I’m sure for many of you who follow Grit on social media, or more specifically my personal account (Chris speaking), you’re more than aware that I have an 18 month old son, Nolan.
Being a father to Nolan is by far the greatest thing I’ve done with my life up to this point, and I don’t really see anything trumping it anytime soon. However, when my wife and I made the decision to start a family, I could have never anticipated that I would have to spend 4 straight months babysitting him, essentially by myself. Stupid pandemic.
During this four month period, Nolan was essentially attached to my hip from 7:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. And at 15-18 months old, he was beginning to hit some developmental milestones, some of which included…
- somewhat mastering walking
- learning that running is way more fun than walking
- getting more comfortable being by himself (aka exploring all areas of the house)
- an insatiable appetite
- and gaining confidence with his general movement abilities (climbing stairs, getting off couches, etc)
Despite all these things, Nolan still craved and needed my attention basically every hour of each day. From pulling on my hand to go play cars to simply making sure he stayed out of trouble, I learned a few things about my own fitness from watching the little man. And I’m fully confident that these things would benefit all parents and soon to be parents.
Prioritize hip mobility.
If you’ve got a toddler running around your house, you better believe hip mobility will play a huge role in the overall enjoyment and quality of bonding with your kid. How?
Toddlers spend a ton of time sitting, rolling, crawling, running, and falling on the ground. And I don’t know about other kids, but my little guy certainly loves it when I’m down on his level. In the last four months I’ve deep squatted, kneeled, half kneeled, and been in a 90/90 seated position more times than I can count… all in the name of participating in some sort of activity with Nolan. And it absolutely enhanced the quality of time I spent with him. I mean, let’s be honest, its kinda hard to play and bond with a kid from the couch.
The thing most people don’t fully appreciate is that being on the ground actually requires a decent level of hip mobility. When compared to modern day chairs, sofas, and beds, being on the floor requires much greater degrees of hip flexion, hip internal and external rotation, knee flexion, and even ankle and toe mobility depending on the position.
When you lack these ranges of motion, not only is getting down on the floor difficult, but getting back up is a real pain in the ass. This limits play time with your kiddo to you watching from the couch or dreading the fact that he’ll ask you to join him during play time. Either way, it’s no way to live life.
The absolute simplest way to improve your hip mobility is to just spend more time on the floor in various positions.
Instead of sitting on the couch or a chair while you watch, read, or do whatever, swap it out for 10-15 minutes of dedicated floor time. Your brain and joints will become accustomed to new ranges of motion which will in time lead to increased levels of mobility (barring a previous injury or something along those lines).
Or, if you’d like to take a more head on approach with some deliberate effort, you could always take 5-10 minutes per day and perform some mobility work. Oh look, a playlist of over 70 mobility routines. How convenient!
Train to be quick and powerful.
I remember when my wife and I took some Baby 101 class before Nolan was actually born, they really beat us over the head about always keeping an eye or hand on your newborn at all times. Babies are rambunctious, energetic, and unpredictable little humans. And as they grow into toddlerhood, their general movement capabilities resemble that of a drunk sailor.
This means that as good of a parent as you think you are, your baby will trip, stumble, fall, or slip in some capacity at some point. Most of the times these falls will be minor enough where a simple pat on the head and “shake it off” will suffice. Other times… not so much.
I think I’m a pretty attentive father, and obviously would never want harm to come to my son. But I’ll admit, the kid has taken his lumps while under my supervision (my wife’s too). He’s fallen off our bed (which is very low to the ground, don’t worry), wiped out on concrete floors, slipped backwards on wet hardwood floors, and has even fallen down a few steps. Luckily, none of these resulted in anything more severe than a good hard cry and perhaps a tiny bruise. Kids are pretty resilient, turns out!
But for every fall that resulted in some hard cried tears, I’ve prevented an equal amount of falls and wipeouts with some quick movement on my end.
A lunge to prevent him from smacking his head, a quick burst to stop him from touching this or that… you get it.
And I’ll be willing to bet moments like this, which require you to move fast, will only continue to happen as he grows up. The better equipped you are to handle these situations, the safer your kid will be in all likelihood. I’m not saying you’ll be able to prevent all bumps and bruises, but at least you’ll decrease the chances of one happening while under your watch.
Start incorporating some sprints, jumps, plyometrics, and throws into your training with the intention of being FAST. It’ll benefit your kid, plus, it’ll help you stay young (your ability to quickly produce force diminishes very quickly as you get older).
Start including more offset loading in your training.
First off, let’s be clear on what offset loading means.
The simplest way of defining an offset load is an external load on only one side of your body. Imagine as if you’re only holding one dumbbell, or, oh I don’t know, a baby.
Compared to bilateral loading which places an equal amount of weight between the two sides of your body (like on a conventional barbell back squat), unilateral (offset) loading “only” works one side of your body. The word ‘only’ is in quotations because despite only one side of your body being worked, the demand for stability is much greater during movements with an offset load.
During movements with offset loading, the recruitment pattern for certain muscles is much different compared to bilateral lifts. The uneven loading is causing your body to lean, twist, or shift. To prevent this, your core and hip musculature must work to prevent this unwanted movement of the torso, spine, and pelvis. The degree to which this happens during offset loading is much greater when compared to bilateral lifts, which is why virtually all movements with an offset load can be classified as a core exercise.
if you’ve got a kid, you will be holding him while you walk, cook, prep dinner, clean, brush your teeth, shave, or just about any other scenario you can think of. And unless you hold him like he’s about to explode, chances are you’re gonna be holding him on one side of your body.
Without even knowing it, you’re training with offset loading! And you can bet your bottom dollar that life will require you to squat, lunge, and press while holding that baby.
Training in this manner prior to having kids, or even while you’ve got them, will absolutely prepare you for the physical requirements of parenthood. Here are a few movements that should be staples in every parents training repertoire.
The “Carrying Your Baby”
The “Oh Sh*t, Dad I Dropped My Hot Wheels, Please Get It NOW”
The “Grab The Diaper Bag(s) So You Can Load The Car”
The “Your Baby Fell Asleep, Let’s Go Put Him In The Crib Upstairs”
If you think you won’t perform these movements in some capacity with your kid clinging to your side, you’re flat out wrong. It will happen. So prepare yourself for it!
I’ve only been a parent for 18 months now, but I can say confidently that these three fitness qualities will make an impact on your ability to raise your child. You’ll move better, avoid aches and pains, and have a better quality of life because of it. Your kid will appreciate it too!