Millennial Dads Need To Get Back in Shape For Themselves and Their Kids

I’ve mentioned in my other posts that I’m a millennial. And I’m actually a millennial that is closer to Gen X than Gen Z. In other words, I’m old(er). Like 30+ old.  And I’ve started noticing subtle ways which my body is showing it’s age.

When I was fresh out of college I could put down 6-8 pints of post-work beers and be home in time to get 4-5 hours of sleep. I’d be back in the office completely fresh the next day. Now, 3-4 pints is enough to give me a hangover.

pint-of-beer-on-wooden-surface

I used to be able to finish an entire pizza by myself and I’d just burn off all those extra calories without changing my weekly workout routine. Now, if I eat two slices, my moobs will start to feel a bit heavier.

And I used to have endless amounts of energy. So much so that I was up for anything and everything on any given weekend or weeknight. Those days are gone.  Now replaced by the urge to lay down on my couch and recharge after a 12 hour work day.

Can we just stop aging? Please?

This decline in overall stamina and health made me slightly alarmed in isolation but it was especially worrying when I consider that I have a child on the way. One that’s going to be a rampaging ball of energy 24/7. I’ll need to be able to keep up!

I didn’t want to be the dad that plops down on the couch after work to watch TV and eat potato chips. First, I’d be wasting valuable bonding and play time my kids. Second, what kind of example would I be setting?

I decided I needed to get back in shape. We may never be the same as when we were 20 years old but there are a few things I’ve tried over the past 2 years that have really increased my energy levels and strengthened my body. In other words – slow down aging. All children deserve energetic parents that won’t get worn down and are always up for helping them explore and learn.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please consult with your medical professional before embarking on a new exercise regimen. What worked for me might not necessarily work for you.

1. Diet

Watch what you eat but more importantly when you eat it

There are a lot of diet and nutrition fads taking over right now. Turn on Netflix and you’ll see a section dedicated to diets. Keto, Vegan, Mediterranean, Paleo. The list goes on and I can already feel your eyes glazing over. How do you sort through the gimmicks and get to the stuff that actually works?

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Watching WHAT you eat is difficult. Everybody loves delicious food so it’s hard to say no to a burger or bowl of pasta. There’s only so much will power you can exercise. Everyone’s prone to slip-ups and sliding back into old habits. Paying attention to WHEN you eat is much easier to stick with in the long run. Cue intermittent fasting (IF).

Tons of resources are available from qualified doctors that speak about the benefits of IF. My personal favorite is Dr. Jason Fung. Lower blood insulin and sugar levels, reduced inflammation, increased heart health, and lower blood pressure are just some of the researched benefits. While I haven’t done the research myself, I can share noticeable changes for me since I’ve started IF more than 1 year ago.

My body fat percentage has dropped significantly and is now into the more aesthetic <20% range. As a result, my overall weight has come down and my BMI sits at a more respectable <23. My blood pressure, which was previously a whopping 140/90 has now come down to around 110/70 consistently. These results shouldn’t all be attributed to me adopting IF but I do believe it played a major role.

And now for the best part: it’s extremely easy to implement!

Easiest method of Intermittent Fasting

There are many forms of IF but I’ve found the simplest one for me to adopt is the 16/8 plan which is 16 hours of fasting followed by an 8 hour eating window everyday.  No counting calories or restricting what you eat. You can eat whatever you want during your 8 hour eating window.

wooden-hourglass-wrapped-in-metal-wire

The best schedule for me was an eating window from noon to 8pm. This way I didn’t need to worry about breakfast and I had a bigger appetite for lunch. Lunch is a more delicious meal than breakfast anyway. Sandwiches vs. oatmeal. Rice box vs. cereal. Clear winner any day. At the end of the day, after your eating window is over, make sure you don’t do any late night snacking after 8pm.

2. Exercise

Everybody hates cardio but it’s kind of important

I’ve never been a runner. In fact I hate all forms of cardiovascular exercise.

One day at the office someone decided to pass around their iPhone with a heart rate monitoring app on it. Finance is a competitive industry and it’s filled with competitive personalities. We each wanted to see who is or isn’t healthy. And then secretly make fun of those who aren’t.

electrocardiogram-monitor-display

Everybody took turns measuring their resting heart rates (RHR) and it got loud and heated. People laughed and people cheered. A bit of a slow day at work I guess. Anyway, it was then that I realized just how out of shape I was. How did my chubbier and older colleagues have a lower RHR than me? Was I really this out of shape? I thought IF had solved all my problems.

