Parallels in Parenting and Fitness

Parenting and fitness share many common truths, so if you are crushing it as a parent but struggling in your fitness I hope these help you.
Nick Prohaska
December 7, 2023
Parallels in Parenting and Fitness

"I want to be a dead beat dad"... said no one ever.

"I want to be unhealthy and miserable"... said no one ever.

I'm three years into parenting. I also am a CrossFit coach and business owner. Much of the way I view the world is through the lenses of "dad" and "health and wellness" so it's not surprising that I see parallels in those arenas. Parenting and fitness share many common truths, so if  you are crushing it as a parent but struggling in your fitness I hope these help you get back on track. And if you're crushing it in your health and fitness, kudos to you! I hope these truths can guide you in parenting one day.

The end goal

I'm raising adults, not kids. My deepest desire is to raise my kids to be the best adults possible. My goal isn't to just have "good kids". This is critical to being a great dad because it shapes the way I interact with my kids. I'm focused on teaching them values and how to live. I've got a long term view of how my behaviors will impact who they are becoming. I'm not just reacting to each moment as it comes.

Fitness is a long game. The real goal is to be fully capable to accomplish any task I desire for as long as possible. The goal isn't to get to the gym because I need to lose 10 pounds and then quit the gym because I lost the weight.  That's why I chose CrossFit. Because I can see how I can keep this routine for the long term.

Technique and style

It's not just what I do, it's how I do it.

It’s not meant to be done alone.

You’re capable of so much more than you think.

It's always uncomfortable and inconvenient

Waking up at 2am because the baby is crying is both uncomfortable and inconvenient.

Going the gym is not convenient. I have to make the time, I don't just have "extra time."

The reward

There is no end state, no finite goal, in parenting. As best I can see it, the reward is the process. It's about the moments along the way. It's rewarding when my daughter smiles at me for the first time. It's rewarding when my son holds my hand. And it will be rewarding at countless other moments along the way. I'm not trying to stack up moments until I finally arrive somewhere, kick back and say, "Wow, it's over."

Each workout is rewarding, each successful lift. I'm not trying to "arrive" at a level of fitness or a specific weight on the scale.

It's a matter of identity

I can't be a great dad without believing, "I do things that great dads do"

I can't be healthy without believing, "I'm the type of person that lives a healthy lifestyle"

It's so foundational that it too often gets overlooked. We just show up and do our best without a plan. But that won't cut it long term. I won't be a great dad without a plan, without truly believing that I am one.

Showing up

Showing up everyday matters. One day of shucking my parenting responsibilities could lead to some serious problems in my marriage and do some damage to my kids. It doesn't matter how I feel; tired, frustrated, sad, angry. I have to show up and be a dad. I wouldn't imagine looking at Ashley and saying, "I'm not going to do anything today. I'll start being a  dad tomorrow." She'd put me in an insane asylum! I'm showing up each and every day, no excuses.

Similarly, you've got to show up to the gym. It's just that simple. You can't put it off until tomorrow because you're tired or frustrated or you just don't feel like it today. Because if you do that too many days in a row, you end up fat and sick and miserable. We all have valid excuses on why we can't show up to the gym. Even I do, and I have keys to the building! But if I have an excuse one day, I've got to pull myself together and show up the next day. It's just non-negotiable.

Showing up isn't enough

Sitting on the floor scrolling though my phone while my son plays right next to me isn't acceptable. I'm physically present; I've showed up. But I'm not actually doing anything, as a matter of fact, I'm probably doing more harm than good! Showing up isn't enough. I have to engage. I have to play with him, get on his level, play with the cars or trains or dinosaurs.

Showing up in the gym is the same way. I've got to care. I have to engage, put in the work. I'll get absolutely zero results if I just show up to check the box.

The tipping point

I've cried, and I'll cry again.

It will hurt, and I might get injured.

Socks in the car.

Do all toddlers take off their socks and shoes in their car seat? Seriously, I'm curious. I have a couple theories, but that's not the point.

Here's the scenario. Parents are rushed for time. Kids aren't all. Parents literally hold the child on the ground and put their socks and shoes on before getting in the car. Before leaving the neighborhood, a shoe is thrown into the front seat.

Sound familiar? It's comically frustrating. And here's what I've learned: don't fight it. I'll leave the socks and shoes off until I arrive at the destination. The kid doesn't need them on in the car anyway. It saves me time and frustration.

Here's the point, and the parallel to fitness. You don’t have to be 100% ready before you go. 

We often think things need to be just right before we start a fitness routine, or before we try something we've never done before. Or, I need to wait until I'm "not busy" to do something.

No, we don't need to be 100% ready before we go. We just need to get moving. We'll save ourselves time and frustration if we just start today - whatever it is we need to start. Forget the socks and shoes and just put the car in drive! You'll figure it out as you go.

Sometimes what we think we want isn’t what we actually need.

If you're a parent, you know all to well the phrase, "Daddy I want (fill in the blank)"  And you know that your kid definitely doesn't need whatever it is they are asking for (and you surely aren't going to give it to them)!  This isn't news to you. Kids want things they don't need. And because you have more life experience, you know exactly what they need and what they shouldn't have.

Why do we think we're much different? Sure, we're older and wiser than our kids. But we have irrational wants too. And we also have wants that actually could hurt us and pull us away from what we really need. Here are some examples.

"I want to lose 10 pounds." Maybe what you really need is to go to bed at a decent time and drink more water during the day.

"I want to increase my bench press weight." Maybe what you really need is to work on your shoulder and t-spine mobility.

"I want to skip today's workout because I don't like (burpees/running/the bike/etc.) Maybe you need to show up anyway because your mindset is holding you back.

"I need to take a break from the gym because I'm stressed out and very busy." That's the opposite of what you actually need..

Just because we're a little more mature than our kids doesn't mean we always know what's best for us. And that's a hard pill for our ego's to swallow.

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