The physical challenges of parenting
Fatherhood is not just knackering due to lack of sleep it also brings with it new physical challenges. If you have ever struggled to carry a car seat and your bags of shopping into the house you know what I am talking about. Maybe you are on the floor holding a baby and a bottle and need to stand up. If it has a been a while since you had to get up off the floor without your hands it can be tricky.
These following exercises are great for preparing for the physical tasks that fatherhood might present to you.
Loaded carries aka just carrying stuff
One coach I have followed online for a few years is Coach Dan John. He is a great advocate of loaded carries. I have toyed about with them in the past but now I am trying to implement them a lot more into my exercise practice sessions. In a world of specialized equipment and hi-tech exercise machinery it almost seems like just carrying heavy shit goes under the radar.
Babies are not notoriously heavy but sometimes carrying a lightweight in one position is tiring after a certain amount of time has passed. With my number 1 son, he would cry everytime I sat down or tried to put him to sleep. So although light sometimes I would hold him for a long time standing up and it did become a bit of a stamina test.
Toddlers are much heavier than babies. The other week I went to the park for a walk with the family. Walks are great for my number 1 son who is now 2 and a bit years old. They give him a huge dollop of fresh air, some vitamin D and more importantly help wipe him out so he sleeps soundly. He did great for the first half of the walk. I say walk but he likes to run everywhere. Once we were far away from our car he decided that was the time for him to be tired. He refused to walk and held his arms up for me to carry him. Annoyingly the walk back was uphill.
Carrying a 15+kg weight uphill for 20 mins is hard for me but easier than it would be if I did not do any loaded carries. Many situations with kids involve carrying shit. Car seats, prams, shopping and changing bags all have to be carried to and from everywhere.
Simply put, loaded carries are just carrying heavy things for time or distance. There are so many different variations. Waiters walks, farmers walks, suitcase carries, bearhugs and more. Here is a link to a Dan John article on loaded carries.
I am sure there will be plenty of ideas for loaded carries on youtube to check out too. You can do them with weights, kettlebells, sandbags etc. Personally, I do them with kettlebells as I have some knocking about. I don’t have much room or a garden at the moment so I tend to do some marching in a figure of 8 around my living room with some light weights as a warm up or just step up and down a step. They are great for tying the body together, posture, strength, the grip and the core.
Turkish get-ups and just getting up and down
I am a big fan of Turkish get-ups but really this category is more about just any movements where you get up and down from the floor a lot with or without weights. Fatherhood has really increased my time on the floor from not that much to being on the floor all the time. We play with the toddler on the floor, change nappies on a mat on the floor and dump the newborn on the floor so he can have the freedom to work on his rolling skills.
Being able to get up and down from the floor easily with no hands, one hand free or both hands-free is pretty useful with two young kids about. I actually love learning new ways to get from the floor to standing now. Delving into Dan John’s work again here is a link to a series he calls get back ups . He puts you in a series of different starting positions and you have to ‘get back up.’ Pretty good for a warm up or if you need to move your body.
Another of the online fitness ‘experts’ I follow is Tim Anderson of Original Strength. I will mention him again in the next section but here is a little video of his where he plays about with getting down and getting back up from the floor.
Crawling and floor based movements
This group of exercises I will call floor work. 40 year old me with a slight belly is a bit removed from the 20 year old gymnast doing a floor routine but I have definitely benefited from playing about on the floor a lot more. As I said above a lot of my time is spent on the floor playing with my kids or changing nappies and some of the exercises from Tim Andersons youtube channel are worth checking out.
There are some similar but different systems such as Movnat, Ground Force Method, Animal Flow and primal this and that but Original Strength appeals to me as a more everyman’s version for the average person and Tim puts out lots of great free content on youtube and social media.
Different sitting positions, rolling, transitions and crawling have all benefited me in the time I have spent on the floor with my sons. I have loved the period of crawling and rocking with my son on my back and now he’s a bit older we toy about with getting from lying down to a standing position with him on my back.
While my kids learn to move like adults I am learning to move like a kid
Without wanting to sound like I am affiliated with Original Strength which I am not I absolutely love the things I have learned. A lot of the moves are actually based on the movements a baby uses to learn to move and ultimately walk. It is pretty liberating as an oldish dude to reclaim some of my mobility and movements back after having back trouble for years and sticking to cliche gym exercises that left me looking alright but feeling like shit.
When you play about with these movements it makes you aware of how amazing your kids are. How effortlessly they sometimes flow from position to position and how mobile they are naturally before we enforce them to sit in chairs, sofas and desks for hours at a time.
My kids teach me so much about movement which might be something that I would not have noticed if it wasn’t for checking out some of these movement and mobility exercises.
Not just dad preparation but long-term resilience
I think all the above exercises are perfect for getting ready for the physical challenges fatherhood might pose and will keep me in good enough nick. Aside from that, they also seem ideal for preparing for the next phase of my life and keeping my body sprightly and resilient. Things like general strength, grip strength, balance and ability to get up and down off the floor are good indicators of longevity in people.
These are not the only exercise I do but I definitely think these are keepers and worth sprinkling in warm-ups, work-outs, finishers and any time of the day where the body needs to move. These movements seem to give a lot of bang to the buck in terms of real-life mobility and strength and although they might not make me necessarily look better in a t-shirt they will help me move more freely. This is important to me as my kids do not seem to stay still (even the one who is yet to crawl) and I want to be able to play and move with them throughout their childhoods.