I could feel the anxiety kick in as soon as the notification popped up on my phone. May was supposed to be the month I took a break. I’d just finished running 92 miles in April, so I wanted to give my body a rest. I’d convinced myself that 40 to 50 miles was all I had to give for the next month.
Then, unexpectedly, my Nike running app let me know I’d been invited to a challenge for May — 75 miles.
My running journey dates back to around 2013. I started in part because many of my friends ran and would post their miles on social media. I guess in some ways it was a case of FOMO. But what began as something to do for “fun” has developed over the years into a lifestyle, albeit a love-hate one. And since I’ve become a dad, it’s become a fitness routine that I’ve committed myself to.
As fathers, we not only owe it to our kids to be our best version, we owe it to ourselves. And believe me, I get it. It’s tough. Practicing healthy habits while parenting, working, spending time with your spouse or significant other can be challenging. However, becoming fathers doesn’t eliminate the responsibility we have to take care of our bodies. The question I often ask myself is, “How can I be the best version for others when I’m not investing in myself?” What good are we to our families if we’re not doing what we can to ensure we’ll be around to enjoy the fruits of our labor?
For all that’s required of us as fathers, being available is at the top of the list. That’s why my primary motivation for trying to be healthy is my son. He will turn 3 in November, which means he’s on 100 from the moment he wakes up in the morning until it’s time to go back to bed at night. Nonstop. As someone who’s approaching 40, I have to work extra hard to ensure I can at least keep up with him as he gets older. No, I don’t have the final say on what happens in my life, but at the very least I can do my part.
It’s discouraging to see my dad and other older men, particularly those of color, popping pills every day and doing so accepting that it’s the norm. For many men of color, diet and exercise was not a priority in their lives as young men, and they are paying for it in their advanced age, or not even making it there at all. In recent months, DMX and Black Rob, both star hip hop artists of my youth, have passed away around the age of 50. With the knowledge and resources now accessible at our fingertips, we have no excuse but to live life more abundantly. That includes better health, both mental and physical.
To be clear, I’m not a fitness guru by any means. I’m just doing what I can to stay active and keep the juices flowing. And I encourage all fathers to do the same. We all have to find something that works for us. For me, it’s running. For others, it’s weightlifting or the Peloton or intramural sports.
While the dad bod is a running joke of sorts, it’s not funny when it starts to impact our livelihood. We have to do all we can to avoid that, whenever and however. I’ll start by trying to get these 75 miles in. Even if I don’t really want to.