How To Stay On Your Fitness When You Have Young Children
One of my biggest concerns for when the baby gets here is how it's going to impact my fitness routine. It's not just vanity, I promise. Getting my butt to the gym is an absolute necessity for my mental health. It helps me sleep, keeps me regulated and elevates my mood like nothing else can. How the heck am I going to find the time when we have a little one flopping around?
Then I saw @Fitdadfitness on Instagram. This dude is killing it. I mean, he's absolutely shredded... AND he has two young kids? Maybe there is hope for me after all.
So I reached out to the man behind the account, Michael Ashford, and asked him how he does it. I was surprised to learn that he actually began his fitness journey AFTER becoming a father.
I also learned that Michael gives a lot back to the parenting fitness community. Not just through his Instagram and blog (where he shares stories of inspiring fit dads), but he also hosts a weekly podcast where he speaks to notable dads across North America about their own fitness journey.
In four brief questions, Michael shared a lot with us. Not only about fitness, but about the importance of daily habits and the impact the lifestyle choices you make have on your kids.
Read more below.
"I wanted to make sure that I was putting myself in the best position to be there for my family for as long as I could possibly affect. "
- Michael Ashford, Fitness Coach
What was the moment you decided that fitness was important to you?
Michael: I started my fitness journey in 2012 when I was on a business trip in Ocean City, Maryland. I had brought my wife and young son on the trip with me, and one day, after I was done working for the day, we took a walk out on the beach as a family. I was walking down the beach holding my son's hand when my wife took a picture of my son and me. I saw the picture, and something in me snapped.
Not only did I not like the way I looked — skinny, poor posture, no muscle definition whatsoever — but seeing the picture made me realize how unhealthy I felt. I didn't look or feel "right," and I made the commitment that day that I was going to change. Not just for me, but for my family.
I was a young father, and I wanted to make sure that I was putting myself in the best position to be there for my family for as long as I could possibly affect. That first meant taking care of my health and fitness. And so, once we got back from that trip, I signed up for a gym membership and started going 6 days a week. And I haven't slowed down since.
As a father of two kids, how do you prioritize the time to work out as often as you do?
Michael: We find the time for the things that matter the most to us, right? When I started paying attention to my health and fitness, I had some non-negotiables: my faith, and time with my family and the people that mattered most to me. Everything else was on the table. Sleep. TV. Going out. The two biggest changes I made were that I started waking up earlier — I now wake up at 4:30 each morning to go workout — and I stopped watching as much TV so that I could go to bed a bit earlier.
I chose to workout in the morning so that I didn't miss time with my family in the evening, and I stopped watching as much TV for the same reason.
How do you manage to stay on your diet with young children?
Michael: I'll be quite honest, it's not hard. People always say that kids are picky eaters, and yes, there are certain things my kids simply do not like to eat (yellow squash, for instance), but for the most part, they will eat what you put in front of them. More importantly, if they see you eating healthy and paying attention to how you are fueling your body, they will model that same behavior. Even more so if you explain to them why you eat the way you do, why it is important, and how the food we eat fuels our bodies for activity. Kids understand what more than we often give them credit for.
We don't keep a lot of processed junk in the house. Our meals are made up of foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Lean meats, vegetables, fruits, healthy carbs. Simple as that.
The key point that I have to stress is that you have to model the behavior that you want to see from your kids. If you tell them they have to eat healthy, and then they see you sucking down Big Macs on the regular, they'll do what they see you do. If you tell them they have to be active and move their bodies and exercise, but then they see you sit on your butt for 5 hours a day playing video games or binging on Netflix shows, they'll do the same thing.
What are the biggest challenges you face being a father and your work?
Micheal: The biggest challenge for me is forcing myself to disconnect. As a personal trainer and podcaster that also has a full-time job (I'm a marketing director at a software company), you're kind of always "on" and at the mercy of your training clients or podcast interviews. If you're not intentional with setting boundaries between your work and your personal life, it's too easy for them to be intertwined, and anything that eats into family time is really not worth it.
That being said, I have crazy amounts of energy, so maintaining the lifestyle and the schedule hasn't slowed me down yet.