by Brandy Centolanza

5 Fitness Tips for Dads Who Want to Get Into Better Shape this Year

Dads who’ve gained a little weight or feel out of shape may not know where or how to begin to get back on the fitness track, but there are simple ways to improve your health and feel like your best self, not only for you but your family.

Start Small

“My first piece of advice is to instill in fathers that this is a journey and not a destination,” says Chris Pellegrino, wellness manager for the Rappahannock Area YMCA. “This is a lifestyle. Take it one step at a time.” Lifestyle changes should be gradual. “Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” says Bobby Osborne, a certified personal trainer with American Family Fitness in Fredericksburg. “If you’re totally sedentary today and running a marathon tomorrow, you’re going to get hurt. Make small changes to your routine. Once your body tells you that it is okay, then do more.”

Be Consistent

“Consistency is more important than intensity,” says Robin Lujan, fitness director for Onelife Fitness in Stafford. Finding an activity you enjoy means you are more likely to continue with it and see it through. Join a gym, or try an exercise class such as water aerobics, kickboxing or boot camp. Take up a sport like basketball, tennis or racquetball. Or hop on your bike, or go for a walk or hike. “If you’re healthy and active, you’ll be able to do more fun activities with your kids and be a positive role model for them to want to be healthy and active, too,” says Osborne.

Find a Workout Buddy

Having trouble staying motivated? Find someone to support and encourage you in the journey. “Include the whole family,” Lujan suggests. “It’s easier to make changes if you do it together as a family. If you look at it as a family venture, it will be easier to stay motivated. Working out together with your partner will also give you some bonding time.” Grab a friend, neighbor or colleague who will head to the gym with you or walk with you on your lunch break—or hire a professional. “Hire a certified trainer to give you that jump start,” says Pellegrino. “Trainers can help you with motivation, direction and support.”

Watch What You Eat

“Nutrition is also a big part in reaching whatever goal you have,” says Lujan. “Your food is your fuel.” Don’t forget to start the day off right with a healthy breakfast and try to include more whole foods in your diet. “Don’t overcomplicate it,” says Osborne. “Everyone knows which foods are good and which are bad. Eat more of the good and less of the bad. That goes for drinks too.” You’ll make mistakes and may fall off the bandwagon, but the important thing to remember is: “Don’t give up. Just keep going and the results will come,” Osborne says.

Use Your Time Wisely

“You need to do some exercise that gets your heart rate up like walking, running or biking to improve your cardio, and you need to do some resistance exercises like weightlifting, push-ups and pull-ups to build muscle,” says Osborne. Do these throughout the day and not all in one long session. The idea is to find a time that works for you. Try doing sit-ups, push-ups or lifting weights while watching TV.

“If your child has soccer practice, don’t just sit in the car waiting for them to be done with practice. Get out and go for a walk,” says Lujan. Other small ways to squeeze in exercise are to take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away so you’ll have to walk and stand more at work.

No matter where or how you start, it is vital to just take that first step.

“Remember getting in shape is not all about you,” says Pellegrino. “There are other people in your life who care and need you for a long time to come. You want to be there for graduations, marriages and grandkids. The people in your life are on this journey with you.”