, compare all these to a lonely, dark room equipped with just the bare minimum.
That’s just a lazy excuse.
If you’re short on time – and money – then it doesn’t matter if the basement you call your home gym is small or dark. It still remains a convenient solution that’ll save you a lot of time, including the hour you may waste going back and forth to your local gym.
You don’t need much space to set up a gym. You can convert your garage, basement, or any empty room to a gym and it will be more than enough. You can go either go big or small depending on your budget and how long you’ll use your home gym. Whether you go for brand-new equipment or buy some used stuff from Craigslist, here’s what you need:
- A pair of adjustable dumbbells that you can load with different plates: This is much cheaper than buying a pair of each weight
- A weight bench or an adjustable weight bench set: Weight benches are more affordable but for intermediate and advanced lifters who want to go heavy then you’re better off getting a whole bench set for more support
- A pair of kettlebells: They might be less practical than dumbbells but there’s so much you can do with a good pair of kettlebells
- Proper gym flooring: A rubber flooring roll or an exercise mat might do you well for a while, but if you plan to go heavy or worry about the neighbors calling you the police then consider getting proper gym flooring or say goodbye to your floor.
Or just get a pair of dumbbells
One pair of dumbbells may not sound like a lot but ask any experienced lifter and they’ll tell you that a pair of heavy dumbbells can get excellent results at home in no time. They're cheap, practical, and can be used and stored almost anywhere in and outside your house. Plus, they give a wide range of exercises to perform, including these ones:
- Biceps: Regular curls, hammer curls, and spider curls (if you have a weight bench)
- Triceps: Farmer’s walk, overhead extensions, kickbacks, and lying skull crusher
- Back: One-arm row, bent over two-dumbbell row, dumbbell deadlift, and sumo deadlift
- Shoulders and traps: Regular shoulder press, Arnold Press, external rotation, side lateral raise, basic shrugs, and dumbbell Upright Row
- Chest: Bench press, squeeze/crush press, floor press, dumbbell flyes, and dumbbell pullover
- Legs: Lunges, side lunges, reverse lunges, step-ups, sumo squat, Bulgarian split squat
If you can’t eat healthy food, do this instead…
If you’re the emotional-eating type who eats whenever you get sad, or mad then you better be prepared. Being a father will test your mood and patience by messing up with your sleep schedule which will increase your craving and how much you eat. As soon as you feel bad, your hands will go after whatever your belly craves – and it’s not broccoli and berries.
What to do exactly?
In this case, you only have two healthy options:
- Prepare your food in bulk
- Order healthy food
If you don’t have time or patience to cook your own food then you can have healthy food delivered to your door. Many companies today can take the load off your shoulder by offering a wide range of delicious healthy recipes at reasonable prices. I do this all the time because I have a sweet tooth and all my attempts to make healthy cheesecakes and lasagna have gone down the drain, so I found a local chef, tested some samples, loved them and now I’m a regular customer.
Have sex regularly
Just because you just had a baby doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have passionate sex with your wife. A recent study on 1,118 couples shows that couples enjoyed post-delivery sex more than their usual love-making sessions. In addition, sex is a great cardio workout that will help you burn a lot depending on the intensity and duration. A 20-minute lovemaking session can burn as much as 101 calories for men and 69 for women which is quite around one pound of fat per month.