Being a man of action and gratitude with Efren Pelayo of The Dad Lift

Be a man of action. Be a man of gratitude.

This week’s podcast guest has a profound perspective on what those words mean. As a police officer and SWAT team member, Efren Pelayo knows that taking action can be the difference between life and death, and that because of this, he is grateful for every day that he gets to spend with his family.

Efren also runs the website, TheDadLift.com, so this fit dad has taken it a step further in showing other dads how to take action when it comes to their health and fitness.

You won’t regret listening to this episode of the Fit Dad Fitness Podcast. Efren drops so many truths in this episode, and he also details the most intense situation he’s been a part of as a SWAT team member. He’ll absolutely be a repeat guest on the show.

Check out Efren’s work at TheDadLift.com. Share this episode with friends and family, and please leave a review and rating. Be sure to check out all things Fit Dad at FitDadFitness.com.

This episode of the Fit Dad Fitness Podcast is sponsored by HealthIQ, life insurance for people with a high health IQ. Get a free quote today at healthiq.com/fitdad and see what kind of coverage you can get!

Listen to this episode!

The Fit Dad Fitness Podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud. Please give it a listen and subscribe, and let me know what you think. I can always improve, so any feedback is greatly appreciated! Thanks everyone!

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Adjusting our training as we age with former D-1 athlete Sean Lowe

This week’s podcast guest, Sean Lowe, may best be known for starring on the reality TV show, The Bachelor. But I sought him out for a very different reason.

Sean and I attended Kansas State University at about the same time, though in very different capacities. Sean was a member of the football team, including the 2003 team that upset No. 1-ranked Oklahoma, 35-7, in the Big 12 Championship Game. I wanted Sean’s insight into how his training has changed since he graduated from the world of Division-1 athletics.

Most guys aren’t former D-1 athletes, but the idea is still the same. As we age, the way we train changes, too. But age doesn’t have to mean we can’t have a fit, healthy body. Sean offers his approach to fitness and nutrition compared to his K-State days, and also gives us just a little detail on his life post-Bachelor and on becoming a fit dad in the process.

This episode of the Fit Dad Fitness Podcast is sponsored by HealthIQ, life insurance for people with a high health IQ. Get a free quote today at healthiq.com/fitdad and see what kind of coverage you can get!

Listen to this episode!

The Fit Dad Fitness Podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud. Please give it a listen and subscribe, and let me know what you think. I can always improve, so any feedback is greatly appreciated! Thanks everyone!

4 fitness pitfalls for the professional fit dad

img_1316I’ve worked in the corporate world for nearly a decade now, and the last five years have coincided with my dedication to being a fit dad and living a healthy, fit, active lifestyle.

I have experienced first-hand the many ways business culture can be in direct conflict with your fitness goals. There’s a reason so many men working in an office environment suffer from having a “dad bod.” If they aren’t attentive to their health and fitness, their bodies succumb to neglect and misuse.

Beyond just the stress that a job can have on your mental state – which can affect your physical state as well – here are four major pitfalls for the professional fit dad to be aware of in corporate culture.

Drinks with coworkers and clients

A couple years ago, I went to a conference with some coworkers, and the night before the conference started, we went out for drinks.

Going out for drinks turned into bar hopping, and we ended up drinking way too much. It was the heaviest I had drank in years.

I paid for it pretty bad the next morning. I won’t go into details, but I was a zombie at the conference the next morning until I got rehydrated. Not my proudest moment.

I decided to never do it again. Not only was it not worth it to have a few hours of fun followed by a night/morning of misery, but I simply realized that a night of drinking did not align with my fitness goals, nor did I present myself in a very professional manner.

There is so much pressure in the corporate world to go out for drinks, whether its to celebrate a big sale or a co-worker’s promotion, drinks with clients when you’re on the road, or simply a happy hour to let off some steam with some fellow cubicle mates.

For me, I had to make a conscious decision to not ever get to that point again, even if it meant taking some heat from co-workers when I only had one drink, or as is often the case now, no drink at all. My health goals are bigger than any drink.

If you don’t think you can control yourself in those situations enough to stop after one drink or say no all together, don’t put yourself in those situations. No one’s career ended because they didn’t go out for drinks.

Eating lunch at your desk

One of the best purchases I ever made was getting a meal prep backpack. Actually, it was a gift from my wife, but that’s beside the point.

I don’t meal prep in bulk, but having a backpack with the ability to store my food and keep it cold for a long time has been critical to keeping my nutrition on track and my wallet healthy.

I pack all of my snacks and my lunch for the day, and it’s kept cold the entire time.

