Fit Mums & Dads – where to start

I’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth repeating – walking, start with walking.

It’s free and can help you get to places you need to get to anyway.

10,000 steps is a good target to start with. This seems like a big number, and it is, but it’s very doable. It’s about 1hr 15mins a day. I’ve found that 5 mins each way home-station and 20 mins station-work is about 8000, it doesn’t take much to bump it up. There are some ideas here.

This alone will start to make a difference. Firstly your amount of exercise  will go up – result! And , secondly it forces you to think about your activity levels, plan for it, make time for it – this is how we make space for more in the future.

Making this the first good habit you build sets a great foundation. It’s good for you and, if you’re walking instead of travelling by car, then so are your children and it’s good for them too.

Fit Mums & Dads – a call to arms

I don’t know about you but charts like this scare the crap out of me.

I love to exercise, and a lot of the things I like are purely personal, but fostering good habits in my children is my no1 motivation for doing it. These figures are terrifying and we parents are at the front line in making a change. Society will not protect our children for us.

We can blame the food industry, computer games or any number of other external factors, but we create the food and culture in our families. We control our children’s education and attitude. And we set the examples which they will follow (on a good day at least).

This is where the fitness industry becomes less helpful. We do not need ‘6 weeks to bigger gunz or Lopez buns’. Were’s the lesson in that? We need to make small, sustainable changes that can be built upon.

How far you take this is up to you and your situation. The level and intensity of activity is your choice, no one expects anyone to turn into an Arnie-at-his prime (especially the Mums!). However, inactivity can no longer be an option – we must do enough to inspire good habits in our children.

The chart will not change itself, clearly the steps our governments and the people that make and sell the food we eat are not being effective. So it is up to us, the parents, the people with the greatest interest in having healthy children to make the line point downwards.

We’re all adults, we know how much is really enough exercise and we also know what foods are actually just shit.

If we think it’s important, then let’s change it. I’ve seen in various posts and comments that plenty of people set health resolutions at the start of the year. How are they going?

If you’re struggling for motivation then think of you children. If you can’t do it for you, then do it to set a good example for them.

2014 – the year I could no longer escape the fact I am a grown up

That may seem like a weird thing to say as at the start of or the year I was already a dad to two, married for five and in a relationship for ten.

Then in February we had Freddy who is awesome, even though he seems to hate sleep (sorry buddy, you are getting evicted into your own room very soon).

So now I’m a Dad to three children. Three! That’s more than I have hands! And I’m supposed to teach them about a world I’m not sure I understand myself.

The doubting demon in the back of my mind says “How can you do this, you’re not even a proper grown up”. Now, as much as that demon can be quite convincing, I’m starting to think he’s wrong. I mean, none of them have ever been hurt too seriously in my care, they’re fed pretty well and happy most of the time – so maybe I am a proper grown up?

Then there’s work, which went nuts half way through the year when three out of our team of six left in the same month. Suddenly I’m stepping up to do work that was previously done be people way above my pay grade. Don’t get me wrong, career wise this is great and I’m so much happier with my job now than the one I was doing at the start of the year. The weird thing is now new people have joined the team suddenly I’m the one they come to with questions and for advice. They’re expecting me to make decisions for crying out loud!

Along comes the doubting demon again “Andy, what if they find out you’re faking it, don’t really know what you are doing and aren’t even a proper grown up?” But then I start talking and people nod like it makes sense, they go do what I said and it works.

It makes me wonder. I might not feel like a grown up, or even behave like one, but I seem to be OK at some of the ‘grown up stuff’. Maybe, just maybe, the doubting demon is wrong and would be best to shut the fuck up?

So there you go. 2014, the year Andy grew up (aged 34). But not totally, I still like Thundercats and stuff like that, I’m just a bit more grown up than in 2013.

Does any of this sound familiar? Are you a non-grown up doing grown up stuff fearing the day you get exposed as a fraud?

First day watching all three kiddies – he survives!

This Sunday was the first day I watched all three children on my own. Although mildly terrified on the run up it was actually completely fine. Here’s what I discovered:

Get out early, and stay out
I knew this anyway – hanging around in the house = bored monkeys, and bored monkeys = riding brother like a donkey, poking sister in the face etc etc etc.

So we were on the 9:30 train to soft play, shops, GBK, play park – anything but hang around in the house. The added bonus was that just after lunch they all did this, at the same time!

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Do whatever you need to to keep the happiness levels up
Those photos say it all. That’s Five and Nearly-3 in the double buggy and Really-Quite-Chunky-For-10-Months in the sling. The back ache was preferable to herding the older ones under their own steam.

I could hear Dear Wifey saying “What’s the point of all that exercise if you can’t carry all three children when they have a chronic case of ‘tired leggies'”. And she would have had a point.

Share the load
I’m not sure if this is cheating, or invalidates everything I’m saying, but Five had a birthday party in the afternoon. At which point looking after two children felt like a holiday.

