2017 is here and the internet is awash with recommendations for creating a newer, fitter, healthier you.
That’s all well and good but many of them aren’t aimed at time-poor Dads. Which sucks for us.
Luckily, I’ve synthesised some of the best insights I’ve seen so far this year and thrown in some of my own best health hacks to create a pocket-sized toolbox of easy-to-implement tricks.
1. Overhaul Breakfast
This was a game-changer for me.
Stripping out my beloved Turkish toast took a week of horrible cold-turkey but then it was like a switch was flipped.
Insert something full of protein and fat (or healthy, useful, carbs if you must) or simply fast through until 11 or 12 and you’re halfway to embarking on some intermittent fasting that has all manner of weight-loss benefits.
Turns out once you get through the first week or so (and remember, we’re undoing some long-forged habits here) it’s surprisingly easy to stick to.
2. 50 Push Ups A Day & 50 Burpees Once Per Week
The humble push-up is an upper-body compound exercise that should be a daily event for anyone without access to a gym of equipment.
Shoulders, chest, triceps, core…they all get a look-in.
50 a day gives you at least 1400 a month. Break them up how you need to, drop to your knees if required but DO NOT skimp on form.
Better to drop to the knees than develop shonky muscle memory from half-asses cheater reps.
That mean chest to ground (or a fist’s worth off the ground), elbows to 90 degrees and fully locked elbows at the top.
Mine would currently look like sets of 28-15-7.
For the burpees, set your timer and accept you’re going to be in the hurt cave for up to 10 minutes if you’re a newbie.
That’s fine. Keep moving, keep breathing and set a target that you’ll be able to chase next time.
If you’re trained, this is around 3 minutes (or maybe even less) but it will leave you hating life for that time and probably a minute or so afterwards.
3. Quit The Grog
It’s really easy to start the day with the best intentions.
And then 5pm hits and you’re Jones-ing for a wine or a beer. Or Jerry from marketing asks you to join him at the boozer.
Or your neighbour pops round with a bottle. Of single malt.
Depending on how advanced your pecadiloes are I suggest start reducing rather than striving for complete abstinence.
I’m also a complete failure in this area so take my “guidance” with a pinch of salt (which I prefer around the rim of a tequila glass).
But introducing a set number of booze-free days per week might be a good way to start. Or not drinking at home, only when you’re out to dinner or socially.
All I know is I’ve never woken up feeling worse for not drinking.
4. Sprint Once Per Week
I swear if every Dad who wants to lose between one and ten kilos did this once a week, our little segment of the obesity epidemic would be on the way to being eradicated.
If it’s over 10 kilos you need to lose then balls-to-the-wall sprinting probably isn’t your jam right now.
But it’s all relative. Moving at an uncomfortable pace for 30-50 metres, resting for about the same period as you ran for, and then repeating it 8-10 times will turn you into a fat burning machine – I don’t care who you are.
Problem is: a) you need space to sprint and b) you might be worried about looking like a bellend whilst doing it.
Forget about b) and justify a) by telling yourself or your missus that it’s only half an hour, including getting to the park, warming up and doing your sprints.
5. Get Upside Down
Hang upside down by your ankles using gravity boots. Works wonders for unfurling and easing out any jinxes in your spine.
In the absence of gravity boots, hang by your hands for 30 seconds, drop to the floor and do it again.
6. Do 1 Yoga Class Per Week
It doesn’t have to be yoga. Could be pilates. Or gymnastics. Or “movement”, which is all the rage right now.
Conor McGregor has a “movement” coach, a chap named Ido Portal who can do stuff that makes you wince yet is ridiculously cool.
Any kind of remedial class that gets you away from clanging barbells around and starts to remedy some of the damage that being sat at a desk all day can cause is a surefire winner yet is one of the hardest to stick to.
Probably because it can sometimes feel like it’s a waste of an exercise hour because you don’t get a massive pump or testosterone boost.
Let me tell you: I did a weekly pilates class for about a year whilst rehabbing from a Crossfit-related shoulder injury. Not only did the shoulder clear up but it was the hardest session I did each week, inclusive of Crossfit and bootcamp.
7. Sign Up For An Endurance Event
I’ve surveyed a lot of Dads over the past year and common themes repeat themselves…erm…repeatedly.
A lack of time and motivation come up as key culprits in health and weight issues experienced by so many Dads.
That makes perfect sense to me. As someone who previously had those things in abundance it was a constant struggle to balance them with life once #superfitkid came along.
And if you have nothing in the diary to aim for, it can be even harder.
So if you have a goal in mind you want to tick off this year but are perhaps umm-ing-and-argh-ing about, something like a 10k run or a half marathon or a Tough Mudder, my advice is this: enter the race now. Today. This minute.
Personal experience tells me that nothing gets you out of the door and training like the thought of embarrassing yourself in front of friends or family by not achieving your objective.
That’s not to say you will even complete your task, but you’ll give yourself the best possible chance and you’ll enjoy all the health-related benefits of training for it.
8. Chin Up Challenge
Pull-ups and chin-ups are an easily accessible upper body workout that you can do at home with a doorway bar or at any gym or outdoor gym.
Pull-ups (palms facing away from you) hammer your lats and shoulders whilst chin-ups (palms facing you) bring your biceps into play a bit more but still predominantly hit the lats.
Your lats stabilise your entire shoulder girdle and help to keep your upper back upright.
Set yourself a target number of chin-ups you want to perform before the month is out and work at it as often as possible.
The beauty of this exercise is that you can build from a low base pretty quickly.
Start with singles if you’re an absolute beginner or even jumping pull-ups where you lower yourself down really slowly (this is called the eccentric phase of the movement and contributes the most to strength gains).
A simple work is to do 5 sets of max effort chins / pull-ups. As fatigue kicks in your numbers will drop pretty hard.
Mine currently looks like: 12-8-5-4-4 for a total of 33
Another solid little session is to do a set number every minute for 5 or 10 minutes. I try to do 5 a minute for 10 minutes which gives me a really solid workout. I mix my grips up so it might look something like: pull-up – chin-up – wide-grip pull-up – kipping pull-up – chin-up for 5 reps each performed once or twice, depending on time and how tired I am.
A word of advice: chin-ups are hard. Really hard. That’s why you see guys at the gym doing hectic back workouts with heavy weights BUT not doing chin-ups.
Because they can bang out reps doing base-pulley rows and lat pull-downs or whatever the hell else they’re doing but they (often) can’t do 10 unbroken strict pull-ups.
So there’s no shame in doing clusters of 2 or 3 reps as you build up your pull-up strength.
And don’t be tempted to try advanced kipping or butterfly-kipping pull-ups until you can do at least 10 strict dead-hang reps. I ruined my shoulder for 6 months doing this. Hurt like hell.
9. Carb Free Dinner
Cut out carbs at dinner. Just have meat (chicken or steak on the bbq or chicken baked with veggies in a single roasting tray) and vegetables.
The carbs (often) take longer to cook and don’t really add much in terms of flavour and taste. Unless it’s pasta and, if you want to shift those kilos, then you’re probably going to have to dial that in for a while.
If it’s an itch you need to scratch have your pasta at lunchtime.
That’s a wrap, guys.
Hopefully there was something in here you’re able to implement immediately. I’m happy sharing these because they’ve worked for me in the past and I continue to use them or revisit as necessary.
I’d love to hear your stories and if there are any other doozies I need to get down with.