You get Dad Muscles™ when you’re a dad. (I got the phrase from the genius that is Mik Artistik, who put the earworm in my head this morning, so you have him to thank). You can go to the gym; you can work out; you can do yoga and pilates and whatever – but it’s not the same as getting Dad Muscles. Let me explain what I mean.
There are certain bits of your body you never think you’re going to need until you become a dad. They’re the weird, seemingly useless bits of you. And then, when you become a dad, and you’re lifting and changing and holding and playing with a child, you start to realise. “Oh, so that’s what that’s for!” you exclaim, scrambling after a child who’s toddling towards imminent doom.
Well, here are some exercises you can do to get into shape for when you’re a dad. Or if you’re a dad already – they’re going to come in handy!
The Knee Waddle
You’ll need this to chase after a child who’s heading towards imminent doom – probably a stairgate you’ve left open, and you’ve only just realised. You’ll get a split-second where you look at your child, and they look at you, and then it’s a race. You can’t get up, because you’re already on the floor, so you’re going to need to propel yourself at maximum speed across a carpet (if you’re lucky, or a hard floor if you’re not) on those bony knees of yours. On your marks, get set…
The Figure Of Eight Sway
When you’ve got a really tiny baby who won’t quite settle, you’re going to need to give them a cuddle. Oh no, not staying still. Don’t be silly. You’re going to need to move around. Rocking back and forth, and side to side, might help for a while, but in my experience nothing quite beats swaying them around in a gentle figure of eight. Great exercise for the hips – you’ll be salsa dancing in no time with the new muscles you’re building.
The Tantrum Juggle
Once your little angel gets more than a year old, they’ll start seeing the world as a frequently frustrating place. Why can’t everything be exactly the way they want it to be? And why can’t you, daddy, do anything about it? And WHY are you telling me I can’t do exactly what I want to do right now? All of a sudden, a floppy, normal-weight child becomes a leaping salmon attempting to plunge backwards out of your arms towards the nearest surface. Juggling the little joker down to safety takes time, and strength – all the strength you’ve got. But don’t worry – we’ve all been there.
One thing you’ve really got to learn about dad exercises is that you’re not going to have to be able to do them two or three times in a row. Oh no. If your child likes something, they’re going to want to do it again, and again, and again. Sure, we can all pick up a child from the floor and lift them to the ceiling once. But can you do it a hundred times, with the child enthusiastically screaming “MORE!” every single time? Ah. So if you can master The Aeroplane (lifting your little one into the air in a horizontal position and whooshing them forwards and backwards), make sure you can do it a LOT of times.
The Daddy Chair
Lie on your back on the floor. Are you ready? Good. Now drop a 10-kilo object onto your stomach. Did that hurt? Of course it did. And, oh look, here it comes again! Boing! Boing! Boing! Daddy’s funny when he makes that wincing face and says “Aaaargh!” isn’t he? You’re going to need to learn to tense your abs up, and fast. Your child won’t give you any warning, and will approach like a ninja whenever you lie prone on the ground. Don’t say I didn’t tell you.
The Foetal Crouch
There comes a moment in every father’s life when his child – his beloved child – learns a terrible fact. Namely, that the soft, dangly collection of objects between his legs is a tremendous way to get daddy to fall over onto the floor and curl up into a ball. Hours of fun! Of course, it might not be that fun for you, but that’s not the point, is it? With a toddler’s head at exactly the right level to butt into your crown jewels, you might even consider investing in a cricket box. But it won’t save you.