5 Ways I’m Staying Fit as a Dad—With My Kids in Tow

We all know the quintessential image of a toddler riding on dad’s back as he pretends to be a horse or some other beast of burden, the kind of charming vision we dads always have for our lives. It goes without saying, but the bigger they get, the harder it physically becomes to be that dad with a growing child on their back. Watch any three episodes of Bluey, and you’re bound to see relatable parenting from Bluey’s dad, Bandit, as he gleefully endures what amounts to physical torture just to entertain his pups. Everybody is blissfully happy about this arrangement. But it’s not so easy in real life.

Staying active is an important part of any adult’s life, even more so for fathers who aspire to stay active with their kids through young adulthood so they can eventually entertain grandkids. The average age of new fathers in America, however, has risen from 27.4 to 30.9 between 1972 and 2015, and we’re only getting older. Yet once we become a father, maintaining and actually using a gym membership becomes increasingly more difficult and impractical.

I’ve seen my father, a grandfather to four girls, pick up the 8-year-old eldest and carry her like a baby just because she saw her sister and cousins get the same treatment. My father’s back has never been the same, but ever since I was a child, he has modeled this kind of behavior: A paternal figure who never shied away from physical activity, no matter how tiresome. 

There are lots of convincing reasons to exercise. Virtually all forms of exercise boost your cortisol levels (improving metabolism) and release endorphins (making you happier to oversimplify it). Despite a longing to lounge on the couch with comfort food, it’s better for the whole family’s health to go for athletic shoes rather than slippers. So as we model our habits for our children, staying active independently and together is hugely important. 

Here’s how I’m staying fit as a dad while modeling the value of physical activity for my children.

1. Bike Rides

For years, casual bike riding was one of my favorite ways to exercise, so one of my only contributions to building our baby registry was a children’s seat that could attach to my bicycle just above the rear wheel. I somewhat randomly selected the Bell COCOON 300 Child Bicycle Carrier, and while the assembly was a pain, my daughter and I have enjoyed countless bike rides. 

“Since she already loves playing outside so much, it’s easy to convince her to go on a bike ride or walk with me because all I have to do is ask,” one fellow dad and bike rider told me.

Whether it’s a bike trailer or an attachable seat, taking your child on bike rides is a great way to instill a sense of adventure and thrill in them. Particularly when you contextualize it as exercise for dad and describe that as something desirable, they’re likely to model that behavior and want to ride their own bike when they’re old enough. You might even have a stretch of time when they ride their bike while you run instead.

Source: Corey Plante

2. Hiking 

Hiking with kids is very high in terms of overall ambition, but they have a natural curiosity for nature that may make you re-evaluate your own perspectives. Never try to go for a long hike with your child, particularly if they’re around toddler or elementary age. 

“Part of why I love hiking/camping is the peace and quiet of being out in nature, and that’s just not possible with babies/toddlers,” one dad I spoke with said, and this is a person who once did the entire Appalachian Trail. And yet, the more you persevere and try it out with short trails and babies/toddlers on your back, the more they’ll come to appreciate these activities as they age. Even if you don’t like hiking all that much, try it out and seek the shortest trails in your area. Worst case scenario, you’ll wind up collecting sticks a few meters from the parking area.

3. Yoga

While you’ll likely never fully center yourself in a place of zen trying to do yoga with a toddler, it can make for a fun and very silly bit of exercise if you roll with it. Balance will not be their strong suit until they’re much older, but they may surprise you with their commitment to simple poses like Downward Facing Dog and their flexibility. (My daughter, who’s 2 and a half, is particularly fond of three-legged dog and attempting headstands.)

My wife, a certified yoga instructor, taught an after-school class to middle schoolers who spent much of every lesson giggling at each other. But as long as they are still doing the movements, they are still getting exercise. It’s a different vibe from an all-adult class, to be sure, but try folding your child into your yoga practice, even on a limited basis, for a few minutes in the morning. 

staying fit as a dad
Source: Corey Plante

4. Trampoline Parks

By the time your child is a toddler, jumping will move up very high on their priority list. Our apartment has a small trampoline with a handle, and several of our family members have large outdoor trampolines in their yards. They will be positively delighted if you also buy yourself a ticket when you go to a trampoline park and strap on those jumping socks. Many parents sit back and observe from afar. But it can enrich the relationship and the activity that much more if you take the plunge—directly into a pit of foam blocks.

5. Make Chores Not a Chore

Many chores, whether minor DIY construction projects or yard work, count as physical activity. Even cleaning fits the bill. There’s no shortage of age-appropriate chores kids can lend a hand to. “Toy” brooms, shovels, and tools are available aplenty, and if you make it a habit early enough, your child will always be eager to “help” you do whatever it is that you are doing. Coincidently, chores foster kids’ independence, too.

Even something as mundane as carrying groceries in can be a fun activity. Give them a single banana with the task of getting it up the stairs and into the kitchen while you lug several bags. Figure out minor ways that they can help in all sorts of everyday physical activities. They won’t always like the activity, but their natural curiosity usually means they want to understand and participate in whatever it is that you are doing.

“I just keep an open mind that they don’t always enjoy it, which happens a fair amount,” one fellow dad told me. “When that happens, I see what I can do to help them get started on what they want to do instead or just let them do their own thing.” 

the everydad logo


Corey Plante, Contributing Writer

Corey is a writer, editor, and reporter with over 10 years of experience. He also has two young daughters contributing to his rich personal journey as a part-time stay-at-home dad and working father.

Source link: https://theeverymom.com/staying-fit-as-a-dad/ by Katherine Ballesta-Rosen at theeverymom.com