Growing up, exercise was always part of my routine. I played sports and did martial arts—and just felt my best when I was active. I’ve dealt with depression for pretty much my entire life and exercise helped me cope. When I didn’t move my body, I just didn’t feel as good.
As a result, I stuck to a pretty consistent routine through school, then work, and then married life. For me, it was never about getting jacked or looking a certain way; I just wanted to be my best, both physically and mentally. So, five or six days a week, I’d go to the gym, work out in my garage, or run to the park to do sprints and pullups. I wasn’t always motivated to do it, but discipline kept me going—and I’ve never regretted a workout.
When I became a father, things changed. Falling off the bandwagon wasn’t an option for me, so in order to get some movement in, I had to be flexible about my routine. I was teaching high school during the day, college at night, and spending my time at home changing, burping, and losing sleep. Some days, I got to work a little early or stayed late so I could exercise—even if it was just for 20 minutes. I tried not to think about how tired or busy I was, I just did it before I could waste time or talk myself out of it.
Though lifting weights helps me work off my stress the most, I mixed up my workouts to match whatever I could (and wanted to) do on those busy, busy days. As long as I moved, I considered it a win. Mapping out a specific schedule would have just set me up to feel like a failure. Again, flexibility was really the secret sauce.
What also really kept me going: Around that same time, I watched my own parents begin to deteriorate—and promised myself that I’d stay healthy for my children. I wanted to be able to keep up with them well into their adult lives and didn’t want to ultimately have to rely on them like my parents had to rely on me. Sure, I needed to be healthy enough to work and provide for my family—but I also needed exercise as an outlet in order to be the best dad and husband possible. Now, being strong inside and out was about so much more than me.
Leading By Example
As my kids have gotten older, I’ve tried to lead by example. I want them to see that, sure, I enjoy a few slices of pizza on Friday nights, but that I also take care of myself, that being healthy makes me feel good—and that they can have all the same things for years to come, too.
Of course, we go out for ice cream and watch movies, but I’m proud to see my kids now interested in eating well and spending their free time playing outside.
If there’s any advice I’d share with other dads or fathers-to-be out there, it’s to find some sort of movement you really enjoy. Whether you go for a run or a bike ride, do yoga, or just jump rope in your basement, whatever gets you moving on a daily basis is all you really need. Even if you can only do 10 minutes here and there throughout the day, it all counts.
My other advice: Even if adding a workout to your day seems like just another stressor, I can say from experience that having a way to work off your own stress and frustrations will truly improve your relationship with your kids and your partner. Kids can push you to your limits sometimes, so having a healthy outlet is good not only for you, but for your entire family. Give it a try for a week or two and I’m sure you’ll notice the difference for yourself.