10 Fitness Dad Tips to Stay Strong Through Chaos

I hear a lot from new dads, and sometimes moms, who are afraid to lose their hold on health and fitness. They know taking care of yourself is one of the best ways to take care of others. And they want to be role models as their kids grow, too. But they are up against the wall.

Honestly, the struggles of new parents are the same most everyone has: there’s only so much time.

Parents just might feel this more intensely, because the change in perception of time is so dramatic. 

Before my first daughter was born, I took full advantage. I packed these years with life experience and a deep love for my profession in fitness. I had time to train daily for the CrossFit Games – and recover too! How many hours did I spend in front of the TV in a couch stretch, not knowing I was luxuriating in time?

It shocked my system when suddenly a dependent, loud, insistent human life landed in my hands. I had to reprioritize – fast.

My clients without kids experience this too, but it may come on more slowly. Gradually as we get older, we pack our lives with more responsibility. Until you retire, if you’re lucky enough to do so, you too may feel constricted by time.

Have you ever looked back and thought:

  • “What did I do with all my free time?”
  • “How did I become so sedentary, when I used to move my body so much more?”
  • “I feel like I give, give, and give some more. When’s the last time I had a minute for myself?”
  • “I used to get away with a few drinks or late TV – now I really suffer.”

I may have only been a dad for 6 years now. But I deeply know what it takes to try to hang onto health and fitness through massive stresses and changes.

So today, I’ll be your Internet Fitness Dad. Here are my 10 tips to put time back into your hands and use it for a better you. (It will help everyone around you, too.)

Here's How I Stay Fit Through Chaotic Times:

1. have a why - before the how or what

You want to stay in shape and keep up your nutrition and fitness. But why? Things are going to get tough. A purpose gets you over the speed bumps.

Connect this purpose, if possible, to the source of stress in your life. Think about how prioritizing your health and fitness will make you a better dad, a better coworker, or a better leader in your respective groups.

2. remember you still matter

After my second daughter was born, life got exponentially more complicated. I was desperate to have something that was my own to escape from the day-to-day stresses. I picked up Mountain Biking at the end of 2019, shortly before we got hit with the pandemic. Mountain biking was my saving grace for those 18 hard months.

Set goals for yourself. The days of striving to be better are not behind you. In many ways, they have just begun. But you need a North Star and something to point your energy at.

3. Take Time Management Seriously

Plan your day in advance and do your best to stick to the schedule. Of course life will throw curveballs at you. Kids will disrupt your nights, but if you plan out your most important tasks the day before, you have a fighting chance of accomplishing them.

Own your MORNING – In my opinion, this is a new dad’s golden hour. This is where you can find time to set the tone for a healthy day ahead. Discipline here pays off. You won’t want to get up early when you had 5 wake ups in the middle of the night. But it’s worth it.

  • Start with just setting your alarm for 30 minutes before you need to get up with the kids or before your day would normally start. Over time you can stretch that to 60 minutes or even 90 minutes.
  • This will allow you to carve out a few peaceful minutes when you can gather your thoughts and set your day in the right direction. You do some simple mobility over a nice cup of coffee or…..
  • Kickstart your day with movement. Knock out your workout at home before everyone else is up, or take a brisk 30mins walk. This can completely change your day.

4. Remove Barriers to Fitness

What stands in the way of you getting in some quality movement? Don’t let the gym or health club being too far out of the way be an excuse. Bring fitness into the home.

  • Get a cardio tool set up. A stationary bike, an old used treadmill, or even an assortment of light-weight, medium-weight, and heavy jump ropes can make cardio and easy thing to tap into. You can use this in the early morning or you can grab a cardio session while the baby naps or sits there drooling on themselves in a rocking chair.

Related Reading

FBB Guide to Home Workouts
  • You need some weights at home. Or even a way to do more bodyweight movements than just push-ups and squats. Invest in simple weights like kettlebells or dumbbells. Buy yourself a squat rack with a barbell and plates. Or invest in a pull-up bar/dip station combo. 30mins of weights in the early morning after your walk and you will feel like a hero.

5. Take Workout PLanning Off Your Plate

You’ve set the schedule, carved out movement time, and reduced the barriers to fitness. Take it one step further and commit to following a workout program like Persist.

