Before I begin writing this piece I want to start by saying that this is in no way meant to make excuses for myself or for anyone else. Also, it is not meant to give the perception that this hasn’t been one of the best years of my life and that I regret anything, because I don’t.
Early on in my training career when I was a mere 24 years old I thought staying in shape was so easy. I grew up a very athletic kid and I learned early on that being in the gym on a consistent basis was very important to keeping myself strong and looking good. Yes, I worked out a lot and I watched my diet closely (kind of) but I didn’t exactly have so much going on in my life that I wasn’t able to devote a ton of time (and energy) to working out consistently. If I was too busy to work out it meant maybe I had some friends in town for a visit, I went on vacation myself somewhere, work got a little bit busy, or I just felt like spending a lot of time hanging out with my girlfriend (now wife). At the time I truly didn’t have a whole lot of things to take up my time or that were a higher priority; therefore, I was in the gym working out ALL OF THE TIME.
I got my first job as a personal trainer with Fitness Together. And as I began to gain clients one thing that I clearly remember was my frustration with them as they always wanted to talk about how they were too busy to work out five days a week and how they couldn’t understand why they got so out of shape. It would take everything I had to not get into an argument with them about what they weren’t doing and that all they had to do was get in the gym, it sounded so easy to me! I remember getting so impatient with my clients when they would miss a workout or two because of what seemed at the time “excuses” about work, kids, sickness, or visiting family. Little did I know.
Five years ago I got married to the love of my life which certainly was a life changer, but it didn’t really change anything when it came to me and my fitness. Amanda loves to work out too, it’s one of the things I love about her, so it wasn’t difficult to stay active and in shape. If there was any change, it was small enough not to notice or really even care. One year later I made another huge life changing decision and bought the studio that I was currently working in (Fitness Together in case you were wondering). Now this decision was much different than getting married as it took much more time away from my own workouts and even changed the way I ate. My life really began to change in a way that I was losing more and more free time and distractions were becoming more and more frequent. Fast forward three more years and life changed in a big way once again. My wife and I welcomed our first child into the world in April of 2015. His name is Jagger Christie and he’s the most amazing little boy that I have ever met. And when I was just getting settled in my life as a business owner and my fitness goals back in line, things took a HUGE turn.
This is my journey as a father for the first time and how it affected my fitness level in the first year.
Time (AKA “My priorities have shifted… again.”)
When I decided to buy the Fitness Together studio and officially become a business owner I thought that things couldn’t get any more hectic or that I would never have free time again. And for a little while that was true, but I began to get things together and began to figure out how to manage my responsibilities and my time more efficiently. Because I wasn’t able to spend as much time in the gym as before my fitness level did take a bit of a hit but only temporarily and I was able to eventually get back on the wagon.
Having a new born baby on the other hand has been a totally different story. One thing that I have certainly learned about having a child is that there is no such thing as routine, it’s just an illusion. It’s a dirty trick because just when you think you’ve got it all figured out and things are happening on a more consistent basis… BAM! A growth spurt, teething, rolling over, or a fever hits and life turns into sleepless nights and restless days; and life doesn’t stop or wait for you to catch up. You just have to buckle up, put your head down, and press forward.
Both my wife and I work full time so we have had to take Jagger to daycare during the day. I’ve had to miss quite a few workouts because something has happened with Jagger that requires my immediate attention or because Amanda (my wife) has to work late or early and needs me to go and pick Jagger up and bring him home. And as most of you may know, when you’re alone with a newborn baby, your attention is 100% undivided on them.
Ever heard the phrase “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone”? Well, sleep is definitely one of those things. I had no clue how spoiled I was getting to sleep not just 8-9 hours a night, but 8-9 hours of UNINTERRUPTED SLEEP every night. That’s really the thing, very rarely (until just recently) has there been a night that we didn’t have to get up and check on a crying baby. Most times it was only having to get up for a few minutes but occasionally there were those nights were it was 4 or 5 times in one night. It’s almost impossible to catch up after that.
Even after nights of being woken up a few times I would still find the motivation to go to the gym and get a workout in. However, my performance and focus just wasn’t there and I could feel myself getting more and more demotivated and just plain weaker. The lack of sleep was taking a HUGE toll on my fitness level and it was really wearing on me.
