Regular Exercise Can Help Us Be Better Dads

Part 1 of a Series on Stephen Covey, Personal Renewal and Fatherhood

Many busy dads can’t find the time to exercise. But we need to make the time to take care of our bodies, so we can be better, more effective fathers. As Stephen Covey says, we need to do the important, not just the urgent!

Exercise and fatherhood all in one!
Exercise and fatherhood all in one!

Like you, I spend a lot of time at work, and while at home, I tend to put my family’s needs first. But it would be better- for everyone- if we took some time to focus on replenishing ourselves.

The Important vs. The Urgent

Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is the most useful book I ever read. In it, Covey writes about spending a few hours every week on personal renewal, what he calls “sharpening the saw.”

Sometimes we’re so busy with what’s urgent that we fail to take the time to do the important things. Covey suggests that we schedule in some time every week in these four areas:

  • Physical Renewal
  • Mental Renewal
  • Social/Emotional Renewal
  • Spiritual Renewal

In this series of articles, I’ll discuss each of these dimensions and discuss ways we (myself VERY much included) can better incorporate some time for each of these into our weekly schedules. By doing so, we can become better at the most important roles in our lives- provider, husband, father.

Part 1. Physical Renewal

As Covey writes:

Most of us think we don’t have enough time to exercise. What a distorted paradigm! We don’t have time not to. We’re talking about… thirty minutes a day, every other day. That hardly seems an inordinate amount of time considering the tremendous benefits in terms of impact on the other 165 hours of the week.

In a humor piece at the Good Men Project, I wrote that exercising in my twenties “meant 3 days a week at the gym, plus racquetball, volleyball and pick-up hoops,” and now that I’m 40, it “means parking at the far end of my work’s parking lot and making sure to use the stairs instead of the elevator.”

Sadly, sometimes this is true. There are too many days that my pulse rate does not go above rest. I will go a week or two using the elliptical and rowing machines in my basement after Nick is in bed. After a while, though, being done with the day means a glass of wine, TV, facebook and/or a compulsive 19th edit of my next blog piece. Sadly, my exercise equipment is currently gathering dust and laundry.

I do better when exercise is scheduled in. That’s why, I am so committed to my volleyball leagues, even when Amy’s work demands spike.

My weekly 2-4 hours of volleyball is a haven for me- I can just concentrate on the game, get into a flow, get some good exercise, and enjoy the company of fun group of people who are not involved in the other aspects of my life. (On a side-note, I think it is healthy that Nick knows that, while I love him more than anything, he is not always the center of the universe)

Even with volleyball, I don’t exercise enough. My good metabolism (thank you, genetics!) and mostly good eating habits keep me thin, but I sometimes feel skinny-fat. I need to do more. I bet many of us are in the same boat.

Exercise relieves stress and gives us more energy for the rest of our lives. And it is the single best thing you can do for your health. Please take the 9 minutes to watch this amazing video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUaInS6HIGo

For those who didn’t watch (tsk tsk… shame on you)- To sum it up, a few hours a week of moderate exercise lowered pain and disability among those with arthritis, slowed the progression of dementia among Alzheimer’s patients, reduced the progression of diabetes, led to fewer hip fractures, reduced anxiety and depression symptoms, and lowered blood pressure/hypertension. Lack of basic cardio fitness is the #1 predictor of death.

Beyond the big-picture health benefits, regular exercise gives us more energy for the rest of our lives- we can be more productive at work and more energetic and involved at home. Being in reasonable physical shape can help us to be better fathers, and can help ensure we’ll be around longer into our kids’ lives. And all it takes to get started is one-half hour a day, every other day.

Nick and I at the town pool, fun, male bonding, and exercise!
Nick and I at the town pool- fun, male bonding, and exercise!

Now that it is summer, there’s less excuse for not taking bike rides and walks- even better do these things with your family and you can get exercise time and family time all in one. One of my favorite things in life is swimming at the town pool with Nick!

How do you feel about regular exercise? Any stories to share? What tips do you have for the rest of us? Let’s discuss in the comments section.

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11 thoughts on “Regular Exercise Can Help Us Be Better Dads

  1. Fitting in exercise is my next goal. Back in January my wife decided that we would do a paid for diet plan which cost us $20 a week. It gave us daily recipes for all three meals, a shopping list and an exercise plan. Without exercise I lost 8kg in the first 12 weeks (the plan is a 12 week challenge) and my wife lost her baby weight and the extra weight she put on after her mother died. When exercising weight falls off me but she needed to do this so I stopped the kids from preventing her from doing it. As soon as the little one is old enough, I am back at it with her.

  2. I really identified with a lot of the things that you mentioned in this article and really want to read the Stephen Covey book now! I’ve been getting back into running recently and certainly feel that I’m not as fit or fast as I was during my years as a graduate student when I’d regularly run 30+ miles a week. Back then I was in a running club and did quite a few races from 5km to half marathons.

    I totally agree with the benefits of regular exercise as well. I always feel that I sleep better, feel more alert and am more productive at work when I’m doing regular exercise. Really, i’d say that I feel better both physically and mentally when I’m doing plenty of exercise. Being able to work from home quite a bit over the summer really helps with fitting in the exercise, but I’m really determined to keep at it when term starts again in the autumn. Time to start cycling the 7-8 miles to and from work a bit more regularly!

      • It’s actually been over a year since I cycled to or from work, think my bicycle probably needs a bit of a check-up before I take it out again. Really want to get on it again as I live in a rural area with great scenery and quite a few cycle tracks.

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