Experience of Fatherhood
Fatherhood can be a humbling experience. But sometimes it takes a setback to find a new way forward [ BY ANDREW McUTCHEN ]
THE REASON I’VE never been able to resist adding Men’s Health to my shopping basket is that in every issue I’m guaranteed at least a couple of great redemption narratives. You know the kind. Guy, just like you is hit with adversity – a broken heart, a broken leg – and in just six weeks of gut-busting physical effort he re-emerges from the chrysalis of the gym with no fear and no body fat. It’s an endlessly inspiring pinion from which to pivot and find the best version of you yet. When the notion of the ‘War on Dadbod’ column first came to me during a spontaneous on-flight pitch to editor Luke, I expected the series to magically follow the same path. Experience of Fatherhood.
Episode one: a fat, tired, happy dad with a brand new American ash-constructed water rower in a box on the basement floor.
Episode two, on the mend, drinking less, water rower now out and assembled etc. I know I can be disciplined when it comes to working out. I know what it takes. But that’s not what happened Two Steps Back To my disappointment, this series has followed a downward curve.The sore knee I mentioned in the first column turned out to be a full-thickness tear ACL injury. The heavy leaning on coff-ohol-adol (coffee, alcohol, Panadol, repeat) turned out to be as hard to kick as crack when I added crutches and no mobility into the mix. My dream had come true – I was becoming the next redemption story in Men’s Health – but my life was actually a nightmare Helping hands It was a very happy nightmare, mind you. One where you can’t move your left knee, but you have a concerned looking two-year-old patting it, knitting their unblemished brow, asking if Daddy’s leg feels better today? I got to know my kids better in that six weeks of recovery at home than I had in the six months prior. And this is the thing. Yes, fatherhood challenges your fitness routine, but it introduces you to a new source of endorphins, which is your children’s love for you. I’d encourage all new dads to go easy on themselves, know that it’s a short-lived phase, drink up that love and Shiraz. Be comforted, sleep will return, kilo joules will burn, so don’t throw out your pre-kids 33-inch waist jeans just yet. Conveniently though, in my final column, I do have that all-important redemption narrative to share. Experience of Fatherhood.
The downtime with injury allowed me to reset my diet, and – through watching endless ACL recovery videos on YouTube – it led me to a genius little app called MyFitnessPal. I’ve never been a kilojoule counter. I honestly couldn’t tell you the dietary difference between a parma and a protein bar. But when you’re over 40, well over your set-weight and you can’t move at all, you start to become more conscious of minimising the kilojoule damage. You enter height, age, weight and your weight goal and it sets a daily kilojoule target. You enter what you eat and drink in a day and it tells you what you’ll weigh in a month if you ate that every day. Experience of Fatherhood.
Five weeks out from ACL surgery, after bed rest and with pain fading, I added rehab into the mix, had a handyman assemble the water rower at work and bought a power cage for pull-ups, dips, and squats. Weigh in on surgery day two months earlier I’d clocked an epic all-time-high 99.1kg. Today it’s closer to 92kg and falling back to that trusty set-weight around 90. The knee is feeling strong, the weakened core is rebuilding and regaining symmetry after 18 months of limping. The last thought I’ll leave you with is one from Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War. In it, he advises you to avoid an enemy’s strengths and attack their weaknesses. Read this and never forget it: your children are born into the world knowing this. If you have a weakness – a torn ACL, a penchant for two bottles of Pinot a day, anger issues – when kids arrive, they will find a way to exploit it. Count on it. The onus is well and truly on you to get yourself right – your body, your mind, your vices – before and after kids come along. That way, there’ll be nothing between you and your next redemption. Experience of Fatherhood.
- 4 Percentage by which a man’s risk of obesity increases with the birth of each child, according to Duke University.
- 5 Percentage of fathers that develop postnatal depression in the year after having a baby, says research by Beyond Blue.
- 43 Percentage of first-time dads who see anxiety and depression after having a baby as a sign of weakness.
- 56 The percentage that doesn’t seek support during stressful times.