How unhealthy I was now had a number on it. The mirror doesn’t tell the full picture I guess. After a bit of research I realized my resting heart rate was actually quite poor based on the table below. Sitting somewhere in the “Average” to “Below Average” category for my age group. I didn’t want to be “Below Average” at anything. I needed to fix this.

resting-heart-rate-chart

As a competitive person, lowering my RHR felt like my new life purpose and I was laser focused on it. Unfortunately, running (and other aerobic exercise) are probably the best and most efficient ways to get my heart rate to a goal of under 60 bpm.

Maybe some of you are already fitness freaks and have an RHR of below 40. This section isn’t meant for you. This is for your everyman. Your dadbod sporting millennial. Nobody’s saying you need to go out and run a marathon. Just gradually build up from whatever baseline you’re at. Try to finish a 5k run (regardless of pace) if that’s currently a challenge for you. You can then either add 0.5km on your next run or try it a bit faster next time. Build up those miles slowly to avoid injury. Rest when your body tells you to.

Cross train with some tennis or swimming

Don’t underestimate the value of cross training. Add some basketball or tennis to your weekly routine. Go for a swim every other weekend. This will break up the monotony of running and will combine to play a role in improving your cardiovascular health.

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I still don’t like running. But I can proudly say I don’t hate the idea of maybe trying to run a 10K in the future. But more importantly, my heart is healthier now and my RHR is below 60.

3. Sleep

Develop a night time route and get 7+ hours of sleep per night

Remember in college when you’d marathon an entire season of The Wire in one night. “String, look at me, where’s Wallace man?!”. Great show.

Before you knew it, it’d be 4am in the morning. It didn’t matter back then because you’d just skip morning lectures and maybe sleep in until 2pm. Well we’re adults now and things don’t work like that anymore.  You’d probably get fired from your job if you showed up after lunch.

My goal every night is to get at least 7 hours of sleep. But here’s the key: I want to wake up BEFORE my alarm. If you can get your body adjusted to waking up 20-30 minutes before your alarm, then you my friend, have hit the jackpot. We all know the feeling of being startled awake by your alarm music. You grow to hate that little song on your iPhone. You end up sleepwalking your way through your morning routine and rush out the door in a foul mood. So fix all that by just going to sleep early. Don’t sit there at 12am watching YouTube videos when you know your time would be better used sleeping.

tired-man-looking-at-laptop-in-bed

Cleaning up your sleep routine and keeping it consistent is essential in maintaining steady energy levels and a healthy lifestyle. And It’s better to have good sleep habits now before they get all messed up by a crying baby every 2-3 hours.

How you wake up and how rested you feel sets the tone for the rest of the day

4. Hydration

Drink water throughout the day and in large volumes 

This one’s quite simple. Keep a 500ml / 17oz water bottle at your desk at work and aim to fill it and drink it 6x per day. I use this S’well Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle. Twice in the morning, once during lunch, and three times before you head home. When you get home drink another glass of water with dinner. That’s it.  Shout out to r/hydrohomies for hilarious content and shining a light on an important habit.

water-coming-from-a-tap-black-and-white-hydration

Drinking lots of water clears up your skin, stops bad breath, promotes healthier joints, prevents kidney damage, and flushes body waste. You’ll definitely see the last one in action with how many times you go to the bathroom. Best of all, with all this water intake, you won’t have any room for sugary sodas or juices ever again. 

5. Flexibility

Foam roll and stretch regularly

This final one helps with those little aches and pains that old guys get. Stiff neck, lower back ache, sore knees etc. I personally suffer from a tight lower back that also affects my upper back, shoulders and neck.

woman-stretching-hamstring-in-nature-fitness

I always ignored the stretching and cool down phase of exercise but as I age I have realized how important it is. Stretch out your hamstrings, calves, and quads post cardio. Once you get home at night, take 5-10 minutes and foam roll your upper back, hamstrings, and thighs. Or anywhere else that hurts. This video is a great guide. Finally, use a lacrosse ball to target any muscle knots. Try this video as a guide. This will go a long way in preventing injury and pain.

Again, please consult with your doctor, physiotherapist, chiropractor or whoever to make sure you’re not doing any harm to yourself. Foam rolling is not very strenuous and has worked well for me but may not work for everyone.

In summary…

  • Try intermittent fasting!
  • Don’t forget cardio. Nobody’s going to care that you bench 315 if you get winded carrying your baby up a flight of stairs
  • Get enough sleep and try to wake up before your alarm. The first few hours of the day will be less of a grumpy blur
  • Drink lots of water regularly
  • Stretch after your cardio. Target any sore areas with foam rolling and lacrosse ball self massage

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