By Jon Finkel
A few generations ago, men routinely became fathers in their early to mid-20s (on purpose). This meant that, by age 35, the average guy may already have had a teenage son, and that just at the moment when his body started showing signs of aging (slight aches, longer recovery after a basketball game, full-day hangovers), the heavy lifting with the children was almost done. This left your typical man in the middle of the last century with little to do physically after age 40 but take care of his own body (and back then, that meant smoking a carton of Marlboro Reds a week).
Cut to today, when couples are delaying having kids until later and later, and what do you have? A generation of men burping babies in bodies better suited for coaching Babe Ruth Prep. Biologically, chasing toddlers and chasing fly balls is a young man’s game, not something nature intended men in their late 30s and early 40s to do. At an age when many athletes retire from their sports (see: Barry Sanders, 31, or Rocky Marciano, 32), men today are just starting to think about having kids.
It’s the perfect storm for poor health: more responsibility and stress, less time to exercise, easier access and desire for crappy foods, the instinctual impulse to put the well being of your child and wife above your own, and so on. This leaves us with millions of men having kids at the tail end of their physical peak, putting on hold the one thing that will keep them feeling younger for longer — a healthy lifestyle.
In order to avoid packing on the paternal pounds, you need a blueprint to maximize your minutes during the craziest time of your life. Here’s a start:
1) Open Your Mind
Trying to squeeze in a block of time to exercise on a day-to-day basis for the first half-year of your baby’s life will just turn into a stress-inducing mess. Each day will be an exercise in futility, leaving you feeling rushed, annoyed and frustrated. With the right plan and the right mindset, you can eliminate this from happening. How can you do that? Your first order of business is to realize that your standard model for working out (dedicating a solid half hour, hour or more a day to hit the gym or play sports) isn’t the only way, or even the best way, to stay in shape. In fact, this regimented style is a result of our modern workweek and society. Humans didn’t evolve to exercise one hour of the day and then sit on our asses the other 23. For 98% of our history, we were on our feet, out and about, all day, every day, until we went to bed. Keep this in mind as you read the next few strategies.
2) Burn Calories, Not Minutes
Unless you’ve had an efficiency expert follow you around, you have no idea how many calories you burn throughout the day. Since time is of the essence when you’re a new dad, you’re going to have to learn to fit your workout around your daily activities. No more leaning against the counter while something is in the microwave. No more staring at your oddly patterned chest hair while you’re waiting for the water to heat up in the shower. If you can’t block out the half hour or more you used to spend at the gym four or five times a week, those moments we just mentioned need to be maximized. Do 20 body squats while the frozen breast milk is warming up. Try and do 50 pushups before the water gets hot in the shower. You literally waste dozens of minutes a day that can be used to crank out a quick 30-second or one-minute workout. If you take advantage of those minutes every day, you’ll be amazed at how much exercise you can squeeze in without changing your schedule one bit.
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