James Cooke speaks with Simon Passey, co-founder of The Results Academy and father of two.
James: Is getting the dad bod something to be accepted, and perhaps even celebrated, or is it a dangerous stereotype?
Simon: I’ll start off by saying that if someone has what they consider a dad bod and they are happy with that, then that’s cool. However, I’m personally not a fan of the whole dad bod thing. Being a personal trainer, coach and sportsperson, I know the benefits of NOT having a dad bod!
I actually did end up having a bit of a belly on me at one point and I wasn’t happy with that. Not only was I unhappy with the way I looked, but the way I felt as well. I felt chubby, sluggish and had less energy. That in turn created a poor mood for myself, which meant I wasn’t good around my fiancée and kids. Whenever I am a bit leaner my mood and energy are so much better, which is only good for my family.
I want my kids to see me as a role model and I think practising good health and fitness around them, as well as being in good shape, can only be seen as a positive thing. I’m not talking about having six-pack abs all year round, but just being in decent enough shape that it makes the difference at home and in your day-to-day life. It also means having a better sex drive and so you might find you end up with more action in the bedroom as well!
James: You touched on the impact that being out of shape had on your family life and with your kids. Were there any other effects this had on your family life?
When I’m healthier and my level of fitness is up, I feel like I’m a better person to be around. My mindset is a lot happier and I can therefore spend better quality time with my family.
Also, by being fitter and stronger, it means you can do so much more with your kids. You gain the energy and the confidence to get involved in more physical activities with them. Who wants to be that dad who gets out of breath running after a football?
James: So, what would you say is an adequate level of fitness to aim for? Is being able to kick a ball around with the kids enough?
Simon: I talk about this one quite a lot with my clients and the members at our gym. The fitness industry likes to paint this picture that you need to have abs, lift heavy weights and be a super athlete to be considered fit, but you really don’t.
I think this puts a lot of people off from getting involved in fitness, because it looks like it’s going to be too much effort and, frankly, that it means leading a boring lifestyle. The fact is, you do not have to train every day and eat clean all the time to be fit.
Being a dad, you have so many other responsibilities. So it can be tough making time to stay in shape. But if you can get to the gym, go for a run or do some sort of activity a few times a week, ideally while keeping active as part of your daily life by making sure you do plenty of walking, for example, and eating healthy most of the time, you’ll reach a good level of fitness and you’ll notice a positive difference without spending your life on the treadmill or lifting weights.
James: I don’t need to try and eat healthy all of the time then?
Simon: Diet is important for sure, but you don’t need to eat super clean and healthy all the time, because it’s just so bloody boring and we all have lives to live. We don’t always have time to fuss and, at the end of the day, food is there to be enjoyed!
I like to look at nutrition as trying to eat 80% healthy foods and the other 20% can be the stuff you like: ice cream, pizza, chocolate, burgers, alcohol, etc. Just try and get that ratio right.
Of course, if you are training for a marathon or bodybuilding competition, then you will need to become strict with nutrition and pay more attention to detail.
But if you are looking to get a bit healthier, lose a bit of weight of your dad bod and feel better, then you don’t need to be extreme with your diet. Include plenty of fruits, veggies, lean protein, carbs (you don’t need to cut out carbs, by the way), healthy fats, water and keep processed foods/alcohol to a minimum. Consume in moderation. That’s a great start and it doesn’t need to be much more complicated than that.
James: Between work and family life, dads often have little time for themselves, at which point they might be too tired to exercise. How can we stay motivated?
Simon: Being a dad is tiring. Getting that work/life balance is hard enough, and fitting in time for training and exercise can make life even harder.
I think the key is to not set your sights so high and, in terms of training, to do what you enjoy. Be realistic with yourself. Before I was a dad I had the time to train 5-6 times a week and dedicate a lot of time to nutrition and recovery. So I could achieve more back then in less time.
It took me a while to come to terms with the fact I couldn’t make progress as quickly and that I needed to set myself more realistic goals when I became a parent. I now train 3-4 times a week and set myself smaller weekly, monthly or quarterly goals instead of chasing something that will only overwhelm me and get me down when I don’t achieve it.
So, for example, a weekly goal would be to train/exercise three times. And a three-month goal might be to build up to a 10K run or a half marathon. When the kids get older and I have more time, maybe I can set myself bigger, more audacious goals. But at the moment I’m content with ticking off the smaller goals. Because I still feel like I’m making gradual progress, and that keeps me motivated.
James: Do you have any tips, as a father yourself, for those who need help fitting exercise into their routine?
Simon: I would say schedule in time to exercise when you know you are going to be able to and stick to that. Talk to your partner or anybody else that helps you out with the kids to help find that time. We are all busy and life is hectic. But I feel everyone can find the time to train a few times a week to get a better dad bod.
Get a diary or calendar and pencil in 45 minutes to an hour in the gym, or for a run or whatever exercise you prefer; a time when nothing else will get in the way, and make it a non-negotiable. This may have to be early in the morning before work. Or late at night after the kids have gone to bed, or maybe you will only find the time on the weekend.
James: What role does physical appearance play in fitness? Does a bit of a tummy matter if you can run 10k at a moment’s notice?
Simon: This question really depends on a few things. I’ve touched on this already, but being super lean and ripped doesn’t necessarily mean you are healthy and fit. Sounds weird, but it’s true. For example, a bodybuilder will be big, strong and lean. But they probably couldn’t run 5K in under 30 minutes, because that’s not their purpose or goal.
It depends on your goals. If you are a runner, you want to have good endurance and cardio. So being lean and muscly isn’t a top priority. Whereas if you are training to look lean on the beach or for a photoshoot, then yes, having abs may be the priority there.
James: To conclude then, what types of exercise would you recommend for those without particular goals in mind?
Simon: I think weight/strength training and some cardio provides the best of both worlds. Now, I do both, trying to get in two weights sessions and 2-3 runs a week.
I came from a background of purely weight training. I was lifting weights 4-6 times a week and did no cardio. This meant I was strong and had quite a bit of muscle when I was training for powerlifting a few years ago. But my overall fitness was pretty poor.
I got into running just over a year ago. I feel fitter now, in addition to the strength I’ve maintained from lifting weights. There are some incredible benefits from strength training. I’m not as strong as I used to be. But that’s cool, because I don’t need to be super strong to run a half marathon.
And at the end of the day, I want to be fit AND strong for my kids and for my own personal health. I want to be able to run and lift weights with my kids into my 60s and beyond. For me to do that I just need to keep training on a regular basis.