As anyone that trains regularly knows, the key to getting any kind of result is adherence, consistency, planning and balance. Tie this in with some sensible nutrition and food prep and even with a full time job, great things can be achieved. You know where you are at with your routine, your goals are within reach, your training and food prep are on point, and everything seems to be working just right. So what happens if something comes along that literally turns everything upside down? Your training is no longer your no.1 priority, your sleep is so irregular that the thought of going to the gym seems like hardest thing ever, (even with a load of pre workout). As for spending an afternoon selfishly cooking just for you for the next week? Well that would be ideal….if you had a spare 5 minutes to yourself. These are just some of the problems faced with any regular gym goer, when a baby arrives, causing you to juggle parenting and exercise!
I used to train 6 maybe 7 times a week. My sessions were always planned out in advance, my food prep was on meticulous, and I could go to the gym any time I wanted to, outside of my full-time job. So when my wife and I discovered we were going to have a baby, I assumed that I could pretty much continue to do this without too much disruption. Perhaps not 6-7 sessions per week but at least enough to continue on chasing my goals. In fact, I could continue, all the time my wife was pregnant, but, and a big BUT, when my son arrived, things radically changed.
Suddenly, there is now a third (or maybe more for you) person to consider, and not just consider, but a person who needs you to help them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They do not understand the fact you have only managed 1 HIIT session this week, or need to get your second leg session in. Not to mention the fact you haven’t slept for more than 2 hours in a whole 24 hours. There are a few more important things that need to be addressed first. Do they need changing? No. Perhaps they are hungry? No. Tired? Hungry? Needs changing again? What if they are ill? Are they breathing? What if something goes wrong? What do I do? What have I done? – These are the same questions you will be asking yourself every day for at least the first couple of months. This is normal. You eventually get used to your baby, and what he/she needs, so you go through your ‘checklist’ and deal with whatever comes at you (quite literally sometimes). One thing you cannot be prepared for though, is the sleep deprivation. We all know what it’s like to feel tired. Well you don’t until you have a new born baby. This is a whole new level of tiredness, and it’s made worse by the fact you never know when you will be able to get a fairly decent sleep in again, as your new baby doesn’t care. You are not the priority anymore, or ever again.
But, from my point of view, none of this mattered. I had the baby I had dreamed of, my wife was recovering well after a fairly quick but scary birth, and we were now a family with a gorgeous son. So how did this affect my training and diet?
For the first few weeks, I wasn’t interested in the gym. It didn’t matter either. I didn’t care. My world was now outside of the weights room, or the cardio area. My world was now a tiny, dribbling, babbling, often messy, quite disruptive little person. And I think any new parent will experience the same. Nothing else matters apart from your family. But there does come a time when you start to feel like you need to try to get some kind of routine going again. Even if you keep your food in check as best you can during the first few weeks or months, you will eventually get that desire to get yourself back in the gym.
So what worked well for me?
Firstly snapping out of the draining mental mode you find yourself in, and getting it back into my head that not going to the gym over this time was not the end of the world. I was not training for anything or competing against anyone. I had learnt enough to know what I had to do to get myself back into my pre-baby condition when the time was right. Adherence, consistency, planning and balance. So I started going back to training a couple of times a week.. I knew that if If I got a couple of Cutting Guide sessions in a week and kept my food in check then things would tick over nicely. I found that planning my week ahead was a very good tool for fitting things in. On a Sunday I would sit there with my diary, look at my shifts for the week and plan in where there were opportunities for getting a workout in. If they happened, great, if they didn’t, oh well. One thing I was told numerous times before my son was born, was how quick time goes by. Well this is the biggest understatement ever. The time has flown at a ridiculous rate, he is growing so fast and really turning into his own little person. Had I been obsessed with making sure I got 4-5 workouts in every week, then I would have missed out on so much. Babies develop every week, sometimes it seems, every day. So what I did, and still do is, if I can get home and see him, even if it is for just 10 minutes, then those 10 minutes are the best and most important 10 minutes of the day. Once he is in bed, then I have the option to go to the gym. Sometimes I can be up at 4.30am for work, and I’m going to the gym at 9pm at night, but that’s what I need to do to get things done.
So my advice for training and nutrition when you become a parent? Planning! Plan as much as your life will allow, whether this is your food for the week or your training diary, i.e. when you can train. Don’t beat yourself up if you do not make it to the gym, just try and go the day after. Your child is only a baby for a very short time, and there are many things you will never ever get back once they are gone, so enjoy every second while you can. I am also lucky enough to have access to a gym at work, so I find that by using the gym in my lunch hour, I can make best use of the time available if I know there is no chance I can go in the evening. This is just another way I have found to be able to keep some kind of regular training going during the week. If you do not have access to a gym, then maybe go out for some lunchtime cardio or a bodyweight circuit.
Training for me was always about feeling better, looking better naked, feeling more confident, being healthier and having something to focus on for myself. And most of this is still relevant, however now I have a son, my focus has changed somewhat. I want to make sure I can be as fit and healthy as I possibly can for as long as I possibly can. I want to see my son grow up and have his own family, and still be able to enjoy that experience to the fullest. That is the biggest motivation I could ever have.