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.

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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.

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

Becoming a healthy inspiration – taking baby steps

Convenience is one of the most important things in making exercise a sustainable part of a parent’s life.

The are a million and three exercise regimes out there that all say they are the best for reasons x, y & z. They might be right, but if it doesn’t fit into your life then it’s worthless.

There’s a phrase out there – the best workout out is the one you actually do. The point is that the details are far less important than consistency. As a parent, to be consistent we need to easily fit it into our already busy days.

So how can you do that? Firstly get away from the idea that special equipment or people are necessary to get healthy. This idea is a barrier to getting started. All we really need to do is move more today than we did yesterday.

By starting small and adding a bit at a time we can build little health habits that are much easier to maintain. One of the simplest ways to add more movement to your day is extra walking:

  • Take the stairs at work instead of the lift. If going all the way to your floor is too much, start with how ever many floors you can and add a floor each week. The most is important thing is to walk the stairs first then get the lift, you are far more likely to keep it up that way.
  • If you take public transport for a small part of your commute, walk it instead. It’ll probably be quicker than the time you would have spent queueing, pushing and having armpits in your face.
  • On non-work days, if you can walk it in under 30, then walk it. This is the hardest one. Let’s face it, transporting children, their associated ‘stuff’, shopping etc on foot is not easy, but that’s also kind of the point. You get exercise pushing, carrying etc, they get to walk, run and scoot. It’s good for everyone.

None of this is particularly innovative. The main point is to take a journey you would have made while sitting/standing in one place and walk it instead.

It takes a while but eventually you will build a habit of walking instead instead of the lift, bus or car. I started taking the stairs at work a few years ago and it took about two weeks before I went to the stairs without thinking.

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How about you? Any other ideas of how to sneak easy extra movement into busy parent’s day?

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#FitFamilyFriday

What do I mean by healthy inspiration?

It’s been a couple of weeks since I brought this blog back to life and I figured it would be worth explaining exactly what I mean by the “healthy inspiration” in this site’s tagline.

If you had stumbled across this blog a few years ago* then you could be forgiven in thinking I only cared about the physical side of health, which is actually very far from the truth. That is part of the reason I’ve started writing again, to change the content of my little bit of internet from fitness bore to a better, more well rounded, view of what I actually think.

Yes, I think healthy bodies are important, but no more so than healthy minds (no less so either).

So what does that look like?

Healthy bodies:

  • To make physical exercise a welcome and enjoyed part of daily life.
  • To desire and enjoy a diet made up predominantly of real foods.**
  • To be able to recognise real foods and prepare a variety of meals made from them.

Healthy minds:

  • To have an open mind, accept and listen to ideas different from your own.
  • To take life and the challenges in it no more seriously than is strictly necessary.
  • To treat others that share this world with decency and respect.
  • To know that fueling your body with good food is important but not worth obsessing about. A life without occasional pizza and cake is a sad one.
  • Most importantly, to laugh a lot.

* A quick review of my visitor stats suggests this is highly unlikely but I thought I’d mention it anyway.
** Basically just plants and animals.

Linking up:

http://www.letstalkmommy.com/2014/10/share-with-me-wk-38/

#FitFamilyFriday

Get your goals in order – life’s for living

Thierry Sanchez has put up a great piece which is a nice antithesis to the standard new year goal setting fitness posts we are about to be inundated with.

Following a super strict hardcore food and fitness regime is not necessary for good health. Unfortunately, exercising and eating well enough to live a happy and healthy life, and using that health to spend time with people you love, isn’t a particularly sexy sell.

“I have a sustainable lifestyle and approach to training and eating. No privations, no cravings, no restrictive diets, no punishing training regimen, no expensive supplements. This is freedom!
I am never going to be super lean, super muscular, super strong, super fit, super famous. And I don’t fucking give a super shit about it, I choose to enjoy life instead, life where food tastes good, and exercise is a form of expression instead of an obsession.”

http://kettlebellfitnessdk.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/overthinking-diet-exercise/

Fitness and Health

I’ve been reading the The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing by Phil Maffetone recently. I have used his 180 formula when running since August of last year with some nice results, but had never read any of his books before. It’s a really great read and covers far more than simply training for races. He also explains how to improve health at the same time as increasing fitness, rather than compromise health in pursuit of performance.

I think this is an important point that is missed by a lot of people.

If you are competitive athlete, some trade-off between health and performance may be necessary (especially in a contact sport with a high risk of injury). But if you are a hobbiest racer, or average guy trying to get in shape, it starts to make less sense.

Why are we doing this stuff?

This is an important question to ask. If you are not competing in a sport*, then why are you doing this physical activity? The honest answers will be around some measure of health or to improve appearance. So, if that is the goal, why go about it in a way that makes your health worse rather than better?

That means not pushing super hard every run, it means lifting weights even if you just ‘do’ an endurance sport and it means adding some necessary variety to your training so you are fitter for life, rather than just the activity you have decided to pursue.

How do you know if you are healthy or not?

I think you can get a good idea using four measures:

  • BMI – it’s not perfect, but BMI will quickly tell 95% of folks if something is up.***
  • Resting heart rate – 60-70 is good, 50-60 is super-fit
  • Basic movement ability – the sit/stand test will work great for this
  • How often you get a cold (and how quickly you recover if you do catch one)

The first two are general fitness measures that can be screwed up by poor diet or stress, the third is a fitness-for-life test and the fourth one is the most simple measure of general health I can think of.

*Entering a race doesn’t mean you compete. By competing I mean fighting for a podium place or making significant improvements in performance** year on year.

**And by performance I mean race times going down, not distance ‘survived’ going up.

***Other option here are waist to height (waist less than half height), or bodyfat percentage (10-17% men, 18-24% women)