It was November 2011, the day after Thanksgiving, my wife looked at me and said the two scariest words…”I’m pregnant.” Silence… gulp, that’s great! I’m going to have another piece of Thanksgiving pie and ponder my life being over. I found it hard to digest the word “dad” when it was said by friends and family after telling them the good news. But over the next nine months, I found time to set guidelines as to how we wanted to raise our kids. The first and foremost for me, being an older father, was not to be an out of shape, sedentary dad. I want to impart the importance of an active lifestyle on my kids by modeling this behavior in our family life.
There are two main areas that us dads should cover to get the most out of exercise.
1. Unstructured physical activity with your kids.
Free play such as running around your yard or taking the kids to the playground. Do not sit on the bench to watch, get involved and run around with your children. Take them hiking, bicycling, shore line fishing (requires some walking usually) shoot hoops, play catch, wiffle ball, etc. Dads, you have to become a kid again! Teach, play, show the neighborhood kids how to organize a wiffle ball or kickball game. Yard work and daily chores are also considered physical activity and create an understanding of responsibility.
2. Structured physical activity, which can include:
a. Dad’s workout time, we should all be getting a few hours a week of alone exercise time for ourselves
b. Kids should have some form of structured activity depending on age. I believe we should have them experience a team sport and an individual sport. Variety is key at the youth age. Martial Arts and swimming are two individual activities that are not only fun but can be lifesaving skills. Martial Arts is a great option for an individual sport. Many of the Martial Arts participants that I teach during the day at work are whole families. This allows parents and children to practice outside of the classroom as a family.
c. If you have a dog, choose to walk it with your kids at the same time everyday and spend time talking about how the day went or the day ahead.
The unstructured activity can cost absolutely nothing, and the pay back in experience and life lessons to you and your child will be priceless.
Becoming a Dad has changed my life in so many ways. Some for the good, and some that drive me insane, but there is nothing better than having my two boys look up at me and say “Daddy, look how strong I am, look how fast I can run, check out my pushups!” When my boys want to put down their electronics and go for a walk, help me carry the canoe to the lake, or just spend time outdoors, there is literally nothing I’d rather do.
Happy Father’s Day! Think my wife will let me go fishing alone for a few hours this weekend?!
– Guy Caracciolo, Fitness Director at Dedham Health