But to be honest, I usually end up eating my lunch at my desk. In the corporate environment, way too many people eat lunch at their desk and never leave to take an actual lunch break.

So, while I eat lunch at my desk while I continue to work, I always make time to actually get up and go on a lunch break. Even a 20-minute walk around the block after I have eaten does wonders for my mental clarity, and obviously, it gets my body moving.

Sitting at your desk for basically nine hours straight can wreck your body.

Snack and soda machines

This is an obvious one, but these towers of sugary excess are blowing out our waistlines.

With so many offices now using snacks and drinks as employee perks, it’s hard to walk into any company’s break room without being tempted by fruit snacks, candy, granola bars (which are not healthy, by the way), soda, juice, and various other sugar bombs.

Coca-Cola is even trying to market itself as a healthy snack.

The key to avoiding such temptations is to reduce how often you face them. If you keep an assortment of healthy snack options at your desk – fresh fruit, veggies, nuts, cheese – you’ll head to the break room less often. And if you do have to go, grab a handful of, say, almonds to eat while you’re there, so you’re less able to pick something up.

As for soda, I tell people the worst thing to do is quit cold turkey. It’s usually too much of a shock for your system to handle.

Start by reducing your intake little by little. For instance: drink sugar-free, flavored soda water in place of one soda per week. Then make it two. Then three. And so on. Eventually, start replacing the soda water with just plain, good old water.

Traveling

Traveling can take a toll on your fitness progress for many reasons.

Your schedule is hectic. You don’t know when you’re going to eat next, or where you’re going to eat. Airport food is usually atrocious. Hotel gyms are barely functional.

Sticking to your fitness plan while traveling takes some creativity, but it can be done.

I wrote a post on this a while back. Check it out for some tips on how to stay fit and healthy while traveling.

The Friday Reflex: Results

Occasionally on Fridays, I like to post quick-hitting thoughts about the major topic that’s been on my mind for the past week. I call it The Friday Reflex. This week’s topic: results

Fitness is not about achieving results, it’s about a creating a lifestyle.

Yes, you will set goals and strive to achieve them, but being healthy and fit is a lifestyle to be lived, not a result to achieve or attain.

Focus on results only as a way to measure your progress, not as a way to measure your success. Results are a byproduct and are unsustainable without a commitment to living a healthy lifestyle.

Set goals that help you achieve a greater level of health and fitness – faster, better, higher, stronger – and the results – muscles, less body fat, more confidence, abs – will happen in time.

If you live this way, it’s easy to be patient and content in the knowledge that you’re setting yourself up to be a fit dad with long-term gains over short-term successes.

How fit dad Brandon Todacheenie overcame self-doubt to become the ‘Navajo Ninja’

img_5060It’s likely that anyone who has ever watched the popular obstacle course show American Ninja Warrior has thought to themselves, “I don’t think I could do that!” at least once during an episode.

Brandon Todacheenie has had those same thoughts. Except for him, the words had a slightly different bite to them.

The past three seasons, Brandon has faced the American Ninja Warrior obstacle course live and in person as a competitor on the show. Most recently, he competed in the Denver City Finals and ran the course for a chance to go to Las Vegas for the National Finals. His run was aired to the nation during the show, introducing us to the man known as the Navajo Ninja.

And more than flying through the air hanging onto a ring, or the grip strength required to shimmy his way up an I-beam on a pair of handlebars, or the balance required to get through the Jumping Spider (a popular obstacle on the show), Brandon says the hardest part was overcoming the doubt that hung in his mind.

“The toughest thing was for me to get over my mentality of ‘I probably can’t do this,’” Brandon says. “Sometimes, I feel like I’m not good enough. Other times, I’m like, ‘Man, I can do this.’ It’s that constant battle in my mind with myself, thinking I can’t do this, but then realizing that I can.”

That Brandon’s story was featured on American Ninja Warrior this season was the high point — so far — of an upward trending fitness journey, and yet, it’s hardly the end of Brandon’s story.

Brandon, 30, has lived his entire life in the community of Shiprock (N.M.), on the Navajo Nation reservation. Thus his moniker — Navajo Ninja.

Despite the reservation spanning more than 17 million acres across the states of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, and being home to more than 340,000 Native Americans, places to train and workout are few and far between. And forget about finding a ninja-style obstacle course.

Not only that, but Brandon faced an even bigger hurdle. According to the Indian Health Services website, “The American Indian and Alaska Native people have long experienced lower health status when compared with other Americans. Lower life expectancy and the disproportionate disease burden exist perhaps because of inadequate education, disproportionate poverty, discrimination in the delivery of health services, and cultural differences. These are broad quality of life issues rooted in economic adversity and poor social conditions.”

