As parents, we spend a lot of our time doing things for others. Whether it be pickups, dropoffs, playdates, diaper changes or something else on the never-ending to do list, there are few things that we do each day for ourselves. But are you being fair to yourself?
Sounds selfish, but what if that something could make us better at all of those daily tasks? That something is exercise.
No one else can exercise for you. You can’t ask someone to do you a favor and workout for you. Exercise is something only you can do for you. The benefits of exercise have been well documented. Most studies I have read relate to on the job performance, but it isn’t hard to transfer that over to parenting. And for those of us for whom daddy duty is a full-time job, our daily performance is all the more important.
Fitness can improve fatherhood skills
People who exercise are more productive each day. They accomplish more, more efficiently. They are more alert and able to make better, clearer decisions with improved multi-tasking skills. Show me a dad who doesn’t try to multi-task to get everything done. Then when the work is “done,” you will have more energy for the fun stuff, like playing games and rolling on the floor with your kids. The bonus is you get sick less. This means extra days with your kids and being able to give them 100% at every moment, making it easier to sail through the day with an on-time arrival record that would make any airline or transit system envious.
By exercising, you will be setting a healthy example for your kids. Our young kids see my wife and I coming back from the gym several days a week. They see the extra energy and smiles it brings out when we come through the door. Does that mean that they are asking to join the gym? No. But they know, from that and our conversations, that it’s good to run around and be active. They look forward to getting outside and getting their own exercise. As we all know they will have plenty of time to sit when they are older. For now they can enjoy all the playgrounds, fields and gymnastics studios that New York City provides.
Even a little exercise has lots of benefits
The biggest excuse I hear for not exercising is, “I don’t have time.” My advice: Think small at first.
You can get a great workout done in 20 minutes. For some reason, people have this idea that if you don’t have one hour every day to workout, then why bother. Yes, fitness classes and personal training sessions can last up to an hour, but that doesn’t mean that every workout has to last that long. Set aside 20 minutes a few days a week for fitness. Exercise is contagious. Some days you may have the opportunity and motivation to work out an extra 20 or 30 minutes. Other days you might dread the entire 20 minutes, but you’ll feel better when you’re done.
Most importantly, if you exercise on a consistent basis, you will see change. If you need help figuring out what to do for 20 minutes, there are people who can create a program for you — in real life or online. Just be consistent.
I believe that exercise and physical fitness makes me a better father and fatherhood more rewarding. That may not be true for everyone, but it is for me. Some days I can get in 45 minutes, and on others only 15 or 20, but I am in a better frame of mind having done some exercise instead of nothing. It is the one thing I enjoy doing for myself each day that has so many benefits for my family.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Glenn Dickstein is a stay-at-home NYC dad of three and founder of Neighborhood Trainers. He, his wife, and three children live in Manhattan. For more information visit Neighborhood Trainers on the web, Twitter or Facebook.