Yes Dads Can: Get and Stay Fit

Being a good dad often means a lot of sacrifice. You give up your time, your money, and often times, your health. Most of us can remember a time when it was easy to find time to hit the gym, play basketball with friends, or even just take a walk. If you are a time-crunched dad, make this the moment when that starts to change. Dads can get and stay fit without making it another full time job!

Example of a healthy dad running with family on the beach.
Having the energy to keep up with the ones you love means investing in your own health and wellness. Read on to see how you can get and stay fit with the limited time you have!

Why You Should Get and Stay Fit

Physical wellness goes beyond just looking and feeling sexy. Let’s be real, that’s definitely part of it. But the reasons to get and stay fit go way beyond what you see in the mirror every morning.

  • Mental Health – According to the National Institute for Health, “aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proved to reduce anxiety and depression.” This may be because of an increase in blood flow to the brain that mitigates “negative” physiological responses to stress like fear and stress. It could also be because the activity itself provides a distraction from rumination and anxiety. This gives your brain a break from the stress hormones otherwise being poured into your system. We’ve covered this before, but it’s still so important.
  • Metabolism and Physical Wellness – It goes without saying, but exercise is generally pretty damn good for your body. Studies have shown that “consistent exercise caused the muscles to use far more fuel—predominantly fat—than previously thought.” The frequency, as well as the intensity, of exercise matters. By maintaining a higher level of general activity, you actually increase your body’s ability to uptake fats and proteins and use them to build muscle.
  • Sexual Health – The NIH reveals that regular aerobic exercise can actually improve issues around intimacy, specifically erectile dysfunction (ED). It makes sense that exercises that improve blood flow throughout the body would have this effect. If you don’t understand why, bring a note from your parents and I’ll explain next time. But even for guys who don’t have a problem with performance,  “significantly greater sexuality enhancements in… frequency of various intimate activities, reliability of adequate functioning during sex, [and] percentage of satisfying orgasms… among exercisers [is] correlated with the degree of their individual improvement in fitness” (White et al, 1990).

I’m Convinced. Let’s go!

You’re in, and I’m here to try and help. How can a modern dad, who is already doing so much for those around him, find time to take better care of himself?

There are a lot of approaches to establishing healthy, long-term habits of exercise and wellness. Some feel like fulltime jobs, and who has time for that? I recommend a few different approaches, each with a variation on how the work gets done. These books keep it fast and simple so dads with limited time can get and stay fit.

The Holistic Approach: Bigger, Leaner, Stronger

Cover of Bigger, Learner, Stronger by Michael Matthews
Matthews’ Bigger, Leaner, Stronger is a comprehensive guide to the fundamental science behind physical health and wellness.

Michael Matthews’ Bigger, Leaner, Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Male Body, covers IT ALL. From debunking myths about calorie counting and relentless repetitive exercise, Matthews spells out the science of human metabolism in short, easy-to-read chapters like “Finding Your Biggest Fitness Whys” and “How to Make Meal Plans that Really Work.” If you want one book to cut through the trends and fads in dieting and exercise, this really could be it.

The only downside, if there is one, is that you have to muscle through 20 chapters and 215 pages before you get to practical workout plans or recommended exercises, and the Bigger, Leaner, Stronger Program doesn’t come up until page 333. It’s good information, and Matthews was right to include so much detail. The program and exercises make more sense when you understand why and how they work.

The book is a solid “beginner’s book” for those who want to get serious about a fundamental understanding and commitment to a wellness lifestyle. Of course, there are other good options for those who just want to make change and get and stay fit!

The Goal-Oriented Approach: The Time-Crunched Triathlete

Cover of the Time-Crunched Triathlete by Chris Carmichael
Carmichael’s Time Crunched Triathlete compresses a full training schedule for sprint and Olympic-distance triathlons into a plan that takes 8 hours or less a week.

The Time-Crunched Triathlete: Race Winning Fitness In 8 Hours a Week by Chris Carmichael is a bit older than the other books on this list. But if you are goal-driven and want to compete in triathlons, TCT is still hard to beat. Carmichael combines insights into nutrition and exercise specificity in the program. The result is an effective, efficient training program crammed into 8 hours or less each week.

If you interested in endurance sports, such as marathons, triathlons (obviously), or mud runs, you will like TCT. Of course, the training develops strength and endurance in swimming, cycling, and running (duh). Triathlon is a good mix of aerobic disciplines that produce a more balanced physique than any would alone.

That all said, if you aren’t interested in endurance sports this may not be for you. But unlike the other books, TCT provides a format for health and wellness, as well as detailed event training plans focused on cardio and endurance over weights and muscle development. You WILL develop muscle, mostly muscle functionally required for extended swimming, cycling, and running.

The No Nonsense Approach: Strong and Lean

Cover of Strong and Lean by Mark Lauren
Lauren and Clark, authors of You Are Your Own Gym, provide a no-nonsense approach to getting active in high-impact, 9-minute sessions.

Mark Lauren claims that you CAN have too much of a good thing, specifically when it comes to exercise. In Strong and Lean: 9-Minute Daily Workouts to Build Your Best Body: No Equipment, Anywhere, Anytime, he reveals the point at which the benefit of continued movement is diminished by the greater risk of injury and fatigue. In the first 24 pages, Lauren outlines the logic behind high-intensity, short workouts. He spends the rest of the book providing detailed, step-by-step instructions to body weight exercises. He also includes full color pictures of key elements of the routines.

This book provides specificity and attention to detail. However, it is designed to be used as a program, not a reference. You literally turn the page to see the next set of exercises for your 9-minute session. To make this work, the author forgoes a lot of the deeper science and learning that underpins the work. Mark Lauren has done the legwork and blended science, experience, and practice to create the program. All you have to do is follow it.

If you want a nutrition guide or a program to develop ripped abs, you may need to keep looking. But if you want a straightforward guide to developing functional strength with no gym or equipment and with minimal time commitment, you definitely should give Strong and Lean a try.


There are a lot of approaches to establishing healthy, long-term habits of exercise and wellness. Some feel like fulltime jobs, and who has time for that? I recommend a few different approaches, each with a variation on how the work gets done. These books keep it fast and simple so dads with limited time can get and stay fit.

Dads give a lot of themselves to the people they love. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you can’t give back to yourself as well! Find an approach that help you get and stay fit to better enjoy the things that matter the most!

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