And a bonus fourth point: Dear Wifey does an amazing job
I also knew this anyway. While I’m patting myself on the back she does this every single day. I now have a fuller appreciation of why she falls asleep on the sofa at 8:30.

Finding the time

I was never a particularly sporty or active child. My get fit journey is a relatively new thing, born out of wanting to be able to inspire my own children to be more active than I was and to be fit enough to join in.

One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that, although as parents we have an awful lot going on, time doesn’t need to be the thing that stops you getting in shape.

Here are three things I’ve discovered by doing the opposite and failing horribly.

Exercise doesn’t have to be time consuming, costly or complicated.
If all you have is 15 minutes then that is fine. Is it ideal, no. But if it is more than you did yesterday, and you make those minutes count, then you are well on your way.

You probably spend time doing things you don’t really need to that you could spend on your health instead.
Quick pop quiz:
Do you watch TOWIE, Made in Chelsea or Geordie Shore
Do you watch Strictly, X Factor or I’m a celebrity
Do you watch any soaps

If you answer yes to any of these, you can make the time. In five years time will you give a shit about who won this year’s X Factor? Will you even remember their name? Probably not. You could even do some exercise in front of the tele if it really means that much – try alternating sets of push ups and squats in every as break.

Work out what kind of time you can free up and plan around that
Can you free up lots of little bits of time or a couple of big chunks? I’m a little and often man personally. I have about 45mins most days between the children going to bed and dinner so that’s the time I use. You might be the opposite. The point is to fit exercise around the time you have, not try to get to a class you’ll never make because of ‘life’.

This isn’t just an exercise thing. This year we had our third child and my wife managed to write a book at the same time. This amazes me as some days I feel like I’ve barely got enough time to breath. She did it by sacrificing a couple of hours sleep most nights – she would get up at 4 or 5am after F’s last feed and write. This is pretty extreme but she did it because the book was that important to her, more important than the sleep. The result is the book is now published (get it here!).

My point here is, if a breastfeeding mum of three can give up hours of sleep for something that matters to her, you can find a chunk of time here and there to do some exercise.

How about you? Do you feel like you can fit it all in? Any tips for others that struggle?

Have you bought Reneé’s book yet? Why not! Do it, do it do it 😉

Linking up
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Papa_Tont

Becoming a healthy inspiration – building a home gym

I wrote a few weeks ago about sneaking extra walking into your day as a way to get fitter. I think it’s a great way to start but eventually you will run out of extra steps you can feasibly add to your day.

To carry on making progress you will need to find another way to add a little more exercise each day. I think the simplest way to do this is to create a micro gym at home. It does not need to be complicated or expensive, the equipment you actually need to get started is minimal. You can have a very worthwhile and useful home gym with only these items:

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That round thing is a kettlebell. You don’t actually need one those, just something heavy to press, row, squat and swing. To be honest a dumbbell set would probably be better, it’s just kettlebells are all I have so that’s what I took a picture of. The other bit if kit is a doorway pull up bar for hanging off and pull ups. Add push ups and you’re set.

The total investment will be around £50. That’s less than a month’s gym membership with the bonus that it’s always open and no one else sweats on the equipment.

That’s it, no more is needed for now. Use these in a sensible way a few times a week and good things will happen. Make it hard enough to count but easy enough to be able come back another day. Consistency will give you way more than beating yourself into the ground. This is an investment in your health, an easy workout done 3-4 times a week for years will pay far bigger dividends than a monster one that you can’t sustain beyond week one.

How about you, do you have any tips for busy parents wanting to keep in shape? How do you for exercise into your day?

Dad Creek

The Dadly work challenge

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Ours is like I imagine most houses – the start and the end are the noisiest, most stressful parts of the day. But those are usually the only bits I get with my whole family during the week, so I cherish them nonetheless. Currently my work is taking more from me than I would like and cutting into both of those times, especially the end of the day.

Career-wise it is great and all the stuff I do at work is ultimately for my wife, girls and boy. My desk is covered in pictures of all five of them and their smiling faces help me through what, at work, we would describe as “challenges”.

It’s a bizarre exchange we make as dads. So often an increase in our ability to provide for the people we love the most takes us further away from them.

I’m not particularly comfortable with it but feel there is no immediate alternative. We already live pretty frugally (or at least middle-ish class frugal) so to simply reduce my hours would leave us without enough money to pay the bills. To switch roles with my wife doesn’t make economic sense and means the children lose time with Mum instead of time with Dad.

So we make a sacrifice to pay for things the children barely notice (but are essential – food, clothes etc), and they pay for it by missing something they want and need – time with a parent.

The real challenge is to make the very best of the time we do get, which I do by making sure each of them gets some focused time each day, even if only for a few minutes. You can tell they want more, and I know I want more too.

Obviously this isn’t just a working Dad thing, but an issue for any working parent. What do you think? Any thoughts or experiences you can share? I know there are some stay at home Dad’s in the blogosphere, it would be really interesting to hear your view.

Linking up
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Family Friday