Help me get in shape for my upcoming kid.
August 4, 2011 8:45 AM   Subscribe

Help me get in shape for my upcoming kid.

So the due date is mid-September, and I figure I have 9-12 months before the kid starts crawling, a little over a year till they start walking, and not long after that I can expect the kid to start running around. If he's anything like I was as a kid, he will basically be non-stop crazy.

I'm in my mid-30s. Although I'm not overweight, I'm not in good shape. I think I could probably run most, but not all, of a mile (at a fairly slow trot). I can lift and carry maybe 30-40 lbs without too much of a problem, but can't do much more than that for extended periods.

So I guess I'm wondering:
  • What kind of shape do I need to be in to be an active, participant parent (I want to support my kid's activeness, not put them in front of a TV or book)
  • What sort of exercises are best for getting me ready?
  • Is there anything I'm overlooking?
posted by Deathalicious to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
My wife walked every day of her pregnancy about 3-5 miles to get ready for both childbirth and the next 20 years. She would carry small 1lb or 2lb weights with her.

If you really want to simulate the lifting of a child, you could buy a frozen turkey and continuously bend down, pick it up, lift it over your head then put it down gently.
posted by AugustWest at 8:56 AM on August 4, 2011

Best answer: Right now the best exercise for you is probably walking, swimming, and maybe yoga if you can find a local prenatal yoga class. Don't worry, you will build strength and endurance gradually as the baby grows, hauling around the kid and all the required accoutrements, diaper bags, carseats, strollers, etc. But if you want to push for more strength join a gym once you've recuperated from childbirth. Do the machines or lift weights, take exercise classes.
posted by mareli at 8:59 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Instead of a regular stroller, invest in a jogging stroller. It's probably too late in your pregnancy to start now, but think about doing Couch to 5k after the baby is born!
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:59 AM on August 4, 2011

Best answer: First! congradulations!
It's always great to be active and all- but i think you are over thinking it.

To have more energy and stamina for chasing your baby around, just add in a half hour of cardio in to your daily life, and build from there. Join a sports league (added benifit: think how awesome your kid will think you are for still playing basketball or soccer when he's five or ten.) Go on walks with your SO. Find out fun stuff you like to do that will be fun when your kid ages into being able to do it with you.
posted by Blisterlips at 9:00 AM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

OOps, just realized you're the dad. Same stuff, except obviously not prenatal yoga.
posted by mareli at 9:01 AM on August 4, 2011

Best answer: Father of non-stop crazy 3 year old here. Your instincts are right on - you need to be in better shape.

Kids do not do steady state activity. They go in starts and stops. You need to do interval training. You need to be able to get up to high intensity effort levels quickly, and be able to get back down and recover from those efforts quickly.

If you're like most adults, you've got a desk job and your core strength is pretty low. You'll be doing a lot of kid carrying, so protect your back and get your core strong preemptively. In theory, your strength will increase as the kid gets heavier, but I've seen more than a few dads put their backs out recently.

Yoga's not a bad suggestion for strength, but it doesn't cover the interval training. Something like crossfit would be ideal.

Mine likes to surprise jump on me from odd angles and around corners, like a maniac jaguar. Repeated cycles of piggy back and/or shoulder rides, then back down because he wants to show he can walk all by himself. Often going from zero load to 35 pounds plus deceleration forces, onto weird, not normally load bearing parts of my body. Almost guaranteed injury if you're not ready for it.

Think about trying to handle a squirmy, non-cooperative, 40 pound bag of potatoes. Dead weight sleeping or actively fighting you. That you can't drop on its head.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 9:25 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh! I forgot the most important data point: I'm a dude, not the mother! Also, although I used the pronoun "he" we don't actually know the gender (It's a surprise!) although I doubt that will make a difference to this question, since I plan on pretty much doing the same things with other kids.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:32 AM on August 4, 2011

Best answer: Warning: one of my kids started walking at eight months. You might have less time than you think.

Take the baby for long walks (consider a backpack carrier once he or she is old enough), play at the playground, play chase, get down on the floor with the baby.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:08 AM on August 4, 2011

Best answer: Definitely strengthen your lower back. In addition to the surprise airborne attacks and demands to sit on my shoulders for a couple of miles, you'll be doing a lot of bending down. Then there are the periods where something new is the most fun ever and it's requested over and over. I made the terrible tactical error of taking my son to the circus 3 weeks ago. When we got home he wanted to be a trapeze artist so I swung him through my legs and threw him in the air to catch him. Guess what I've been doing 40 times a day for the last 3 weeks? Since #2 came along I haven't made it to the gym much recently and I'm feeling it in my back.
posted by IanMorr at 10:11 AM on August 4, 2011

Best answer: Congrats. I'd say start eating better, and maybe ditch caffeine, if those are something you rely on to function - you'll probably get a headache for the first couple of days if you're truly addicted. I know I tend to function and sleep better without caffeine - and I've heard babies make you tired - go figure.