  • Rather than trying program workouts for yourself, and do all the fitness thinking, you are much better off leaving that to the hands of the pros.
  • Find your non-negotiable frequency of training. Commit to that at a minimum (ie – 2x per week or 3x per week)
  • Then follow the program to the letter to minimize decision-making fatigue. Avoid wasting tremendous amounts of time trying to figure out what to do when you feel  like crap from sleepless nights and extra stress.

6. Track your Steps

Sedentary lifestyle creep is REAL. I see it happen all the time to parents or when people move or start new jobs. It can start slow or happen fast. But tracking your steps with a watch, phone, or pedometer will be your accountability partner in this fight.

  • Start Active Commuting: If possible, walk to work, or get a bike and cycle to work
  • Stop Short and Walk: If you do drive, stop a few blocks short. Walk your kids to the door for drop-off, holding their hands. Or walk the last little leg to work.
  • Ditch the stroller: wear your baby in a carrier, or backpack, or go old-fashioned and carry a kid on your shoulders.
  • If your kids are moving, then you should too: I see so many parents just sitting around while the kids are playing on the playground or doing activities.
  • Playground Workouts: Use the playground’s equipment for pull-ups, dips, and step-ups while your child plays.
  • Convince other parents to take a walk with you while you talk at your kid’s practices and activities

7. Be Boring with Your Food

Time is precious. So preparing a 3-course meal with complicated recipes is NOT in the cards. Make your food choices boring. Prioritize food as fuel rather than entertainment for now.

Adopt the 5 Ingredient Meal fix. Simple put 5 simple ingredients on your plate, or less, and win the nutrition game

    1. Protein – pick a lean protein
    2. Veggie – one vegetable you like
    3. Fruit – get a variety of fruits that don’t require lots of cutting or prep
    4. Carb – stack some additional carbs from rice, potato, oatmeal, or your favorite sourdough
    5. Fat – add a touch healthy fat like avocado, olive oil, or butter if your protein was SUPER LEAN

BONUS TIP – Front Load Protein – make sure your first meal of the day has at least 40-50 grams of protein.

8. Meal Prep 1-2x Per Week

If you are adopting a boring food lifestyle, then it makes meal-prepping that much easier.

  • Spend Sundays preparing 2-3 bulk servings of protein (chicken, ground beef, hard boiled eggs), 1-2 bulk servings of carbs (rice and overnight oatmeal), and chopping up portions of veggies you can add to the plate easily (carrots, snap peas, celery sticks)

  • Shop for zero prep High Protein Snacks for the pantry and fridge – Low Fat Greek Yogurt, Canned Fish, Low Sugar Meat Sticks, Baked Pork Rinds Check my free Fridge Like Filly guide for ideas!

  • Have plenty of Fresh Fruit out on the counter – Apples, Bananas, Pears

9. Limit the uppers and downers

Your brain and body aren’t going to feel right every day. Tired and overwhelmed? You’ll want to reach for something to pick you up when you are down and to down-regulate when you are too up.

  • Reduce Caffeine: Too much caffeine will heighten stress. This is a parenting slippery slope. You start cranking the caffeine to make up for those disrupted nights. But you are just borrowing from today and you will pay for it tomorrow. It is a vicious cycle, so try to limit intake or at the very least be mindful not to let it ramp up out of control.

  • Swap out the Booze: Too many parents start to normalize drinking nightly as a way to calm down and connect with their partners after the kids go down. Or maybe it becomes part of the evening routine with the kids awake. Either way, it is so detrimental to and has carryover the compounds days and weeks down the line. NORMALIZE being a parent that limits their alcohol intake.

10. Prioritize your mental health

Many of the above tips are here to keep your mental health in check. Setting goals, defining your purpose, moving more, eating well, and limiting caffeine and alcohol can all set you up for better mental health. But in addition to this I suggest practicing a couple more things.

  • Mindfulness: Develop a practice of being present and in the moment for some defined period of every day. This can be while you are feeding, bathing, or playing with your baby. Without kids, touch grass or go outside in bare feet once a day. Put your phone away, limit distractions, and just connect to how wonderful this moment is, despite all the challenges that swirl around your life now.

  • Talk to Someone: Share your worries and achievements with your partner, friends, or a trained mental health professional. Dads will stereotypically keep their feelings, worries, and thoughts to themselves. Break out of this mold and find a trusted person or people to talk to.

Try Persist free to take workout planning off your plate.

Try a Quick Workout

Workout Lead Mag
Which one?

Great choice! Where should we send it?

Streamlined strength and conditioning - but make it fun!