There are some guys who manage to stay in shape no matter what life throws at them. A career, marriage, kids… they somehow magically manage to stay fit. And then there are the rest of us. Some of us even make it through the career and marriage phases of life all right, but add kids to the picture and, for a lot of us, our fitness goes right out the window. 6:30am no longer means time to go running — it means the kids are up and yet another crazy day is beginning. Forty additional pounds later and a lot of dads aren’t sure what happened to them (or what to do about it).
So, now that it’s summer, enough whining. Do yourself a favor – take advantage of the warm weather and all outdoor opportunities it has to offer – and get your old self back this summer! With our crazy schedules, it’s hard to consistently squeeze in a workout – especially for fathers of younger kids – it’s not like the 3 year old is going to make it through that 3 mile run. Often the morning is spent getting the kids ready for the day, than you’re off to work, and by the time you get home it’s hard to justify more time away from the family to go work out. The solution? Take the kid with you! Picture this scenario – get home from work, grab the kid and get in your workout! Your wife gets a break, you get in shape, and your kid spends time with you. Win-win? I think so! Here’s how:
What You’ll Need
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it will give you an idea of where to start. A good rule of thumb is, “don’t buy the Cadillac the first time out.” If you buy a cheap running stroller and wear the thing into the ground then you’ve justified going back out and spending good money on a quality model. Most of this equipment will run you anywhere from $90 – $300, but be on the lookout for sales, used equipment, and online deals. With today’s technology and places like Target, you can get something that’s reasonably affordable, but is still relatively light and will fold up into the trunk of a Civic. Most of this equipment can accommodate a child up to approximately 5 years of age – at which point they can probably tag along for more strenuous activities under their own power. The most important part is just to pick something and do it!
Running Stroller – If you enjoy running and don’t live within 10 minutes of hiking trails or biking paths – this is probably your best option and the first piece of equipment to purchase. It’s versatile and you can use it easily to squeeze in a quick run. A running stroller doesn’t have to be fancy; you can spend upwards of several hundred dollars, but you can also go to Babies-R-Us or Wal-Mart and get something reasonable for around $150. Be sure it has inflatable tires, a quick release front wheel, and can fold up to fit in your trunk.
Hiking – Child Carrier Pack – Most people underestimate hiking; it’s actually great exercise on its own as long as you keep up the pace – and with 25 pounds of toddler on your back – it’s an incredibly solid workout; you will get in shape pretty quickly doing this. There are a lot of different packs out here, but the overwhelming consensus seems to be that Kelty makes the best (available online or at shops like EMS). A Kelty will run you a bit more, but if you use it regularly it’s definitely worth the extra cost. Whatever brand you go with make sure it has both hip and chest straps – it will make the experience much more comfortable. An aluminum frame will also double as a roll-cage of sorts, so it may be worth the extra money if you’ll be hiking on steep/rocky terrain.
Biking – Child Trailer – Biking is fun in and of itself, but – similar to hiking – you’ll get an increased workout from pulling 50 pounds behind you (40 pound preschooler + 10 pound trailer). And, if you’re training for a race, think of how fast you’ll be once you’re riding without the trailer! One of the really nice things about a bike trailer is that it can fit two kids – helpful if you need that option. There are a number of companies out there that make good trailers. You can spend top dollar on a Burley, and it’s a good investment, but companies like InStep and Schwinn also make good entry-level models that won’t cost you an arm and leg and will perform relatively well (available through Target).
What to Remember
You have to start somewhere – running a marathon is an admirable goal, but your reality may not allow that – yet. Rather than sitting around, though, just start somewhere! The key is to get up and get out! Make your first goal getting 3 times in one week for at least 30 minutes. Do it again the second week. Then go to 4 days and/or 45 minutes. Pretty soon you’ll be hooked and you’ll just find it becoming part of your routine without having to give it much thought. You might also find that you’re more easily able to get out on the weekend. If so, make it a point to do so and then you only have to get out once or twice during the crazy work week.
Recruit your friends – Having someone meet you to work out keeps you accountable to show up. Find a friend nearby, or (and I know this is crazy for a guy) reach out to a father in your neighborhood you don’t know and have them join you with their kid as well.
Set a goal – Pick a 5k a few months away. Pick a bike race in the fall. Plan a weekend hiking trip to the Adirondacks with the guys. Training with kids on your back or in tow has an added benefit – once you take the resistance away, you’re that much faster! So set a goal to show off your newfound fitness.
Your health is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your family. So, invest in it. Drop the $150 on one of the things listed above, treat yourself to a pair of new running shoes and then take advantage of the warm weather!
Ben Murphy is the Founder and CEO of The Father Life. He lives in New York State with his wife and two daughters.
Ben Murphy, founder of The Father Life, is an Adventure Athlete, Writer, and Wellness Advocate who used to be obese. You can ask him your questions at www.BenMurphyOnline.com. He lives in upstate New York with his wife and three daughters.