I like to recommend Body For Life to people starting out in getting healthier. They recommend supplement shakes, but I'm not sure you need those, especially if losing weight isn't a major concern.

Body For Life also has a nice diet program you can follow. I like having things like workouts and meal plans laid out for me - especially starting out.
posted by backwards guitar at 10:23 AM on August 4, 2011

Best answer: Mom of an extremely active 2 1/2-year-old who has been on the move from before he was even born here. The good news is that the activity and the weight of your little one ramps up slowly enough that you are gradually building strength over time. My biceps have never looked better! I'll also recommend core strengthening exercises. You'll be doing a lot of bending over to pick up your kiddo, all the stuff they drop (because dropping is fun!!), and all the messes they'll be leaving on the floor. We started taking walks around the block from very early on, because in addition to being active, our little guy is one of the biggest extroverts I've ever had the pleasure to meet and is simply a much happier person when he's out meeting cool people (bonus, you get to meet all of your neighbors and if you have regular stores to stop in in your neighborhood, you'll become a favorite because of your small companion). Over time, this has evolved from shorter walks in a stroller to longer walks with him instituting jumping and wind sprints as part of our outing. It's like having a tiny personal trainer. You might start by just spending more time walking to get ready for that aspect. Another idea might be to offer to hang out with a friend's child for an afternoon, either playing at home or going to a park or whatever to get a feel for what kinds of things kids do, and what makes you most tired or sore at the end of your time together. Then you can design your plan around focusing on that.

Congratulations on your parenthood! It's exhausting, but so, so much fun!
posted by goggie at 10:25 AM on August 4, 2011

Best answer: Definitely makes a difference that you're the dad :)

Walking and pushing the stroller will go a long way, especially if you live near some hills. Swimming is also a great exercise, and you can do swimming lessons with the little one as early as 4 months - it's not a lot of exercise, but if you treat your time in the water as active rather than passive (don't just stand holding the baby, squat and bounce so you're working your muscles), it can make a difference.

Also, just as an FYI, your timeline can really vary. Our little guy skipped crawling and started walking the day he turned 10 months old. So just do your best with the time you have, rather than trying to meet a schedule you have no control over.
posted by Mchelly at 11:24 AM on August 4, 2011

Best answer: Also, when it comes to I want to support my kid's activeness, not put them in front of a TV or book, don't underestimate the fun quotient of just lying on the floor and letting the little one climb all over you. Being a jungle gym, using your leg as a horse to ride, holding both hands and letting a toddler "walk" up your legs, and letting them be an airplane flying with their tummy on your feet, are all pretty much highpoints of their day because they get to be in charge and tall. No worries about them needing a book or the TV to stay active, even if you can't go for a run.
posted by Mchelly at 11:40 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'd recommend interval cardio training and weight training. Specifically, if you spent about an hour in the gym three times a week you could make significant progress in the squat before the kid's second birthday. Mastering this exercise will make a huge difference in your overall strength, especially your leg and core strength. It should also improve your posture and lifting technique, which should help prevent you from hurting your back when you're constantly having to pick up the kid, the kid's backpack, the kid's toys, etc. Throw in the bench press and shoulder press and some cardio intervals and you'll be in great overall shape.
posted by vorfeed at 2:02 PM on August 4, 2011

Best answer: If you want to protect your back, do yoga. I'm not joking. You will be bending in a lot of weird ways, most of the time while supporting weight. Yoga will strengthen back muscles you don't know you have. You don't want to discover them for the first time when you strain your back.
posted by domo at 2:19 PM on August 4, 2011

+1 for overthinking. If you can run most of a mile, even slowly, then you're entirely fit enough to have a baby.

Get more in shape if you feel you need to, but babies are not especially demanding physically, and any demands they do make ramp up slowly.

Honestly, for the first few months they're basically oversized sea cucumbers - sucking liquid in, spitting it out and maybe rolling round a little.

Adorable oversized sea cucumbers, mind.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:36 PM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions everyone! I've read about couch to 5k although I don't feel like that kind of system would work on me. I was never very athletic as a kid so playing sports was never really my thing but maybe now is time to give that a try.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:10 PM on August 4, 2011

Generally their energy reserves and speed build up slowly, so you have time to build up slowly along with them. I was not super-fit when my toddler started toddling, but at first he only went half a block or so. He quickly built up to a mile at a time (ENDLESS energy), at a dead run for him and a slow mosey for me, and from there picked up distance and speed. But I was picking up distance and speed along with him.

The tricky thing for many dads is that if you're only with junior nights and weekends, he might get ahead of you if you're only trying to keep up with him on weekends. You can solve that with a daily morning or evening walk/trip to the park/whatever.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:38 PM on August 4, 2011

Deathalicious, I was the same way as a kid--hated sports, etc.--but I loved doing couch to 5k. I used a podcast that tells you when to switch paces, which helped a lot.
posted by emkelley at 7:11 PM on August 4, 2011

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