Congratulations, your wife has officially pushed an alien the size of a watermelon through a space the size of a keyhole. This now makes you a dad. And it now means that all that free time you once had is devoted to ensuring this little nugget doesn’t break.
That means less time battling pre-pubescent teens in Call of Duty online. Oh and you can forget about that time you once spent … um, browsing your favorite … um, websites.
You’ll need the extra time for diaper changes.
Oh, and while we’re at it: this serves as a friendly reminder to regularly clear out your history and Internet cache before wifey notices your favorite hot spots, because your new Internet searches are devoted to looking up how to stop a baby from crying for no reason (hint: there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to this).
Yep, all that time spent with this new little bundle of joy means that a lot of your freedoms are simply tossed out the window. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Speaking of having no time for anything; ain’t nobody got time for sleep. Those eight nightly hours of deep, wonderful, mind-blowing restful appointments with your bed are a thing of the past. It’s an interrupted event of fits and starts and diapers and feedings and crying (both you and the baby).
The journey into parenthood takes its toll. And as a result, the reality of the situation is that as soon as the baby arrives, the dedication to things like working out and eating right make a quick departure. We spend more time caring for the newborn than we do caring for ourselves.
Suddenly those healthy meals turn into fast food. Your best intentions for that piece of fruit with a protein shake turn into survival of the (not-so) fittest and you end up indulging in the candy instead. Friends and family offer to cook or bring treats that don’t match your carb cycling plan. Between the feedings at 11pm, 2am and 6am, you no longer have time to head to the gym for leg day, instead it’s back to another hit of caffeine to make it through the next few sleepless hours. Stress. Exhaustion. Sleep deprivation. It’s all part of the game within the first few weeks of your child’s birth.
And it shows in the waistline, too.
Studies show that first-time dads experience instant weight gain to the tune of an almost three percent increase in Body Mass Index (or BMI). Where do you think that stupid DadBod trend came from, anyway?
But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. With some small tweaks to our approach to fitness, we can actually adapt, minimize the damages and avoid the dreaded increase belly fat. In some cases, we may even finish ahead of the game. The goal is to view your fitness the way you need to approach your new normal for sleep habits (or lack of sleep habits, AMIRITE). Let me explain.
As you are certainly well-aware, sleep changes with the birth of a child. And as the experts suggest, the key to victory is resting when the newborn rests. This could mean grabbing an hour here and sneaking in 20 more minutes there. In terms of fitness, we need to have a similar goal in mind: it doesn’t have to a marathon sesh of hardcore weights followed by a date with your treadmill for some cardio. Instead, we are going to focus on getting in our fitness throughout the course of the day.
Let’s work smarter, not harder. And to do so, we’re going to borrow from one of the legendary masters of strength. In his book, Power to the People!: Russian Strength Training Secrets for Every American, author and Russian Strength Coach Pavel Tsatsouline introduced the idea of Greasing the Groove (GtG). This approach will be your new normal.
The concept of GtG is for strength protocols that focus on consistency. By performing the same movement with great form, we enhance neuromuscular pathways and improve efficiency. Better efficiency from your muscles results in increased strength. In other words, perfect practice makes perfect, in this case.
We’re going to steal this principle and adapt it for your fitness gainz (note: your level of improvement instantly increases exponentially when you apply the “z” to the end of the world “gain”). If it works for Russian dudes as buff as Vladimir Putin, it can work for us dads trying to prevent some bulge, right?
Since introducing this concept, bros and meatheads everywhere have been able to apply the method to improving performance. Need to increase your capacity for push-ups in a single set? Rather than working on your push-up game only once per day during your normal gym session (like 50) – usually working to absolute failure in hopes of knocking out one more rep than yesterday – spend several times per day cranking out a more doable round of the movement (like 20 reps per set, multiple times per day).
We’ll be taking the Every Hour on the Hour (EHOH) approach. EHOH means setting a clock for 60 minutes of every waking hour and cranking out a set of pushups or squats or burpees or a collection of all of the above.
For the dudes not getting nearly enough paternity time and have to juggle newborn life along with everyday work life? There’s no excuse for you, either. Get up and get moving at your desk or in your office or even crank out some squats in the bathroom or on your break. Every little bit will help.
Let’s say you can knock out 60 total push-ups in one solid standard workout session (3 sets of 20 reps). Well with the EHOH approach to GtG, we set a goal of 10-15 push-ups every 60 minutes. If you are awake for a total of 16 hours through the day, you are looking at a total of 160 to as many as 240 in a day.
- Baby needs a late-night bottle feed? Awesome. While the bottle warms up to the appropriate temperature, drop down and knock out 30 air squats.
- Finally got the baby to sleep after 30 minutes of non-stop crying? Terrific. Reward yourself with 10 burpees.
- Mommy getting her breastfeeding on while you are just chilling? Super. Now it’s time to crank out 20 pushups.
Putting it all together
Select 2-3 exercises that you want to practice and can perform with excellent form – We’re picking bodyweight-only movements here as they require zero equipment. Choose from exercises like:
- Air Squats
- Pull-ups (obviously need some sort of pull-up bar installed in your home)
Upon waking up, set a clock for 60 minutes. Once the timer goes off … time to go to work. Pick a goal that is manageable. We aren’t trying to break Olympic records here. But, we do want to get at least a decent pump. So, if you can normally crank out 50 pushups in one sitting, aim for a goal of 10-20 pushups EHOH.
That’s it. Short. Sweet. And to the point. And unless you’re unbelievably out-of-shape, you shouldn’t even really break a sweat doing this stuff. But, it will prime the body and muscles for continued stimulus while you are getting through those first few days and weeks of sleeplessness.
[Related: Take your fitness to the next level and download our FREE Guide to Fatherhood includes 30 days of workouts you can perform ANYWHERE … all you need is a little room to move and your own bodyweight]
While the intensity of the EHOH exercise approach is not at a top level here, the volume is still high. And the key here is that you are only spending 5-10 minutes at a time performing your workout, rather than taking up 90 minutes for your regularly-scheduled gym-going affair.
This actually carries some fat loss principles, too. As Tim Ferriss points out in his bestseller The 4 Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat Loss, Incredible Sex and Becoming Superhuman, exercising 60-90 minutes after each meal can “bring glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT-4) to the surface of muscle cells, opening more gates for the calories to flow into” – therefore more transfer to muscle, rather than storage as fat. Ferries encourages this approach to minimize the damages caused during a cheat day of gluttony.
We aren’t condoning cheat days. At least not right now. In fact, eating as healthy as possible should be the key as that will help boost energy levels and provide more efficient sleep – whenever you can actually get sleep, of course. But, you can hopefully begin to see that just because you aren’t spending 90 minutes in the gym, you don’t have to sacrifice your entire fitness journey. You just need to make some adjustments.
We are looking for efficiency here, whatever we can do to maintain and in some cases, even stay ahead of the game. Yes, I’d prefer you find the time to knock out a nice gym sweat sesh by picking up heavy stuff and then putting it down. And if you have time for a trip to the gym, by all means, knock yourself out. But sometimes, that’s really just not all that feasible. Especially in the opening stages of the parenthood act.
However we have to get away from this notion that once baby arrives, we should stop taking care of ourselves to devote every ounce of energy to the baby. This is a recipe for failure. We must take care of ourselves, if we can’t even do that … how the hell should we be expected to figure out how to raise a little rugrat?
What methods did you use to stay in shape during the first few weeks of fatherhood? Did you manage to make it to the gym? Or did you try an approach similar to Greasing the Groove? Join the conversation and comment below.
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