For those who have or will have the opportunity to be a father, it’s one of the very greatest and most meaningful parts of life.
Getting and staying fit – via exercise, nutrition and mind-and-spirit wellness – is one of the most important things you can do to improve and sustain your life and your enjoyment of it. For the benefit of yourself and your children.
So, with “uber” life goals in mind, commitments to fathering and fitness should go hand in hand.
But day-to-day, it’s not always easy to pull off both. Precious time spent with kids heightens time pressure we already feel from work and other “pre-kids” obligations. Fitness is often what gets squeezed out.
IT’S YOUR CHOICE, DAD
Fellow dads, at some point we face a choice.
(A) Is fatherhood going to mark the start of our physical decline? (It’s frighteningly easy to let a “leave it to the next generation to be youthful and fit” sentiment creep into your thinking).
Or (B) are we going to battle through the added challenges, and have the best of both worlds? That is, have one or more beautiful kids, eventually maybe grandchildren, AND keep ourselves near the top edge of whatever “fitness curve” the passing years allow?
Me? I was somewhere between (A) and (B) for the first few years of my kids’ lives. Then had a few years flirting more with the “decline” path. Then I was looking at pictures of myself on vacation in the early 2000’s, and thought “who’s the chubby and kinda-getting-old guy with my family?” That jolted me in a healthy way. I’ve been on Path B ever since.
With dads current and future in mind, here are five suggestions for how to follow this “best of both” path, organized by the stages of fatherhood.
But first, a few starting perspectives:
- You owe it to your family to tend to your own body-and-soul wellness
- Sometimes, it’s a matter of giving yourself “permission” to devote a minimum amount of time to your own health. Your guilt about spending time “on yourself” is motivated by feelings of love and duty, but it actually undermines the long-term goals you have for the family.
- You’re really busy, yada yada, I get it. But everyone should be able to fit in at least a “survival mode” level of fitness, brother. In a friendly way, I’m calling BS if you say you can’t.
- When you take care of yourself, you’re also setting an example for your kids that WILL have life-long benefits for them. Forget about yourself for a moment. Do you want them to be physically fit and enjoy tranquility-protecting wellness practices throughout their life? If so, start teaching them that by example, dude.
FIVE SUGGESTIONS FOR BECOMING & REMAINING A “FIT FATHER”
1. When kids are babies or toddlers, get some of the gear that lets you take them along when you’re active. I mean one or more of a jogging stroller, a bike trailer (we had a 2-kid version that was awesome), and/or a “backpack” for hiking. These are great investments.
2. When they’re a little older, bring them with you cycling (on a “trail-a-bike” that hooks up to yours, then on their own bike). And get involved in their sports (I had several banner seasons as “Assistant Assistant Coach” for soccer and lacrosse – it got me running around and let me be part of kids’ lives at the same time.)
3. For tweens and teens, look for opportunities to do physical things together. Sometimes kids will want to/agree to do this…sometimes they won’t. But if they’re in “won’t” mode…that means they’re getting more independent and you’ve got more time on your own now, bro’.
4. When you have “adult children,” take active vacations together. Kids will often welcome your financial contribution to travel, and you get time with them, as well as motivation to stay fit for hiking, cycling, active sight-seeing, whatever it may be.
5. Grand kids? Well, I don’t have any yet so I can’t speak personally. But logically, this is a combo of Stages #1 and #4 above (and now you’re “free babysitting” for your own children – furthering your continued contact with them).
What stage are you in, man? Are you doing what you can to enjoy fatherhood and fitness? With thriving in mind for you and your family, please think about whether you can be purposeful and proactive to get to an answer that’s usually “yes!”
Don’t beat yourself up if you’re struggling to make it happen right now. But DON’T let that turn into just punting on all this for months and years either, man. Keep working toward a “fatherhood + fitness” orientation. You and your kids will be glad you did!
“My son turned ten just the other day. He said, thanks for the ball, dad, come on let’s play.” (Harry Chapin, Cat’s in the Cradle— click to play)
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