The ways fatherhood changed my approach to fitness



It’s no secret that having a baby requires a total shift in lifestyle, from the food you eat to how much exercise you can feasibly squeeze into your day. But does that mean you have to give up on self-care altogether? According to father-of-two, MATT WILLCOX, the answer is an emphatic no. You just need to get creative and seize the right opportunities.

Before having kids, I had all the time in the world for exercise. If I wanted to hit the basketball court, I could. If I fancied an early morning run, I didn’t have to worry about anything else. Cooking was also something I could enjoy on my own terms – I was able to spend as much (or as little) time as I wanted planning meals and preparing them with healthy ingredients and actual recipes. Everyone tells you your time will disappear but you never really know until it happens.

Once our first kid came along, everything changed. Suddenly my wife and I had this tiny little human that required our undivided attention. There was no time to think about the gym, or basketball or cooking elaborate meals. Everything came down to survival and convenience. Life was suddenly a one-minute-at-a-time deal and our priorities had to shift quick smart.

In the early months, all routines go out the window. I’ve never been more sleep-deprived in my life. Some parents get little angels who sleep through the night from the start, but not everyone. For us, just getting some sleep was a daily triumph. Take-away food and quick meals became our new best friends and exhaustion became the new normal.

With zero time, I needed to get creative about squeezing in exercise. Thankfully though, there are lots of incidental ways to exercise when you’ve got a kid. Right now, I have two of them — a one-year-old and a four-year-old — and they’re just getting to the stage where we can be a little bit more interactive. Entertaining them and trying to keep up with them is a great way for us to be active together.

My wife and I also find time for our own fitness routines. We do our best to coordinate schedules and free up time for each other. She does Pilates every Saturday morning while I watch the kids, and I play basketball once a week while she watches them. I try and go to the gym regularly – three times a week if I’m lucky and bedtime is smooth. If we all go to the pool, I try and squeeze in a quick workout at the gym there. That said, it’s definitely not a set time. You have to be flexible.

I’ve also got plans to teach them all the sports I love. As they get older, I want us to be able to go on long bike rides, play basketball and go on big hikes together. I see this as an opportunity to spend quality time with my family. On the exercise front, it’s a case of re-evaluating my expectations and shifting them to meet my circumstances. I wouldn’t change my situation for the world.

I’m also more inspired to exercise and focus on my health for them. I want to be in my kids’ life for as long as possible — this means making sure I stay in shape for the long-term. At 41, I’m considered an older dad, so I feel a bit more pressure to make better decisions. Plus, I want to instil in them a love of exercise and healthy living. I want them to enjoy sport, to savour healthy food and to feel good inside and out. Fitness has always been a big part of my life and now I get to pass it on. What an amazing thing!


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