The term “Dadbod” has been around for more than a decade, but it lacks a firm definition, much like the men who possess it.
When I say I have a Dadbod, it doesn’t mean I’ll be on My 600 Pound Life anytime soon. It just means that I perhaps lack the allure of my younger self; my strength and endurance are better tailored to carrying two uncooperative toddlers through an airport than tossing a bikini-clad young woman into an undergraduate dorm swimming pool. (I have only done the former, but you get the idea.)
I can bench my own weight, finish a 5K in around 20 minutes, and knock out 50 pushups with no real effort. But it’s undeniable that some of my belly hangs out over the top of my jeans when I sit down. When I honestly look at myself in the mirror, I have taken on a somewhat… pregnant look.
Maybe it’s sympathy girth?
I want to blame my kids for my Dadbod. They interrupt my calisthenics, make me forget to hit the weights, and they leave heaps of delicious Goldfish, Cocoa Puffs, and Chicken Nuggets on their plates, uneaten…
The fact is, I gained about 10 pounds during law school before my first kid was even born and another 5 pounds when I ran for Congress and he was less than a year old. If I’ve had trouble getting rid of that weight, it’s not my son’s leftover Goldfish to blame. It’s the handfuls of intercepted Goldfish that go straight into my mouth without ever touching a plate.
The kids do interrupt my workout, but my workaround is what I call Dadyoga. It’s an aggressive play that incorporates isometrics, calisthenics, and my children’s body weight into the routine. They think it’s play, but meanwhile, I’m working on those airport arms. And if my wife wins her own belly battle, I can still use airport arms to toss her into a swimming pool someday.
I started this during the preparation for my last attempt at a 100-mile run in Key West. I was trying to stretch my hamstrings out with a modified hurdler stretch when the 3.5-year-old Wolf decided he wanted to climb on me. Rather than fight him, I let his weight slowly extend the stretch until my nose was touching my knee, the first time I had gotten that kind of range of motion in at least a couple of years.
I switched sides. Again, I was able to bring my nose to my knee. Then I lay on my back and alternated between single leg lifts that dangled the 35-pound kid perilously over my head and static stretches, where his dead weight was pulling at things that have been frozen in place for some time.
Then I started doing “skull crushers.” This is a triceps exercise that involves laying on the back and lowering a barbell (or wriggling toddler) from above the chest down to the head. While some gym rat might scoff at me for only using a 35-pound kid rather than a 45-pound barbell loaded with 25-pounds on either side, a barbell will never squirm, scream, or spit in your eye. It was a solid workout.
About the time I rolled over for some pushups, the 2-year-old Bear came stomping in to join in the hilarity. Thinking that it was time to get on my back for a horse ride, I waited for both boys to mount and then started doing pushups. This was with about 60 pounds of weight and another 5 pounds of wiggling laughter. On the first set I was able to do 5 before muscle failure. I did a few more small sets, and then it was time for stories and bed.
The next night I did the same thing. Expanding the routine into about 20 minutes of what seemed like play for the boys and a fairly intense calisthenic workout for myself.
When I got to the pushups, I thought of Milos of Croton. A strongman of ancient Greece, he was perhaps best known for carrying a fully-grown bull about his shoulders. He attained this ability by carrying the calf as a newborn and picking it up, day-after-day, his strength increasing incrementally with the weight of the animal.
My mind wandered.
“Where will I be in ten years if I continued to do 10 pushups at a time, my boys slowly increasing in weigh? What does a 13-year-old weigh? 120 pounds? I mean if I had Wolf and Bear up there at the same time, that would be close to 200 pounds. I wonder how many people can do 10 pushups with 200 pounds on their back. I mean, I can bench my own weight but bench my own weight and the weight of two mostly-grown kids? Shit. That would be….”
Then mid-way through the ninth pushup, Wolf decided to stop straddling my back, stand up, and kick his feet out from under him as he fell halfway on my back and halfway on my neck. My entire body spasmed and I collapsed in a heap, both boys laughing as they continued bouncing up and down.
Hey, small victories. I just did almost 10 pushups with 60 pounds of bouncing boy weight on my back.
That’s worth at least a handful of Goldfish.
I'm a military spouse to my US Navy Lieutenant, Lauren. We are proud parents of Wolf and Bear. When I'm not supporting her career and raising my two wild animals, I teach a law course at the University of Florida, run ultramarathons, and write. I'm the author of "Parenting as a Contact Sport" and currently in search of a publisher. Most stories I publish are proposed additions to a sequel titled "Daddy Hold My Milk: Famous Last Words of a Toddler. Twitter: parentingsport