The Team at Dove Men + Care recently gave me the opportunity to interview Steven McMichael, the current on-screen combat choreographer for Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit.” After returning from the US Marine Corps in 1995, where he reached the rank of Sargent, McMichael worked as a stuntman until he was seriously injured in 2003, and now works as a stunt coordinator on notable films such as “I Robot”, “Fantastic Four,” “Blade: Trinity” and “X-Men.” McMichael currently lives in Canada with his wife and five children. We chatted about balancing fitness and fatherhood.
Q: We talk to a lot of dads and find that many really struggle with weight gain and sticking to a fitness regimen, especially in the first year or two after the first baby comes home. Why do you think that is and what (if anything) should dads be doing to fight this?
A: As a father of five, I know that in the first year, the parents are adjusting to life with a new baby and lack of sleep can take a toll. After the worst sleepless nights if the baby is teething or sick, my wife and I would tag team naps. In my experience, I felt generally fatigued and less interested in working out. I think getting into a regular routine in all aspects of life is a great way to stay healthy. Feeling awake every morning is a great first step for your routine. I would recommend jumpstarting each day with your work out, or (if you can’t get going right away) use Dove Men +Care Fresh Awake Body & Face Wash in your morning shower. The energizing scent really provides a jolt of freshness, and the moisturizing properties fight skin-dryness, making it okay to shower more than once a day.
It is important to develop and stick to a personal workout routine that still focuses on the baby (thereby giving the wife a break). For example, you can take the baby with you out for walks in a jog stroller or front carrier or try ‘Dad and baby’ (ie: Baby Barbells) exercises.
Nutrition is important too! You should try to make an effort to help prepare fresh meals with local ingredients as much as possible. Case in point: a frozen lasagna takes at least an hour to cook and is loaded with salt and preservatives and is low on taste. Gluten-free spaghetti with fresh turkey meatballs and salad dinner takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and is far superior is taste and nutrition which is going to fuel your energy.
Q: For working dads especially, time is tight — any suggestions for fitness activities that could also create “quality time” with the kids?
A: As the kids get older, there is more and more fun to have with them: trampoline, ride bikes, go to the playground, throw the football, play soccer, frisbee, and sports Wii games. It really is about quality not quantity.
Q: When first starting a fitness regimen, should dads focus more on cardio or strength training? What should be the first element?
A: In my opinion, dads should focus on cardio first, but intensity should be based on fitness level. I would suggest starting out by bike riding or using a rower machine; keeping your heart rate between 90-110 bbm will burn fat and above 110bbm will give you a cardio work out. Once you’ve built up stamina from cardio exercises you can begin gradually adding strengthening elements – working towards a varied, cross-fit training routine.
Q: Are there good, free resources out there to help dads plan and track workouts? Gyms and classes are great, but if really pressed for time, aren’t there routines that can be done with little equipment right at home? Where can we learn about those?
A: For cross-fit training, I like “The WOD Shop” (wodshop.org) WOD stands for “workout of the day”. You can generate your own workout based on your preferences. We actually used WOD shop routines on the set of the Hobbit!
Q:On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve been reading a lot lately about “triathlon widows.” How can we ramp up our fitness level — even enjoy running races, bike races and triathlons — without taking away too much family time? (This one is personal for me: I’m an avid runner, marathoner and racer, but also want to be a great dad.)
A: I’m not a runner as the Marine Corps got that out of my system. Is it possible that the family can be a part of the running events in a supportive way? Perhaps after the race can be family time? I was at my best working on ‘The Hobbit’ when my wife brought the kids out to visit. I was away from home for 15 months and I wish I could have had my family there the whole time.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Dove Men+Care. DadLabs was provided access to the spokesperson and compensated for this work.