“Up and to the point of being introduced to American Ninja Warrior, I wasn’t really that physically active. I was just kind of an average Joe not working out and not interested in running or lifting weights,” Brandon says, “Living on the reservation, it’s a little tough because there’s not a lot of places to train or gyms like you see elsewhere. We have a small, little gym behind the hospital, and that’s about it.”

It wasn’t until Brandon and his wife, Michelle, welcomed their daughter, Isla, into the world five years ago that something inside Brandon changed when it came to how he thought about his health. Coupled with being introduced to American Ninja Warrior and thinking it looked cool, Brandon’s interest in fitness steadily grew.

“It wasn’t until she [Isla] came along that I actually became motivated to go to school and start working out,” Brandon says. “When you’re unhealthy, you reap the consequences of being unhealthy. You’re always tired. You just don’t feel good about yourself. Once my daughter came along, I felt like I needed to be healthier and be that positive role model to her and to my wife. It’s important to me to be a positive role model for my daughter, my wife, and for people on the reservation.”

With access to training facilities so scarce, Brandon began traveling off the reservation to go to ninja-specific gyms. Sometimes even three hours away in Albuquerque.

Before long, it became clear to Brandon that if he wanted to train more frequently on obstacles, he’d have to build them himself. So he did. Starting with a salmon ladder, Brandon began building obstacles in his yard, eventually working his way up to eight different obstacles. And so he trained as best he could.

Then came the chances to compete on American Ninja Warrior. In 2015, after sending in his application, he got the call to participate in the Houston event. But his shot at glory that year was short-lived, as he fell on the second obstacle of the course during qualifying.

And doubt crept in.

“I said to myself, ‘Man, I suck at this.’ It wasn’t really a self-esteem booster for me,” Brandon says. “I thought, ‘Maybe I’m not supposed to be doing this.’ But I just kept at it and kept at it, and then they called me back again the second year, in 2016, to compete again.”

That year, Brandon’s run ended on the third obstacle. He’d made it one step further than he had the year before.

That small sign of progress was enough to shift Brandon’s mindset.

“I started laughing to myself and thought, ‘All right, I’m going to stop messing around with this.’” he says. “So again, I just kept at it.”

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Photo credit: NBC

Which brings us to the 2017 season in which Brandon got called back for the third time. This time, Brandon made it further than he ever had in qualifying — far enough that he made it into the top 30, which meant he would run in the City Finals for a shot at the National Finals.

“It kind of surprised when I did really well in qualifying this year, when I made top 30,” he says. “I couldn’t believe it. It was so unreal for me.”

Brandon’s run during the Denver City Finals was broadcast across the country, and he made it further than he ever had before — including past the obstacle that knocked him out in the qualifying round. Brandon’s run ended when he couldn’t make it up the Warped Wall on three attempts, but the seeds of victory beyond the course had been sown.

Brandon returned to Shiprock and the Navajo Nation reservation and began pouring himself into helping the community discover the same love of fitness he had come to realize. He helped put together an event called Impact Shiprock, a fitness and activity event for kids in which Brandon helped set up and run a kids obstacle course. He’s also going to college to be a physical education teacher, and he’s becoming active in his community’s local government.

Once his episode aired, his community was inspired, and Brandon said he received many messages from Native Americans across the nation who were motivated to start a fitness regimen because of Brandon’s run on American Ninja Warrior. Seeing the effect his run on the show had on his community and the Native American population at large has Brandon dreaming big.

“It’s my dream and my hope to open up the first ninja gym or obstacle gym on the reservation dedicated to kids who can come and hang out and do these obstacles,” he says. “I really am trying to help boost their self esteem, and I want to keep encouraging the kids to stay active and keep eating right.”

He plans to try to compete again on American Ninja Warrior next year, and he’s determined to do better than he did this season, a reflection of his approach to fitness that is inspiring an entire community of people to begin a life of health and fitness.

He says his journey has been made possible by the realization that any amount of progress, no matter how small, was still a positive step in the right direction.

“My advice would be to just take it one step at a time,” Brandon says. “A lot of times, we can feel like we have to accomplish a lot all at once, especially as men. We feel like we have to do everything and be strong about it. But we’re only human. We can only do so much.

“Take it one step at a time and take what’s in front of you. We can do anything, we just have to have a positive attitude about ourselves to continue to push forward. As men, we need to encourage one another to push forward, and we need to love our families and provide for them and take care of them. For me, as a dad, being able to protect my family and provide for them and help them live a healthy lifestyle is my goal.”

