Opinion

Confession: I haven't exercised in nine years

Father of two Ian Mendes is still struggling with his baby weight.

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Illustration: Jori Bolton

Follow along as Ottawa-based sports reporter Ian Mendes writes about the joys of raising daughters, Elissa and Lily, with wife, Sonia. 

It’s January. We’re all feeling a little pudgy after sneaking that extra helping of turkey. Personally, I had to eat an entire gingerbread house roof after I accidentally damaged its structural integrity by breaking off a couple of candies.

I have no problem admitting that I’ve been carrying around a little extra holiday weight since… 2004. My wife, Sonia, and I have two daughters — Elissa, 9, and Lily, 6 — and I haven’t done much on the physical front since they came along. I was one of those foolish deniers who said, “When we have kids, my schedule isn’t going to change. I won’t stop working out.”

Read more: 50 essential winter activities >

In reality, it’s hard to stay in shape after you have kids. A lack of time, money and energy slowly siphon your will to exercise. Instead of pushing your body to the limit, you’d rather spend any “free” hours lying on the couch covered in cheese-puff crumbs and watching Seinfeld reruns.

Of course, it’s not impossible. There are plenty of exercise options out there — although each presents its own challenges.

The sports team

Pre-parenthood, you could play pickup hockey with your friends or join a coed softball team with your spouse. Now kids’ activities dominate the schedule, icing your chances to play any sport.

“Sorry man, I can’t make hockey on Tuesday night. We have to sell Girl Guide cookies.”

“Sorry dude, I am out for basketball on Friday. Something called Duffer Doo. It’s written in pen on the calendar, so I can’t get out of it.”

The home gym

You can try purchasing a symbolic treadmill. After all, you’re stuck at home with kids most of the time, so the simple solution is to turn on Max and Ruby for them while you do a quick workout. After doing this a few times, you’ll realize that children’s programming doesn’t motivate you to burn calories — although there is a distinct rise in blood pressure when you have to listen to that bossy-boots Ruby chastising Max for the eleventh time in an episode.

Read more: 7 workout tips for parents >

And if you summon the energy to work out after the kids’ bedtime, the relentless squeaking from the cheap machine you purchased will only wake up the baby. Most people who purchase gym equipment for their home end up with a serious case of buyer’s regret. That elliptical machine is almost guaranteed to morph into a clothes rack, while serving as a constant reminder that you haven’t done your cardio — and you’re way behind on laundry.

The gym membership

Fitness clubs prey on the weak and ill-informed, roping them into extended and complicated contracts. Associates are salivating when sleep-deprived parents roll into the membership desk with a few preliminary questions. The next thing you know, you’ve got a six-year commitment to the gym — but only one pair of workout pants that fit because of that lethal cheese puffs-Seinfeld combination.

Yoga

Every parent could use deep-breathing and relaxation techniques. However, husbands should be wary about doing yoga with their wives. There are obvious benefits (Lululemon pants everywhere), but there are also serious drawbacks — most notably, the ridicule you’ll receive from your circle of friends. Proceed cautiously here and remember that telling the guys you did yoga with your wife is like mentioning you skipped the football game to watch The Notebook.

Bootcamp and P90X DVDs

These programs are designed with parents in mind. Time is a precious commodity, so you may as well cram a week of workouts into a small window that fits your schedule. So what if there’s so much lactic acid in your muscles that you can’t lift your infant out of her crib? That’s a small price to pay for someone yelling at you for 90 minutes. But the way I see it, if I’m going to have somebody screaming at me while I run around like a madman, I may as well just host a playdate.

Of course, there is one last way you can work out with your spouse after the kids have gone to bed (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). But the problem with this method is that it often leads to more children being born — and even less time to go to the gym.

A version of this blog post appeared in our January 2014 issue with the headline “A dad weighs in,” p. 36.