Finding the time to balance a regular fitness routine around looking after children can be a challenge, especially for dads who are also juggling work with parenting responsibilities at home. Here, Steven Virtue, fitness content and programming manager at Total Fitness, shares his tips and advice to help dads balance the role of parenting with staying in shape.
Research in the Real Life Ready report, a study commissioned by Total Fitness, revealed that 30% of dads like to use exercise to take a moment to themselves, yet almost one in three (29%) struggle to fit in exercise around their work schedule and 24% find it difficult to make time for fitness due to parenting responsibilities.
The good news is there are ways to incorporate exercise into the daily roles of parenthood and this has been found to have additional benefits beyond just the physical. According to the Real Life Ready report, 36% of dads say exercise boosts their mood and an additional 26% say regular fitness helps them to cope with stress.
Here are some tips to help dads balance parenting and exercise:
1. Schedule a realistic training regime
Failing to plan is planning to fail, as exercise essentially becomes a chore to fit into your busy lifestyle when you don’t schedule it into your day – making time for fitness makes exercise both more sustainable and enjoyable. However, that is easier said than done, as there are a lot of competing demands for your attention when you have children to look after, which is why scheduling a family walk or playtime that keeps you moving will allow you to fit in exercise alongside the demands of parenthood.
2. Less can be more
Training six days per week with children at home is optimistic, so start smaller, with three full-body sessions or cardio sessions per week, scheduling your workout times during nap or playtime. If three still seems a stretch, two sessions per week in the short term will help lay the foundations and build confidence before you find time for more training.
3. Eat and drink the right things
Fatigue in your daily life is clear and simple: aside from some medical conditions that can contribute to tiredness, there are two main culprits behind your lack of energy: either you aren’t sleeping enough or you aren’t putting the right things into your body. The former is a normal part of parenting, especially in the early years, but the latter doesn’t have to be. If your water intake isn’t at an optimal level and you’re letting your blood sugar spike uncontrollably, fatigue and lack of motivation is inevitable, so make sure you are drinking enough to avoid dehydration and monitor your food intake. Fix bad eating habits to ensure the reason for poor sleep isn’t due to your choices in the kitchen – get this right and everything else will follow.
4. Turn outdoor activities into exercise
For dads with primary school-aged children, playing outdoor sports and games are a great way to keep them entertained while also helping you to stay fit and active. Throw and catch is a great option as it can be played anywhere and in any size space. Not only will it burn fat and strengthen your arm muscles, it will also improve your balance and hand-eye co-ordination skills. It might be that you have more energy to burn, so why not have a kick-about at the park or play rounders to get the heart pumping, burn calories and build up your muscle strength.
5. Go on a bike ride
Kids love the chance to explore, so why not take them on a weekly bike ride so they can discover new surroundings, while giving you the chance to fit in some regular exercise. Cycling is great for dads who want to increase their cardiovascular fitness and strengthen their muscles, while also helping to burn calories and lose fat in the process. It is a fun outdoor activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family – young and old.
6. Walk instead of driving
Driving may seem to be the easier option at times but try walking when it’s a shorter journey to increase your daily step count and get some fresh air as you exercise. If you have a baby or toddler, try a fast walk or gentle jog with the pram to increase the intensity of your workout, as this will help strengthen your core and arm muscles due to the constant pushing motion, as well as exercising the leg muscles. Walking is beneficial for both your physical and mental health, making it an exercise worth incorporating more of into your routine so you can maintain a healthier lifestyle.
7. Take advantage of naptime
Having some time to yourself as a dad is rare, which is why it’s important to make the most of your children’s naptime schedule. There are a wide variety of workout videos online to choose from, which focuses on bodyweight training, toning exercises and high-intensity cardio – perfect for dads who want to burn fat and tone muscle. Don’t worry if the kids wake up earlier than planned, you can involve them in your workout by asking them to count reps as you do various exercises so they can be part of the fun. Involving the kids in your training near bedtime is also a strategic approach to getting your fitness in and ensuring your sleep quality is improved, as you know they will be ready for bed afterwards. This is also a great way to keep training creative and fun.
8. Take any chance to weight train
It might feel like there is little or no time to fit in a weight training session when you have a family to care for, so take advantage of any situation to lift some weights and use a bit of muscle. On trips to the supermarket, carry your shopping in a basket instead of pushing a trolley to strengthen your core and upper body. When you go for a walk or jog outdoors, take a backpack and add in some heavier items to make it that little bit more challenging – you can also use ankle weights, which are sure to increase the burn as you move.
9. Vary your training
It can take time and discipline to improve your strength; therefore, incorporating strength training into your workout routine from an early stage is key. Start with what feels right for you and your lifestyle and dial it up later, varying your training as you go. A good guideline is to work at either high or low intensity; for example, with your aerobic conditioning, either do high-intensity interval training or stick to low-key aerobic work to help with recovery. As you get fitter, you need to cycle sessions of higher intensity or volume into your training programme to maintain a training effect.
10. Embrace simplicity
When you have children at home, it’s not the time for an elaborate training programme – instead, stick to the foundations: squat, bend, push, pull and core. Add a variation of each of these fundamental movements into your fitness routine to reap the benefits.
So, there you go – some top tips to make parenting and exercise an easier balance in your daily life. Just make sure to take things at your own pace, do not push yourself too hard and, ultimately, find a fitness routine that you enjoy and is suitable for your fitness level.
About the author
This article was provided by Steven Virtue, fitness content and programming manager at Total Fitness.