When That Day are running workshops for clients and I get a question asking how to manage personal wellbeing with the demands of being a parent, I always feel slightly ill-equipped. How can I really know without being a parent myself?
On the 24th of November, after 30 hours of labour, my amazing wife gave birth to what appeared to be a little alien. Her head has now returned to a normal shape, the strange mucusy grunting has died down, but the pooping has well and truly begun, (I am talking about the baby) and we have named this little poop machine, Frida.
I will be tracking how my wellbeing and performance is affected during these early months, and will share what techniques I find that help me. I’ve started with physical wellbeing, covering movement, sleep and nutrition.
I would love to hear from other parents about what has worked for them, please comment below, or message me!
What you can, when you can.
When asking my neighbour how he kept up his fitness after the arrival of his first child, he simply said 'You just have to accept you are going to get a bit fat.'
I have learnt over the years that I am more productive, happier, more positive, a better businessman, a better friend, and most importantly, a better husband, all when I am keeping myself healthy and exercising most days of the week. Investing time in yourself does not make you selfish, quite the opposite.
It therefore seemed like the worst possible time in my life to let my fitness slip.
So the other night, it was a quick 9pm workout, once the cleaning was done, nappy had been changed and visitors had left. It made me feel great.
It might only be a few rounds of push ups and squats in the living room, or a quick 5k during nap time, but it is doing something that matters. It is less about having the optimal workout for adaptation and progression, and instead focussing on doing:
What you can, when you can.
Tiredness is relative.
We are told endlessly that we need 8 hours sleep a night. Indeed, at MobFit we have taught various methods of ‘sleep hygiene’ in order to optimise & maximise our clients sleep so they can reap the benefits or a well rested body and brain.
The downside to this repeated message, is that when you don’t hit that 8 hour mark, and slip to 7 or god forbid, 6 hours, you can fall in to the trap of saying to yourself that I won’t be as productive today, or won’t be in as good of a mood, simply because I lost an hour or so sleep.
Well - once you have gone 50 hours without a wink of sleep (OK maybe a few 5 second inter-contraction power naps were had), the 3 hours sleep on the faux leather hospital bed makes you feel superhuman! The following night we had 4 hours sleep broken up in to 3 sleeps, and boy was that next day good!
Of course for our health we want to strive for our 8 hours a night, however, I have leant to not allow a bad nights sleep to dictate how the rest of my day will be.
Return to normality, quick.
With the influx of visitors, comes the kindly prepared pre-cooked meals (4 lasagnas so far), and lots of sweet treats.
Once you have figured out how to fit it all into the under-counter fridge-freezer, you then realise that alongside the sleep deprivation, comes an imbalance of our hunger hormones, Grehlin & Leptin. When levels of Grehlin are elevated you feel hungrier, but research has also shown that we tend to crave sugary / fatty treats, instead of the healthier options. It is all too easy to get to the end of the day and realise the only thing you have eaten are those chocolate flapjacks Grannie made…
I quickly found that returning to cooking healthy meals asap, even if that was one of the gifted meals, with a load of fresh veg, made my wife and I feel a whole lot better.
We know nutrition plays a substantial role in our energy levels and mood, so you might as well stay on top of it, as good energy levels and mood seem like nice things to have as a parent!
A final thought.
When Mark and I completed the MobFit 100 Miler, I felt we became fairly unique in our endurance endeavours.
However, I learnt on November 24th that we are surpassed by every mother out there, roughly 2 billion people. Oh well.
I know every labour and birth is different, but just witnessing my wife go through 30 hours of regular painful contractions, whilst unable to eat because it’s making her vomit, and then having to summon the energy for the birth itself, made me realise that mothers, you are truly heroic, thank you.
I will be checking in with learnings about managing mental / emotional wellbeing around the 4 week mark.
All the best,