How Can Dads Stay Fit and Avoid “Dad Bod”?
When Brandon Swan – who has competed at the CrossFit Games three times – became a father in 2019, his daily life took on a whole new look.
- “Not only did I become a dad, but I became a full time stay at home parent,” said the Brisbane, Australia resident who is now training to become a firefighter. “My wife was a school principal, and I was training full-time so out of the two of us, it made sense for me to stay home. We converted our garage into a gym and I started training whenever I had time, which I quickly learned wouldn’t be very often and mostly at times that weren’t ideal.”
Swan quickly found out being a dad was a full-time gig in itself, and that he was either training really early in the morning, late at night or while his son was napping. He was also loading regular work and errands onto his schedule and found that pretty soon, he was burning the candle at both ends.
It was here when Swan started sharing some of his experiences on Instagram, using the hashtag #dadhours. “It turned out a lot of other people found motivation and resonated with it also,” he said.
The idea gathered more steam when he realized his partner was in a similar position and tailoring their workouts around their busy schedules was paramount.
- “What I also noticed was that my wife was coming home from a massive day at work each day, often exhausted and unmotivated, but still wanting to train and keep herself fit, whilst balancing being a mum.”
Swan said the goal was to be as efficient as possible, knowing seconds counted.
- “Each day’s challenge was thinking about how I could both maximize the short windows of time I had in the gym, and how I could create basic, yet challenging workouts that were not only appropriate for me, but appropriate for my wife too. Where we found the most success was in simplicity. Lots of machines, dumbbell workouts and basic bodyweight movements that we could get moving on quickly without too much movement prep or warm up.”
Swan didn’t stop there however, and decided to launch Dad Hours, an online program that helps people like him and his wife who don’t necessarily have the time to trek to the gym or the box everyday due to demanding schedules.
- “It’s purpose it to teach parents how to maximize their training time, even if that is only 15-20 minutes per day, to allow them to A) carve out some important time for themselves each day and B) get back to their busy lives feeling fulfilled and ready to take on whatever they day throws at them.”
Numerous studies have shown that fitness levels amongst adults drop dramatically after having children. The main reasons are time, exhaustion and inability to find alternative things for their children to do while they are working out. The Center for Disease Control recommends adults of all ages get at least 150 minutes of vigorous exercise a week, minimum. They also recommend breaking up periods of sitting at a desk (at work or home) with light exercise such as walking or stretching.
Swan said he fully understands why some parents let their own wellness slide after giving birth.
- “My main belief at least from my experience is that life doesn’t just change a little bit when you become a parent, the change is monumental. For me at least, I went from being a full time athlete, with all the time in the world to train, spending four to six hours a day in the gym and recovery to being a full time stay at home dad navigating all of the challenges of being a new parent, and with only a fraction of the training time I was accustomed to.
Parenting is also a massive mental mindset shift, he added.
- “On top of this, you become so engrossed in caring for another human being that your own self care takes a backseat.”
However Swan said his paradigm shift happened when he realized he could not go back to his previous life, and thus had to make the best of his new situation.
- “Accepting where my life was at and deciding to take the time I had, even if it was only 10 minutes, and maximizing it with purpose and intention each day really helped me adjust my mindset. Once I did this, I looked back and to be honest I feel just as fit and strong as I did when I was training four to six hours a day.”
Of course, he is a fan of the “Dad Bod” look, however said there is nothing wrong with it having some muscle to it.
- “The reason we chose to do this is because we want Dads, and parents in general, to embrace this stage of life fully and wear it as a badge of honor. There is a long held belief that once you have kids, life is over and you should just accept the fact that your best days are behind you. Our goal is to show people that life is just getting started.”