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Fitness as a Father

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Our good friend and much-loved trainer Mark Castley talks to us about how his fitness regime and life as a trainer changed after having a baby. It’s lovely piece that I’m sure many of you will be very interested to read. If you’ve had a baby and don’t want a ‘Dad bod’, read on!

As far back as I can remember exercise, physical fitness and generally being active have always been an integral part of my life. Many of my earliest memories involved fitness in one way or another, be it cycling, swimming, running, hiking, badminton, tennis, athletics, football or rugby. As I grew up sporting competitions were something I absolutely loved. I embraced and learned from them, and always looked forward to the next one.

Now, when I look back, I feel incredibly lucky that my family were into sports and encouraged me to be the same way. I feel grateful that my parents were physically able to do all these activities with me in such a way that it was completely natural and just a normal part of our daily routines. I even kind of felt sorry for my friends that weren’t into sports and didn’t have parents to motivate this aspect of their their lives…they were missing out on soooo much! I always thought, ”When I’m a Dad, I’ll be super active and will teach my kids to do all sorts of activities’’.

Fast forward quite a few years to spring 2015, just before my girlfriend and I discovered we were pregnant. I exercised almost every day, had acquired my personal training certification a few years earlier and around the same time had co-founded Barcelona’s first bootcamp style training organisation, BeachFit Barcelona. I had a ‘regular’ office job but always found time to workout. My girlfriend Patricia and I had a great life balance. We both worked hard, we both trained hard and we both knew how to play hard. It was all quite easy and didn’t take much planning or organising. We were spontaneous and a good team.

cd868118-fbc6-4677-ae73-73ebf8f35961The following 9 months were wonderful. Exercising loads, cooking and eating healthy (and occasionally not so healthy!) meals, chilling hard and preparing for our baby boy to arrive. Patricia was training up to 3 weeks before Vince was born and much of that training we did together.

Meeting Vince for the first time was easily the happiest and most magical moment of my entire life. By this point I felt completely ready. The following few days were pure family time and I don’t remember the need & craving I normally get for exercising entering my head. I was absolutely, completely and deeply besotted with my son and wasn’t interested in leaving his or Patri’s side. It wasn’t until about 3 weeks later that I started to notice changes in my body. Little bit softer round the mid-section. Little bit out of breath running up the stairs. Little bit weaker in my arms and shoulders. I was still taking BeachFit sessions but down to just once a week.

Over the next few weeks the gradual deterioration of my fitness and muscle mass became more of a concern. I didn’t want to develop a ‘Dad bod’. I was working out a bit, but nowhere near the levels I used to. And I could feel it. I did some parent & baby exercises with Vince at home, using him as added weight for lunges, squats, shoulder presses, tricep dips etc, Vince loved it, giggling away. It helped a little but working out at home just isn’t effective. Not for me anyway. I need to be in a workout environment or outside with proper equipment or space to run.

4During this time Patricia and I kept our diet very clean, balanced and healthy. We were fully aware just how vital a smart & nutritious eating regime was in this situation. I’m a big foodie and one of my favourite by-products of exercising lots was the ability to eat anything I wanted, guilt free and without any noticeable adverse affects. We would generally eat very healthily during the week then treat ourselves to delicious unhealthy delights over the weekend. I had to cut down heavily on those treats, sadly.

Vince is now a big, healthy, happy and energetic 1.5 year old. He weights 14kg which is awesome for me when I use him to exercise with at home. I’ll hold him close and do jumping squats and lunges or put him on my back and squeeze out as many press ups as possible before he gets bored. His favorite is when when I hold him under his arpits, do a jumping squat whilst shoulder pressing him high into the air. I collapse waaay before he gets bored with that one. I’m so soooo excited about introducing Vince to a plethora of activities and seeing which ones he naturally migrates towards. I want him to see me being active and I want to be a big healthy strong Dad for him to look up to.

My workout program now is very different. I don’t workout every day, but when I do, I absolutely go for it harder than I did before Vince was born. I will push myself to the point of failure and beyond if possible. Even if I feel the urge to be sick I just embrace that and keep going through it. One thing I do to help keep me on track is monitor my % body fat every 3 weeks and chart it on a simple line graph. I’m 1m91 tall so my goal is 12% body fat whilst reaching 95kg. I’m currently 17% and 90kg.

 


The last year and a half has definitely been the best time of my life. Exercising has always provided me balance, it’s shaped the person I am physically and mentally. However, even after writing this piece, I wouldn’t be that bothered if I wasn’t able to workout anymore for whatever reason, so long as I was hanging out with Vince, that’s all that matters now. But thankfully where there’s a will there’s a way and it’s possible to do both. I’m lucky to have a great partner who shares the same parental philosophies as me. We are finding our new balance, we have each other’s back and we’re a team. Otherwise I’m sure I’d be happily strolling the streets flexing a real ‘Dad bod’!

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