Q and A: I Have a Kid Now, Is My Life Over, I Mean Can I Still Train?

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Q: Hey Tony,

Four months ago, I became a new father. Needless to say, any sort of training went pretty much out the window at that time. I’m trying to get back into it, but find time hard to come by these days. I’m wondering if there’s a handful of key exercises to focus on to maintain strength or possibly get some gains, no matter how minor.

For instance, in terms of getting the best benefit out of my time, I was thinking push-ups into side planks and squats; since both work multiple large muscle groups. Another thing I’ve considered is throwing throwing together exercises that can be done at home with a basic set of weights, rather than requiring a trip to the gym (additional time needed in travel).

There are two factors that I recognize from reading your blog regularly that you might take issue with, so hopefully I can clear those up in advance.

A) I’m not one of the people watching TV for an hour or two a night and saying I don’t have time to work out. Any time the TV is on at our house these days, it’s in conjunction with something else (meal prep, putting away laundry, chores, etc).

B) Part of the reason I don’t have a ton of time for strength training is that I do try to get some cardio in on a regular basis. Primarily I row, bike, or rollerblade in order to keep up my endurance. I play hockey year-round and find that if I slack off on cardio, my play suffers greatly. Similar to the time-efficient exercises I’m proposing, I try to get the most out of my cardio by keeping my heart rate up (with use of monitor), setting a fast cadence, and including sprints/intervals, as opposed to jumping on a treadmill and go one pace for an hour, which I know gets you going.

A: First and foremost, congratulations on the new baby and becoming a father! Truth be told, I’ve often contemplated whether or not I’d like to have one of those myself in the future, but then I realize that A). I actually like sleeping, and B). unless I can name my kid Rambo, it’s probably not worth it. What’s more, I just referred to your new born child as “one of those,” which probably tells you something about my parenting skills.

Seriously though, congratulations!

With regards to your question, it sounds like you’ve got the right mindset. As you noted, time efficiency is key here. And, given that you’re a regular reader of my blog, it should come as no surprise that I’d recommend exercises/movements that will give you the best “bang for your training buck.” If your time is limited as it is, it only makes sense to focus on the “money” exercises such as squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, row variations, push-ups, etc.

That said, here’s how I would approach things:

1. If you can, try to get to the gym at least once per week. Granted, you may have to pull off some covert operation and tell the wife you’re going to the store to pick up some diapers in order to do it. I don’t care, get it done. When she asks why it took you 45 minutes. Run.

2. While you’ll have more exercise options at the gym, that doesn’t mean you still can’t get after it at home as well- even with limited equipment (barbells, dumbbells, pull-up bar, med balls, etc). I’d recommend setting up circuits:

A1. DB Suitcase Deadlift

A2. Renegade Rows w/Push-Up

A3. DB Split Squat (per leg)

A4. Med Ball Floor Slams

A5. Barbell Roll-Outs

OR

A1. Front Squats

A2. Pull-Ups

A3. DB Reverse Lunge (per leg)

A4. DB Row (per arm)

A5. Burpees

You can do these routines in A-B-A fashion, performing each exercise for 8-10 repetitions each with no rest (A1-A5). Once you’ve completed at entire circuit, rest for 60-90 seconds, then repeat for a total of 3-5 circuits. You could easily get this done within 20 minutes- if you’re crunched for time.

With this kind of pairing, not only do you incorporate your strength training, but you also get a metabolic effect as well. It’s a win-win.

SIDE NOTE: I’d be remiss not to mention that you wouldn’t follow this format forever. There’s obviously a plethora of different things you can do here. Don’t be scared to switch up the exercises, set/rep schemes, etc every so often. Likewise, each session should start with a proper dynamic warm-up, and don’t forget your foam rolling!

Remember too, that strength training CAN be considered “cardio” as well. Anything that elevates your heart rate is technically cardiovascular in nature. I’d challenge anyone to go through the above workout and tell me their heart rate isn’t elevated. Many people mistakenly use cardio and aerobic training interchangeably. Cardio is an elevated heart rate. Aerobic is a sustained elevated heart rate for a specific duration of time.

As it is, I think the fact you’re including more interval type training is perfect. Again, it comes down to time efficiency. It still amazes me that given the resounding amount of research backing the efficacy of interval training towards improvements in VO2 max and fat loss, that people still feel that steady state work is more beneficial. If I told you that you could get the same results (sometimes twice the results) in half the time, why wouldn’t you do it? To each his own I guess.

Nevertheless, I hope this helps and good luck!

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