Each week many television stations highlight a local high school or college “scholar athlete.” And rightfully so. These student athletes work hard both in the classroom and in the sports realm, juggling the rigorous demands of academic excellence and athletic achievement.
Many of us who are parents today used to be student athletes ourselves. But student athletes grow up. Myself included. We finish college, get jobs, get married, have kids, and… usually put on a few pounds.
So I’m here to propose another category of athlete. The “Parent Athlete.” Those of us who juggle the demands of family, career, and health. It’s not easy, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m living proof that it can be done.
You see, three years ago I was obese. Granted, not “Biggest Loser” obese, but I was, by the charts, obese, having packed on over 70 pounds since my college days. I wondered how that could happen? After all, I’d always been active, having played sports up through college. But I’d gained a pound here and a pound there since settling down in life and, one day, wondered why my clothes didn’t fit anymore and why I got winded climbing a flight of stairs.
It finally clicked in my brain that if I didn’t make some lifestyle changes, my future with my wife and three kids might be awfully bleak. So, with the support of my family – especially of my wife, who is a runner – changes were made. Slowly, but surely.
Granted, I couldn’t run more than 10 minutes at a time when I got back on the horse in 2010. I ran my first 5k race in some absurdly slow time. But bit-by-bit, through small choices and habit changes, progress was made.
As of today, I’ve lost over 60 pounds, my health has improved, and I’ve completed off road triathlons, long-distance swims, and trail running marathons.
But, much more importantly, I’m a better father and husband. I now have the health needed to keep up with my young kids and enjoy my time with them. I have energy to help out around the house. And I’m no longer worried about keeling over from a heart-attack at an early age.
Sure, this obese-to-athlete journey has been amazing. But even more amazing is how deeply I’m finding my story is resonating with people. Fully two-thirds of the American population is either overweight or obese, a trend that is only increasing. So it stands to reason that we need champions of healthy living who also understand the demands of being a parent. I’m not a physician or a certified personal trainer. But, as a busy husband and father who has successfully lost weight and become an athlete all while juggling a busy professional and family life, I think I can offer some needed perspective on this issue. And so I will be. Each week. Through this column.
How can you make time for your own health? How can you eat better without breaking the bank? How on earth can a single parent find the time to work out? I’ll be answering these and other questions through this column each week.
Yes, it is absolutely possible to be a “Parent Athlete.” What challenges are you facing in your own health and wellness? Feel free to send me an email, I would love to hear from you! Chances are, if you have a question, others have it too.
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.