It Takes Endurance To Be a New Parent
In the lead-up to becoming a new father I would find myself squeezing in an extra few miles while out on the bike or out on a run. To appreciate that the new demands of a new baby would necessitate a change in my priorities and most likely some reckoning of a new set-point for what time would be available for my own training and how little time I would want to spend away from my baby. With the last month flying by of baby Sofia being my new early morning training partner I can tell you that I appreciate what endurance and physical ability I have to be able to care for her. Also I see a daily need for exercise not as an indulgence but as necessary for me to have the physical energy to take on all the tasks of fatherhood at this stage not to mention my long term health to be around for all the important points of life.
When a baby starts audibly fussing seems to be shortly before they reach the threshold of crying where they are overwhelmed with whatever sensation they are experiencing that they are only beginning to develop the operating systems to cope with. Being on call at all times day or night to pick up the baby and coordinate the steps necessary to physically address the baby’s needs takes significant physical ability. Just like exercise, the more directly, calmly, and routine your actions are, the less of an emergency the situation will be when dealing with a child. If you are physically stressed by simply bending over to pick up the baby and hold it pressed up against your chest, no way are you going to be able to set up changing, feeding, and supplies while soothing the child in your arms.
The parental wellbeing is one side of this issue, when you are physically fit and well, you have a greater threshold of what you can deal with before experiencing feeling of being overwhelmed which effect your conception of what you are capable of, while also might impact your confident discharge of basic duties to calm the baby, and also placing additional burden on your caregiver that you are less able to take on your share of responsibilities.
Having a exercise routine that incorporates your daily childcare routine, work, no matter how you are feeling will allow you to slot exercises into daily tasks when baby is awake and when they are sleeping which they do a lot of , just not in uninterrupted 8 hour chunks. Why do I say no matter how you are feeling? I don’t mean to simply say push harder that you should hammer out sprints or max deadlifts or burpees until you puke anytime of day when you have a free second. It is all in having the right intensity of threshold. If you work out too hard above this threshold one day, you feel this effort in your body and extreme stress when your baby wakes you in the middle of a sleep cycle and interrupting important cellular repair necessitated by a workout that you could not buffer with aerobic function. The exercise I find helpful is under the aerobic threshold. This exercise builds activity level over time yet has minimal refractory period. It's not to say you can never workout hard again, but when are you going to have uninterrupted sleep for the next few months maybe 2 years? If you wait around until you have the mental energy to get up and do that awesome cross fit workout or sprint interval session, you will lose valuable basic function in the meantime, you could be maintaining and building endurance ability for your whole body.
Walking- aerobic exercise measured in miles that you can do with you baby in a stroller and depending on your neighborhood you can accomplish errands. What the baby might experience is acclimating to different stimuli, start with short walks around the block and slowly progress. Heat and cold stress is a real concern that can happen quickly with small bodies and the stroller seat is a lot hotter than open air so plan for the best time of day for baby if it is going to be sunny go early and choose a route out of the path of the East.
Babies like being active. They like being picked up, they like movement. When our baby is fussy despite having a dry diaper and not wanting to feed. Sometimes picking her up and doing a set of squats and lunges with her in my arms is all it takes to get her calm again. Even by the 2nd repetition she is more calm.
Endurance is built from the ground up. A lot of the day spent on low intensity activity builds endurance with a lower energy tax and little to no recovery. Conversely, low intensity exercise helps hormone regulation, shunting blood sugar into the muscles, improving the ability to be active more of the day.
Don’t wait for the perfect window, try a few simple exercises while being active with your baby, you are modeling good behavior by challenging yourself to do something that takes a little bit of energy now, but gives you greater capacity as time goes on. This has a profound benefit in viewing this new joy in your life of the child not as an interruption to your health but a challenge to focus on what is essential and the health and function of the parent is enhanced by finding time to carve out time for wellbeing or at least appreciating all the activity you can do with your baby.