As parents, and for the purposes of this article, fathers, we spend a lot of our time doing things for others. Whether it be pickups, drop offs, playdates, music classes, sports classes, diaper changes, shopping, cooking or something else on the never-ending to do list, there are few things that we do each day for ourselves. But are you being fair to yourself? Sounds selfish, but what if that something could make us better at all of those daily tasks? That something is exercise.
No else can exercise for you. No one else can lift a weight. No one else can get on the treadmill. No one else can attend a group fitness class for you. Exercise is something that only you can do for you. You can’t ask someone to do you a favor and workout for you. You can╒t delegate exercise to someone else. The benefits of exercise have been well documented. Most studies I have read, relate to on the job performance, but it isn’t hard to transfer that over to parenting. And for those of us for whom daddy duty is a full time job, our daily performance is all the more important. People who exercise are more productive each day. They accomplish more, more efficiently. They are more alert and able to make better, clearer decisions, with improved multi-tasking skills. Show me a dad who doesn’t try to multi-task to get everything done.
Then when the work is “done”, you will have more energy for the fun stuff, like playing games and rolling on the floor with your kids. The bonus is you get sick less. Making it easier to sail through the day with an on time arrival record rivaling the best airlines. This means extra days with your kids and being able to give them 100% at every moment. Healthy check ups beat out sick visits any day. This all rounds out to say that by exercising, you will be setting a healthy example for your kids. Our kids see my wife and I coming back from the gym several days a week. They see the extra energy and smiles it brings out when we come through the door. Does that mean that they are asking to join the gym? No. But they know, from that and our conversations, that its good to run around and be active. They look forward to getting outside and getting their own exercise. As we all know they will have plenty of time to sit when they are older. For now they can enjoy all the playgrounds, fields, and gymnastics studios that New York City provides.
The biggest excuse I hear about not exercising is, I don’t have time. My advice is think small at first. You can get a great workout done in 20 minutes. For some reason, people have this idea that if you don’t have one-hour everyday to workout, then why bother. Yes, fitness classes and personal training sessions can last up to an hour, but that doesn’t mean that every workout has to last one hour. Set aside 20 minutes a few days a week for fitness. Exercise is contagious. Some days you may have the opportunity and motivation to stay an extra 20-30 minutes. Other days you might dread the entire 20 minutes. (But you’ll feel better when you’re done.) More importantly, if you can go on a consistent basis, you will see change. If you need help figuring out what to do for 20 minutes, there are people who can create a program for you. Just be consistent.
“Parenting can be frustrating at times,” says Lance Somerfeld. I believe that exercise makes me a better father. That may not be true for everyone, but it is for me. Some days I can get in 45 minutes, and on others only 15-20, but I am in a better frame of mind having done some exercise instead of nothing. It is the one thing I enjoy doing for myself each day that has so many benefits for my family. I gotta run. Literally. Enjoy your workout!