The right way to approach fat loss and toning up with Ben Boudro

img_5054-1One of the biggest myths in the health and fitness world is the myth of “toning up,” or being able to “spot check” and target fat loss. Many men want to lose weight around their midsection, and seek out exercise programs to target fat loss there.

As this week’s podcast guest, Ben Boudro, and I discuss, fat loss and toning up requires a much more holistic approach to your fitness, one that factors in sleep, food, water and exercise. Ben is a wildly successful personal trainer at one of Michigan’s top fitness studios. He’s a high-energy guy, a fit dad of course, and a former D-I college athlete who really knows his stuff.

This episode of the Fit Dad Fitness Podcast is sponsored by HealthIQ, life insurance for people with a high health IQ. Get a free quote today at healthiq.com/fitdad and see if what kind of coverage you can get!

For more information on Ben Boudro’s 21-day online fitness challenge, visit benboudro.com.

Listen to this episode!

The Fit Dad Fitness Podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud. Please give it a listen and subscribe, and let me know what you think. I can always improve, so any feedback is greatly appreciated! Thanks everyone!

Getting kids interested in fitness by making it fun with Sean Garner

img_4911As fathers, how do we get our kids interested in fitness and exercise?

With so many sedentary activities at our childrens’ fingertips – TV, video games, iPads, phones – how do we as Fit Dads encourage our kids to do what their bodies were made to do – move?

We make exercise fun, of course!

That’s the approach this week’s podcast guest, Sean Garner, uses with his young clients. Sean runs the Little Anatomy program at high-end Miami fitness club, Anatomy at 1220. Sean is a regular Men’s Health magazine contributor and a “body architect,” as they call it at Anatomy at 1220.

Using kids’ natural desire to play, run around, and generally be whirlwinds of energy, Sean’s Little Anatomy program is getting kids fit and healthy, and they’re having a blast.

In this episode, I talk with Sean about how to get kids active, how to motivate them, and at what age dads should start getting their children involved in exercise. The answer might surprise you.

Listen to this episode!

The Fit Dad Fitness Podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud. Please give it a listen and subscribe, and let me know what you think. I can always improve, so any feedback is greatly appreciated! Thanks everyone!

What’s in my gym bag?

Over the five years that I’ve been a Fit Dad, my workouts have evolved and my goals have changed, and as such, the things I carry with me in my gym bag have shifted as well.

I mean, when I first started going to the gym, I didn’t even take a gym bag. I was in and out. I lived less than four blocks from the gym, so I didn’t have the need.

But as life and my schedule changed, whether it be because of my job or where we lived or what gym we went to, I eventually started taking my trusty gym bag, and with it, all the essentials to keep me in top shape during and after my workout.

IMG_0637[1]So now, here’s a glimpse into what you’ll find in my gym bag at any one time:

  • Senso bluetooth headphones – I used to not be a headphones-at-the-gym kind of guy. I could just tune out the rest of the gym and get my workout done. But a friend suggested that workouts are even better with your own soundtrack, so I gave them a try. And I was hooked. I went with the Apple earbuds for a while, but hated the cord. These headphones are perfect.
  • Towel – I usually prefer my own towel to the towels that the gym provides, although I’m not that hung up about it.
  • Flip flops – There’s no way I’m stepping foot inside a men’s locker room shower barefoot. Too many nasty dudes in those locker rooms. Gross.
  • Itzy Ritzy Travel Happens Wet Bag – Great for storing those sweaty clothes after an intense workout.
  • Deodorant – Do I have to explain this one?
  • Locker lock – Sometimes I go to a gym without locker combinations or keys – looking at you, 24 Hour Fitness – so I take my own lock just in case
  • Harbinger wrist wraps and weight belt – For those days when I feel I need a little extra support for those heavy lifts
  • Gold Bond Men’s Essentials lotion – I don’t mind having calluses on my hands, but I also don’t want
  • Simple Light Moisturizer SPF 15 – Being a bald dude, I need to protect my dome. I use this on my head and face, because who wants a sunburn and wrinkles?
  • Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio cologne – My go-to scent right now. I also really dig Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue.

What essential items do you carry in your gym bag? Share them in the comment section below!

Going from bodybuilding to CrossFit with Fit Dad Stephone Allen

When I started Fit Dad Fitness two years ago, Stephone Allen was one of the first fit dads on Instagram that I followed. His energy, excitement and enthusiasm for working out and being fit was exactly the kind of message that resonated with me. So much so that Stephone was one of my first Featured Fit Dads back in March 2016.