The Sugar Monster
When you start to notice that the lack of sleep is affecting your performance in both the gym and at work you begin to look for quick fixes (also temporary ones). For me, it came in the form of energy drinks or what I like to call “The Sugar Monster”. Our bodies have the ability to turn sugar into energy very quickly which makes it an easy way to temporarily fix an energy slump. However, sugar is highly addictive and causes many different health problems. We could write a whole other article about the problems that sugar causes, which I probably will shortly, but to keep it simple just know this… Sugar is bad for your health.
After a somewhat sleepless night I found it very easy to stop by the store on the way to work and grab an energy drink to give me that “kick start” I needed to get my day going. After quite a few sleepless nights and I found myself stopping by the store more and more. Before I knew it I was stopping at the store for an energy drink even when I wasn’t tired! I became addicted to them. The increased amount of sugar that I was taking in daily really set me on a bad path when it came to my fitness levels. I gained a few pounds, my cardiovascular levels took a huge drop, and I was getting tired more often.
Let’s face it… babies are ridiculously cute, fun, hysterical, and freakin’ STRESSFUL. They are so helpless and in need of constant attention and love, which we happily give and it’s what makes being a parent so fun sometimes. But babies have a knack for coming down with something or needing something at all of the worst times. It is unrealistic to think that you can plan anything out further than 3 hours when you have a baby. Because of this reality it makes it very difficult to consistently work out. When you’re busy with work, family, and other things you have to literally plan your gym time sometimes a couple days or a week in advance. This makes it very tough to stay consistent with your fitness plan because with a baby things happen all the time that need your attention and the first thing to get put to the wayside is your visits to the gym.
Something that I have never thought needed some serious attention before was my diet. And I think that the reason I needed to seriously watch my diet is because I became a stress eater. When you’re stressed it’s easier to talk yourself into eating things that you normally wouldn’t or to eat more than you normally would. I was doing this on almost a daily basis, I would eat dessert with my dinner or I would load up on the heavy carbs like potatoes and bread. Also, just like your visits to the gym the routine in which you eat your meals becomes very erratic and you begin to lose track of when you ate last or how much you’ve eaten. When you don’t have any idea of what your diet looks like you began to make very poor decisions and it can really create problems for you.
The Vicious Cycle
The difficult part about all of this is stopping the mayhem and keeping yourself from completely self-destructing. So what do you do? You find help.
To me cutting down my sugar intake was priority number one. I found that by doing this I was able to really make a positive impact on my energy levels throughout the day and I was sleeping a lot better. This led to being able to focus a lot more on other things in my life and really decrease a lot of the stress that I was dealing with. Even my workouts became more effective and I noticed that I was no longer crashing mid workout session.
Next, I found new ways to keep myself accountable to my fitness. There are many ways of doing this of course. Simply keeping a journal of your diet and your workouts can help you be more aware of what your are doing and eating on a daily basis. One of my newfound favorites is wearing an activity tracking watch. We love the Polar products such as the Polar a360 watch but there are many others out there that are great. Getting the family involved is a great way to get more active, find ways to do activities together as a family and you’ll be surprised at the massive amounts of benefits it will have for you and for them. Then of course, the best and most effective accountability tactic is to hire a personal trainer (of course!).
We all have moments in our life when our health takes a back seat to other things. It’s not just about being a parent, it can be something like starting a new job, losing a job, moving to a new city, or a combination of things. I think that it’s important to know and realize that if we are to become the best possible version of ourselves we need to be aware and not be afraid to admit that we have regressed and do whatever is necessary to get back on the right path. Remember, we always have a choice, we are always at a fork in the road. We can choose to continue on the path that we are currently on or we can decide to make a change.
So what have I learned from being a father for a year? Lots. But when it comes to how I am as a business owner and a personal trainer I must say that I am no longer frustrated with any of my clients. I am empathetic. And I believe that empathy is what allows me to be the most effective tool and the best possible option for my clients.
“Success is not owned, it’s leased, and rent is due every day.” - JJ Watt
JD Christie, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer
OWNER, FITNESS TOGETHER BELLEAIR
JD is dedicated to living a healthy and rewarding lifestyle. “I enjoy challenging each client to bring out and utilize their full potential so they can live healthier and happier lives.”