I’m 42 years old and I’m in pretty good shape for a man my age. That’s no accident, by the way. Now before you roll your eyes at me, this month I’m talking to all the parents reading this.
I got to thinking about what I was training for. My primary occupation a stay-at-home Dad to my very energetic 21/2 year-old. I also maintain the house while taking clients in my studio.
I thought about the concept of “parent fitness” and what it means to be a healthy, fit and strong parent. What does a parent need in an exercise programme for it to be effective, time-efficient and above all, flexible?
We all know how the hours in the day can disappear. Sometimes looking after our physical health comes secondary to everyone else’s needs.
After much thought I came to the conclusion that as parents we do a lot of lifting things, usually children up off of the ground. We grip things with our hands and often carry objects at chest and shoulder height. We’re strength and endurance athletes with supportive and strong cardiovascular systems.
Having a healthy heart ensures we’ll live longer enough to be handing the grandchildren back to our grown-up kids. The best way to do this is with 2-3 cardiovascular-focused workouts each week. We strengthen our hearts to make them more efficient, so it can pump nutrients and hormones around our body and keep our joints functioning into older age.
For cardiovascular health we need to get our heart rate up with moderate to high intensity movement, which needs to be only for a few minutes a day. If you’ve been a runner but no more, your body will remember how to run. Just don’t push it on your first run.
I love my cross-trainer for my cardiovascular fitness. It’s low impact on my joints, challenges me with higher loading on the resistance and can push my heart rate up to near my maximum.
A rower can achieve the same effect, being low impact exercise, and there’s high intensity interval training for the more advanced parental exerciser.
In terms of strength, as parents we do a lot of lifting and carrying. So we should be training with those in mind.
The dead-lift is a must for parents. It’s all about lifting the heavy things off of the ground, which is usually our kids. But think of doing the things you currently do every day, such as carrying the groceries, the kids sports equipment and even the kids.
The dead-lift, like the squat and the lunge, work our biggest muscles; our butts and our legs.
For upper body strength, the bench press and the row are where I start. The bench press is the best basic movement for exercising the chest, and the arms and shoulders. The row works the upper and lower muscles of the back while also working the arms.
A way to be time-efficient in the gym is to super-set your bench press with a row. One to four sets of these movements will achieve the kinds of overloading you’ll be looking for in a short amount of time on the gym floor.
Happy exercising, everyone.