What’s been interesting is that in the time since I’ve connected with Stephone, he’s gone from working out like a bodybuilder to CrossFit. And that’s what brings us to today’s episode. I wanted to dive into what this transition was like for Stephone, why he did it, and what he thinks about the CrossFit world now that he is fully immersed in it. Stephone is a great guy, and I love this episode!

Listen to this episode!

The Fit Dad Fitness Podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud. Please give it a listen and subscribe, and let me know what you think. I can always improve, so any feedback is greatly appreciated! Thanks everyone!

The dad bod is killing us

img_4829The term “dad bod” first entered popular culture in 2015 when a then-Clemson University student, Mackenzie Pearson, wrote an article claiming “girls are all about that dad bod.”

In Pearson’s post, she outlined her reasons for wanting a partner with a body that says “I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time,” which were:

  • It doesn’t intimidate us [women]
  • We [women] like being the pretty one
  • Better cuddling
  • Good eats
  • You know what you’re getting

Regarding Pearson’s last point, she wrote “We know what we are getting into when he’s got the same exact body type at the age of 22 that he’s going to have at 45.”

Talk about setting high goals.

Nevertheless, Pearson’s post, which went viral and gained media attention, was championed as a hall pass of sorts that gave guys permission to ditch the dumbbells and pick up the X-box controller. After all, that’s the best way to achieve a dad bod – sit on your couch all day and slip into immobility.

The trouble is, it’s not about aesthetics, and Pearson’s post and the subsequent glamorization of the dad bod look pushed our society dangerously closer to a breaking point.

Carrying extra weight around the midsection – the defining feature of the dad bod – is actually killing guys.

Carrying extra weight around the midsection – the defining feature of the dad bod – is actually killing guys.

A recent National Center for Health Statistics survey found that nearly 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, with nearly 36 percent of U.S. adults falling in the obese category. It was found that men had an obesity rate of 34.3 percent, and perhaps not surprising, older men had a higher rate of obesity than younger men.

Said another way, as men get older and reach the age where they are most likely fathers, they become more overweight.

In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control released a study that found that nearly 80 percent of adult Americans do not get the recommended amount of aerobic and strength training each week. These were defined as at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, and muscle-strengthening activities at least two times per week.

The absence of aerobic activity and strength training have been shown to lead to a myriad of disease and health issues, including but not limited to: heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, an increase in cancer risk, depression, stroke, and liver disease.

When compared to other first-world countries, the United States ranks among the lowest average life expectancies. A study released in early 2017 predicted that by 2030, American men would have a life expectancy of 79.5 years, up from 76.5 years in 2017. This only puts the United States on par with Croatia and Mexico, and well behind the leader, South Korea, which will have a life expectancy of 84.1 years by 2030.

And at the end of 2016, it was reported that overall U.S. life expectancy dropped for the first time in decades; among men, life expectancy fell from 76.5 to 76.3. In an article on NPR.org, author Rob Stein wrote “Most notably, the overall death rate for Americans increased because mortality from heart disease and stroke increased after declining for years. Deaths were also up from Alzheimer’s disease, respiratory disease, kidney disease and diabetes.”

And no, there’s no such thing as being “fat but fit,” as a recent study published in the European Heart Journal confirms.

So many of the chronic diseases and issues that are killing men are preventable through exercise and proper nutrition. And yet, more and more men are seemingly OK with it, some even going so far as to claim their dad bod is a sign that they are a good father, because “look at me, I am so busy providing for my family and working and spending time with them that I don’t even have time to exercise.”

It’s true, I hear this rationale more than I ever should.

But as men, and especially as fathers who are responsible for our own life and also the lives of our children, we owe it to our families to take care of ourselves through exercise and proper nutrition.

Think about all the things you do as a dad that require – or at least are made far easier with – a fit body: changing diapers in one of those cramped bathroom stalls, leaning over the side of the crib to pick up your child, playing with them in the backyard or at the park, running after them if they get away from you at the grocery store.

Do you need to have six-pack abs and 20-inch biceps to do these things? Absolutely not. But what good is it if you are so busy “providing for your family” that you neglect your health and end up with heart disease at age 45? Or diabetes? Or bad knees?

If dads are ever going to reverse the course of where our health is headed in the United States, it means we have to redefine what it means to have a dad bod and hold it up as the new standard for which to strive.

A man with a dad bod:

  • doesn’t have a gut/beer belly/spare tire.
  • should be able to run up a flight of stairs or jog alongside his kids’ bike as he teaches them to ride without getting exhausted or being in pain.
  • should know what to do with a dumbbell in his hands.
  • should fuel his body with the foods that will sustain him for the daily pressures he faces
  • lives an active, healthy, involved life with his children