Staying fit when you’ve got kids

Apart from the actual exercise itself, two other essential ingredients when it comes to staying fit are consistency and sleep. You need to have a regular routine rather than sporadic bursts, and you need to be getting enough sleep to let your body recover. However there are two things that are going to be mere blips disappearing into the distance of your rear view mirror as you travel on the good car ‘parenthood’; routine and sleep.
So what can you do if you want to stay fit with kids? Well first of all I have to premise this with the fact that a year and a half ago I completed my first half ironman…but after the birth of our 3rd child 6 months ago, my next involvement with triathlon will be next weekend when I am going to handing out drinks at the Melbourne Ironman…so I’m not claiming to be a shining example of being in peak fitness.
Now I‘m no expert but’ here are some tips I’ve developed over the last 6 years of raising our three kids.

1. Consider being a bad parent.
Being a good parent is actually really time consuming. All that loving, and nurturing and ‘being there’ can really bite into your training time. Sure, being a good parent will probably result in them being well adjusted human beings who people actually like spending time with…but if you put the time you’re putting into being a good parent into your running training, you could probably run 4 minute kms for the marathon. So think about which one of those is more important.
But bear in mind that your kids are probably going to be the ones who decide which old people’s home you get put in.
2. Abandon hope all ye who enter
Ok, so a  more positive way of saying this may be ‘readjust your goals’, but positivity disappears at about the same rate as your anaerobic threshold after the birth of a child, so  unless you:
a) have gone with the option above
b) are a genetic freak
c) have been setting your goals remarkably low
You will not be returning to your pre-child levels of fitness for at least the first 6 months of the child’s life. So there’s no point trying to achieve it, and even less point beating yourself up for not achieving it. On a good day I focused on ‘maintaining a base level of fitness’ so that I when the time became available I could increase my training without having to start from scratch. On a bad day I focused on not becoming someone who was morbidly obese and had to be lifted out of their house by a crane.

3. Work the training into your life
As I discussed in my previous post (which ‘The New Yorker’ described as “We don’t review blogs so please stop sending us emails”), it’s hard to find time to do the things you want to do at the best of times…and finding time to do the things you want to do when you have kids is even harder. So where possible work it into your day to day activities.
For example:

  • Ride to work if you can. If you’re feeling courageous try running to work.
  • Pretend that carrying a small child is in fact an exercise for your core
  • Still carrying that child? Pick up that toy you just stood on. Now do it again…look you’re doing squats! You used to pay to do this at the gym.
  • Take your kids to swimming lessons and participate. If the sight of yourself in bathers isn’t enough to terrify you into more exercise or less eating, then you’re doing well.

4. Misery loves company
You know how little you cared when one of your friends without kids complained about how they had to wait for ages to get a seat at some new and expensive restaurant even though they ‘totally knew someone who worked there and had spent like at least $200 on drinks at the bar’? Yeah, well that’s about how much they care about your ‘I got no sleep’ and ‘I’m pretty sure this is an acceptable amount of vomit to have on my top’ discussions.
So if you’re going to spend a couple of hours on a bike talking to someone, make it someone who is the same situation as you. They are a lot more likely to empathise with you, and a lot more likely to be at a similar level of fitness as  you.

5. It does get better
My experience has been that you spend the first month after the baby is born living off residual fitness. For months 2-4 the sleep deprivation accumulates and your level of exercise is pretty much eviscerated. At this point you become pretty much convinced that you will never be fit again. Months 5-6 are frustrating because you suddenly get intermittent exercise availability…but nothing consistent enough to let you feel as though you’re doing anything other than fighting hard to stay in the same place.
But after that you will hopefully start finding that you can get out every second weekend for a ride…or to the gym a couple of times a week. Within a year, suddenly you’ll start feeling some of that fitness come back and you might start identifying some targets for the next year. Within 2 years you will be back to your original level of fitness and you will have completely forgotten all the pain and frustration of that first 6 months…then you will decide to have another child…and 9 months later it will all come flooding back.

But is it all worth it? Well I’ll leave you with the immortal words of Jon Stewart who says that ‘Parenting seems like a lot of work. But for all the hassle and worry once in a while comes a moment of pure innocence that touches your heart and tickles your funny bone…nah f%&$ it, it’s a lot of work.’

