6 Tips For Navigating Fatherhood & Fitness

Becoming a dad is a scary and exciting new chapter in your life. But how will it affect your training? Are you doomed to succumb to the dad-bod once you have a kid and your time belongs to them? We think not. Grab some tips from our fit dads and coaches to keep training through parenthood. They emphasize important mindset factors like knowing your family values, being flexible in your methods, making training FUN, and remembering your why – setting a good example for your kids to follow.

Lily Frei Headshot

Lily Frei

Lily is TrainHeroic’s Marketing Content Creator and a CF-L1 with an English background. She was a successful freelance marketer for the functional fitness industry until being scooped up by TrainHeroic. An uncommon combo of bookish, artsy word-nerd and lifelong athlete, Lily is passionately devoted to weightlifting, CrossFit, yoga, dance, and aerial acrobatics. Find her showcasing her artist-athlete hobbies on IG @lilylectric.

New Dads & Training

Tips for navigating fatherhood & fitness (& avoiding dad-bod syndrome)

Dads – you probably didn’t know what your new reality would look like after your superwoman baby mama popped out a bewilderingly beautiful little nugget of freshly combined genes. Maybe you thought you knew. Maybe you did your best to prepare for the new person in your life who requires 24/7 support. But suddenly, sleep and regular eating schedules are tossed out the window. That new baby is everything, and your time – including your precious barbell time – is no longer your own.

So what do you do? How do you juggle the seemingly insurmountable Everest of effective, engaged parenting while also maintaining your autonomy as an athlete?

While fanny packs, calf-height white socks, and cargo shorts might be inevitable, giving up on your personal fitness goals doesn’t have to be. The dad-bod wasn’t meant for everyone, and it is not an unstoppable force sent to slowly destroy your gains. 

Sure, you’re going to make sacrifices when a baby comes along to shake everything up. But if consistency is a part of your daily life practices (like working out regularly) all hope is not lost for your strength and conditioning. 

Here are a few trends and tips our strong dads wanted to pass along to the dads-to-be. 

(Side note: this article mostly addresses heterosexual couples, but the points can carry over to any combination of couples and even single dads.)

Tip 1: Know your family values

What do you and your partner value in life as individuals and as a couple? If you’re reading this, we’re assuming fitness is an important part of your life. Ben Crookston, TrainHeroic co-owner and father of one very handsome little dude, simplifies the concept by saying, “identify your values and align your actions.”

When you define your values as a family, you have a compass to guide your decisions and actions. You can default to your values when opposing choices come up. Do I get up an extra hour early to lift in the home gym, or sleep in knowing I won’t have time to train all day? If your values are fitness-oriented, the choice is easy.

Ben says: “Determine up front what your resource commitment (in terms of time, money, and energy) will be to honoring your fitness values. Have dates with your partner periodically to review how consistent you’re being with your commitments. If you’re failing, don’t beat yourselves up. Instead, make simple adjustments to move in the right direction of who you want to be as a family.”

Tip 2: Steal the morning

One of the most important things to leverage as a new parent is your time, because most of it goes to helping the baby grow and just survive childhood. It’s crucial to own your time wherever you can, and for many dads that means early sessions. Lots of fit dads and coaches find it easiest to knock out training first thing in the morning, before the day starts for everyone else. 

For some dads this is a mandatory adjustment, because if it doesn’t happen in the morning, it doesn’t happen. An early routine can also provide a solo respite from parenting duties – some me-time to zone in, recharge and reset your brain with physical work. 

One dad also finds it easy to use Sunday to set his calendar for the week. Taking your partner’s schedule into account, setting a calendar forces you to commit to your time up front. Otherwise it can be easy for things to get away from you. This leads into our next tip…

Tip 3: Be flexible in your methods and critical of your goals

Like most goals in life, it helps to detach yourself from a rigid idea of how you’ll get there and just focus on getting there. Keep an open mind to your methods with your eyes on the prize. For fitness goals, that can mean training at odd hours, or multitasking when necessary. 

It helps to revisit your goals as a parent. “Pick your goals like you’d pick your friends,” says one fit dad. “Living up to the expectations we set for ourselves can be hard as dads with so much additional load on our plates. Make sure your goals fit who you are today, not who you were in the years before having a kid.” If your goals are making your life as a parent impossible, it may be time to reevaluate your why behind them. 

A good place to start for your why is the idea that you want to be healthy for your kids. Maybe you adjust your training focus to maintain your more competitive lifts, or get really good at sprint sessions so you can keep up with backyard playtime. If you cut the fat on your sessions and aim to be more efficient, you can maximize your time.

Some athlete dads follow programs like Busy Dad Series or Grindstone, which offers two mandatory sessions per week and other optional sessions for busy schedules. Following a program that has sessions less than an hour can also be helpful for time management.

Tip 4: If you don’t have a home gym, consider biting the bullet

Back to the concept of maximizing your time. Reduce the friction and do whatever you can to make it as easy as possible to train. For a lot of coaches and dads, that means cutting down the distance between you and your strength sanctuary by investing in a home gym.

Having a training environment that’s easy-access and enjoyable can make or break your desire to train when you have some free time. “I continually invest in my garage gym. Every year, I end up liking the space more. While this is a pricier solution up front, it works wonders over time and the payback is powerful,” says one of our strength dads.  

Even having a simple home gym with some bands and a barbell makes it easier to get sessions in with kids around, especially on days you aren’t able to commute to the gym. It widens your options for making positive choices based on your fitness values.

Tip 5: Make it fun!

“Find a program you love that rips you out of your normal day-to-day. Something that demands all of your focus and attention. As a dad, it’s easy to settle and punch the clock, thinking that’ll be enough for you.” This might not be a major issue if you just enjoy working out in general. But even then, if your training isn’t stimulating and challenging, the tedium aspect becomes another excuse not to do it at all. 

Schedule one of your days as “fitness for fun” to work on skill-based stuff, games, or grab the baby and get outside for some active recovery. When they’re old enough to start moving, get the kids involved. Doing fitness with dad helps develop motor skills, sets an example, and expends some of their endless energy.

Tip 6: Remember your purpose

Our athlete dads often brought up the strongest motivating concept for them – an idea that resonates with parents more than anything else: showing up for your body is worth it to set an example for your kids. 

You want them to grow up to be resilient, well-rounded, and capable people. And cultivating their athletic abilities is a great place to start working on those things. Encouraging your kids to be fit and strong outside of sports, before they even start Little League, will engrain good habits for the rest of their lives. With fitness comes nutrition, sleep, and recovery habits that make a person strong and intuitive about their health.

“Our kids will follow our actions far more than our words, so our job as a dad is to set an example. There is nothing more effective in teaching your kiddo the importance of fitness than having them see you do it every day. Commit to being the dad you want to be.”

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When we say “athletes,” we’re not just talking about the pros. We’re talking about everyday athletes. Desk athletes, Mommy athletes, Artist athletes, and everything in between. To us, anyone committed to being their best. Willing to overcome. And striving to reach their potential is an Athlete.

Whatever fitness means to you, we’re here to help you Be Your Best. Think of us as your new training partner, pushing you to places you’ve never gone before. 

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