Dear New Father,
Well done: You now have a baby of your own, and that means you now possess a love that knows no bounds, not to mention a vulnerability that knows no depth.
It also means you’re about to get fat.
OK, maybe not fat. But according to The New York Times, the average dad weighs 10 pounds more than the average non-dad. (In other words: #dadbod is real.)
It’s understandable. Your time is now at a premium. When you’re not taking care of your baby, you’ll be working, taking care of your partner or, on rare occasions, enjoying a little down time (that you will have to schedule weeks in advance). You will not, perhaps, be hitting the gym. Or if you are, you’ll be laser-focused when you’re there, making the most of these precious minutes. (Which reminds me: Setting a schedule with your partner, even if it’s an informal one, goes a long way toward preserving your health, your sanity and your relationship. It will also help you give each other permission to have a little me time, which is a critical part of self-care during these stressful months.)
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You could, in fact, work out with your baby or toddler. Sure, it won’t replace an hour at the gym, but it’s more effective than sitting on the couch and watching “Daniel Tiger.” (Your kid will love it, too.) Here, a few suggestions for daddy-baby tricks for staying fit.
1. BABY KETTLEBELL
Can your baby hold up his or her own head? If so, congratulations! You now have a free, roughly 15-pound kettlebell at your disposal. (And by free, I mean free except for the cost of food, diapers, clothes, a crib and other things associated with keeping your offspring alive.) Anything you can do with a kettlebell (or a medicine ball), you can do with your baby — squats, shelf reaches and so on. Maybe just go easy on the swings, OK?
2. BABY YOGA
Working out with baby doesn’t have to mean staying at home. Many fitness centers and yoga studios offer classes designed for parents and their young children. (To be fair, a lot of these are exclusively for new moms, so be sure to check before you go.) As you already know, yoga’s benefits include greater muscle strength and endurance, flexibility and cardio-respiratory fitness (at least, according to the experts at Harvard). Equally important for a new dad: It can reduce stress and anxiety. Just remember, you’ll still be watching your baby, so don’t plan on an extended period of self-focus and meditation. Calibrate your expectations accordingly.
3. PLAYGROUND WORKOUTS
You’ve heard of the prison workout — those exercises, like pushups, that you could literally do while incarcerated. Well, turns out a playground is another great place to do that sort of thing. Those monkey bars? Perfect for chin-ups. Lifting your kid up to the monkey bars? Not that different from the exercises in idea 1 (above). Just don’t forget your primary purpose for being there: Playing with your kid. Pro tip: You can also put your baby down for tummy time at home, and get in a few pushups, planks, mountain climbers, etc.
4. THROW A DANCE PARTY
You know that Evolution of Man chart, where the crawling chimp evolves into the walking man? Your kid follows a similar path for mobility, but the chart omits the critical next stage: Dancing. Before your kid can cut a rug (and especially after), you can put on some upbeat tunes — Spotify playlists are great for this, by the way — and dance until one or both of you is exhausted. Work your upper body by lifting your kid and spinning him or her around. You’ll look like Patrick Swayze in “Dirty Dancing” in no time. (OK, maybe not, but you will have a lot of fun.)
5. CARSEAT BICEP CURLS
Call it Newton’s First Law of Baby Physics: Babies in motion tend to stay at rest. In other words, when your baby is in his or her car seat, and that car seat is in motion, your baby tends to be pretty happy/sleepy. Normally, this requires you to actually put your baby in the car and drive somewhere — a surefire nap-inducer — but you can also try a few curl reps with the car seat when your baby needs calming down. (Bonus: The exercise will lower your stress levels, too. Never a bad thing for a new dad.)
One more thing …
RE: RUNNING WITH YOUR STROLLER
Don’t get me wrong: I’m sure this is a great way for new dads to get a run in while also keeping the baby occupied and giving your partner a break at home. But whenever I see a dad doing this, I feel a little sad. To me, it looks like the worst of both worlds: You’re never gonna get a great run while trying to steer a stroller, and you’re not gonna bond with your kid this way, either. (Maybe he or she sleeps while you jog. Maybe.) If you need to get your steps in, try going for a walk instead. Your baby will likely doze off, but if not, he or she will look up at you as only a baby can, and you’ll be babbling and talking in no time. Tell her about the weather. Tell him how you and your partner met. Narrate the walk. And remember: They won’t be this small forever. Time is precious. It doesn’t hurt to slow down.