If you’ve got any advice or tips, I’d love to hear them.


Anyone can take a great photo

Welcome to the first NineB (‘Now I’m no expert, but’) blog

A while ago Things Bogans Like had an excellent piece on bogans purchasing camera equipment and assuming that they were automatically great photographers. As usual I started reading the article and thought ‘Ha, ha…those stupid bogans!’…and then gradually began to see more and more of myself in the article. Then I stopped reading it. I don’t have time for that sort of pseudo-intellectual lefty crap.

The problem that the bogan and I have, is that pretty much anyone can take a great photo. If everything goes right, and all the moons align, and you take enough photos…eventually you’re going to have one that is a great image. And you’ll look at it, and you’ll think ‘If I can do this once…I can do it again…so clearly I’m now a photographer!’ But you’re not. The big difference between me/you and a good photographer, is that they continually get great shots. They definitely shoot some duds…but then they also shoot some photos that are so good they make you want to just give up on ever taking another shot (I call this the Lee Jeffries effect).

But there are some things we non-pro’s can do to improve our ratio of crap photos to good ones.

1. ‘It is about the bike’
Sure Lance Armstrong may have said that his success was ‘not about the bike’…but that’s a lot easier to say from the comfort of a $10K road bike. Likewise, the money you put into good equipment (particularly lenses) will make a massive difference to quality of the images you take.

2. Using ‘auto’ features does not make you less of a man.
Yes, a great photographer doesn’t need a stabiliser, or autofocus…and they set the f-stop and aperture and everything else manually (they probably even know what the f-stop is). But you are not a great photographer…yet.
When I first got my DSLR I shot everything on full auto (other than flash..I hate using flash), and they are still some of my favourite photos.
By all means learn how to do everything manually (it will make you a better photographer), but if you see a great photo happening in front of you…don’t forsake capturing the moment for some sort of misplaced professional pride. Besides, when someone asks about your photo, you can still lie and claim you did it all yourself.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from photographers whose work you like.
Most good photographers know that there is more to what they do than just the settings they use (such as the way they work with the people they’re photographing, the post production processes they use, the time they spend in the freezing cold to get the shot), so they won’t mind answering your questions.
If I want to ask someone about taking a MTB our outdoorsy photo I’ll ask Tim Arch, or if I want some tips on taking a great portrait shot I’ll ask Veeral Patel, or if I want a great car shot I’ll ask Joel Strickland…and of course if I want a photo that represents the pain of riding from Melbourne to Adelaide on a fixie I’ll ask Andy.
But be warned, some photographers are just jerks and won’t get back to you…I’ve sent numerous emails and tweets to Ansel Adams asking if he uses a Canon or a Nikon DSLR. He still hasn’t responded to any of them.

4. Shoot what you know

If you like cars or bikes or wilderness or ponies, then shoot cars, bikes, wilderness or ponies. If you have an interest in something, then you’re likely to have an intuitive idea of; how things should look, when is a good time to take a shot…and ideally where you can find a pony who can either drive a car or ride a bike in the wilderness.
Most importantly, it is a lot easier to fit photography into your life than it is to make time to go and take photos. So the more you can work photography into what you do everyday, the more practice you will get,and the better you will become.

5. Shoot early, shoot often

The joy of shooting digital (and there’s no way you made it this far through this blog if you’re shooting on film…so don’t try to claim otherwise) is that you can take a whole lot of shots, and you can see them immediately, and then you can adjust things accordingly …and then you can shoot a whole lot of shots again.
It’s basically the snowboarding/surfing scenario. It’s a lot easier to learn to snowboard, because each time you fall over, you can just get up and try again. Whereas with surfing, each time you fall off you have to paddle back out, wait for a wave, catch the wave then try to stand up again. So be like a snowboarder, and take a lot of shots so that you can learn how things work. But at all times know that surfing is way cooler.
It is also very important that you get as good at deleting photos as you are at taking them. If you’re shooting a 100 shots and keeping more than 10 of them, you are either setting your standards way too low or you are some sort of photographic wunderkind. Either way you are not the target audience for this blog…so it’s probably best if you left.

So there you have my hints for taking a better photo, to paraphrase a DJ Shadow sample ‘It won’t make a bad photographer good…but hopefully it will make a good photographer better’.