Episode highlights

02:08 – Don’t change too much too soon

04:15 – Find something you enjoy

05:42 – It will be hard in the start

07:06 – Be adaptable

08:40 – Accountability is key

10:50 – Diet and food prep

13:28 – It takes 66 days to form a habit

15:09 – Diarise your training time

16:52 – Make meals from real food

19:59 – You do not have to train for an hour


Fitness Guide



Welcome to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast where you can learn how to improve your diet, lose fat and get fitter in a sustainable and fun way, without spending hours in the gym. Here is your host, Darren Kirby.

Darren: This is Episode 26 of the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast. In today’s show, we are going to be talking about 10 ways that dads can use to start in 2020 and not give up on their fitness and health. So, happy new year before we start. I hope everybody had a good holiday season and is really happy and pleased to get back to work and crack on with 2020.

Today, I want to just go over 10 things that you can implement and use which will help you get started on your fitness and nutrition for 2020. Because 95% of people that start with good intentions or set new year’s resolutions have given up by the 12th of January, which just seems astonishing, really. That you start off either before the 1st of Jan or on the 1st of Jan with all these good New Year’s resolutions and intentions but unfortunately, by 12 days in, you’ve given up.

There’s lots of different reasons for that and I think one of the biggest reasons is not because you’re lazy, not because you can’t be bothered: I think it’s because you don’t set yourselves up properly in the first place. Now, if you think about a lot of things that we do in life, particularly in the workplace, it’s all strategically planned. It’s all mapped out and stuff gets delivered on time because if it didn’t, nothing would function. But we seem to kind of forget all of that when it comes to our personal lives and particularly around exercise, particularly around nutrition, diet, whatever you want to call it. There’s just some kind of “life hacks” that I think you could implement that would really, really help.

Let’s start with number one. Number one is don’t change too much too soon. What I mean by that is, say, the 1st of January or you’ve come back from your holiday going: Right, I’m going to stop drinking, I’m going to stop eating, I’m not going to eat chocolate, I’m not going to eat crisps, I’m going to drink one night a week, I’m going to train three days a week, I’m going to get up early and go out running. That is too much too soon. It’s too much of a big change. As humans and the way that we operate, naturally, we don’t like change. Whilst we might have a lot of motivation to start with, motivation won’t keep us going.

Motivation only lasts for a short period of time when that dopamine kicks in and we’re full of energy and we’re really energetic. And then life gets in the way, challenges come up and so what happens is, because you’ve changed so many things, there’s all these new things to get used to. There’s all these new things to make a habit and when life gets in the way, you just give up because it’s too much too soon.

So I would recommend that everybody starts with diet. In these first two weeks of January, maybe you’ve already started running and you’ve run before and that’s fine, continue with that. But if you’re starting from ground zero, just start with your diet. Once you’ve got used to that, two weeks after that, then you can start with your exercise but don’t try and change too much too soon because you won’t stick with it.

Number two: Find something you enjoy. Now, we don’t all enjoy going to the gym, we don’t all enjoy running, we don’t all enjoy swimming, and a lot of you might not ever want to do or have the inclination to do triathlon and you might not want to do that. There are so many things that you can do now that are accessible and you have to find something that you’re going to enjoy. If it’s cold and dark and you’ve decided you’re going to train in the morning, if it’s not something you really enjoy, you’re not going to leap out of bed and put your trainers on and put your running gear on and go running in the dark with a head torch on, if you don’t like running. But you might like swimming and the swimming pool opens early, so before you go to work you can go for a 30-minute swim or a 30-minute HIIT session.

Try a few things out. Don’t get in your mind: Right, I’ve got to get fit so I’m going to start running. I don’t like running but I’m going to run. No, don’t do that. Either find a class that works for your schedule, find something like maybe a CrossFit class, you could do a HIIT session in the park from one of the videos I’ve got on YouTube that I did over Christmas. Find something you enjoy and, like I said, try lots of different things until you find something that really resonates.

Number three: It will be hard in the start. Even if you find something you enjoy or you’re changing your diet, because it’s change, it will be hard because it’s unfamiliar, it’s out of routine and it’s not something that you’ve done previously. You have to realize that and recognize that it is going to be hard. And this is really difficult, actually, to kind of think about this consciously, but when it does get hard or you maybe don’t want to go out on that cycle ride or you maybe don’t want to do that HIIT session, just think, “How long have I been doing it for? Okay, so I’ve only been doing it for a week, so I need to just get used to it.”

Or that could be actually an indication that you don’t like what you’re doing. It could be that, “Well, I’ve chosen to do cycling but actually I don’t like cycling. I don’t like cycling on the roads because of the danger from the cars. Or I don’t like cycling long distances. I don’t like getting freezing cold.” So that could be the indication you need to switch to something else, but don’t stop. Like I said, it will be hard in the start until you get into a routine, until it becomes familiar.

Number four: Be adaptable. Don’t give up at the first struggle. I guess this kind of goes hand in hand with “it will be hard in the start.” Specifically, life gets in the way so you might have challenges with the kids: either getting home from work in time, or the kids have got football club or swimming club or dance club, and that means that what you’d plan to do with regards to your exercise or the meal for that evening can’t necessarily happen how you’d planned it.

Maybe it’s a Monday night and you’d planned to go to the gym at 6:30 or you’d planned to go for a run or whatever it is you decided to do, and one of the kids has got an unexpected dance class or football club or whatever and you didn’t realize you have to go there. Obviously, kids have to come first, so move it. Find out in your calendar where else you can move that session to; don’t drop it. Or maybe even you could do a double session on the weekend. Maybe it could be that when you’re going to the football match on the Saturday or the Sunday, you could maybe fit in your run in between the football game. Obviously, you want to go and watch your kids, but if you just do a 20 or 30-minute run, you could fit that in when they’re playing football. Be adaptable.

Number five. This is my most favourite and I think has the most and will have the most impact. That is accountability–accountability is key. Now, if you’re anything like me, I don’t like being held accountable, it’s uncomfortable, I’m not a great one with authority, but it works. It works hands down. If you’ve got a coach that’s coaching you, you don’t want to be going to your weekly call with that coach or your weekly meeting with that coach having not done what you’d set out to do the week before. The week before, when you’re having the call with them, you’re full of enthusiasm, you’re full of energy, and that’s what you’re going to do next week. And then, like I said, classic case of “life gets in the way” and so you don’t do it all.

Doesn’t even need to be a coach. It could be your wife, it could be your spouse, it could be your partner, it can even be the kids. If you sit down on the weekend and say to the kids: “Right, dad has decided that in 2020, he’s going to really get his health in check and in order to do that, I’m going to go (whatever it is) three times a week. So I need you kids to hold me accountable and question me as to when and whether I’m going to do it or not.” Believe you me, kids are like little sponges. Once you tell them and they have the opportunity as a child to hold a parent accountable, they will 100% hold you accountable.

Outside of that, if it’s not the family, it could be a work colleague. Between you, you could agree that you’re going to hold each other accountable because you’ve tried it before and you gave up X amount of weeks or X amount of months. You could agree that 11 am on a Friday or a Monday, we’re just going to nip out for a coffee and we’re going to see how each other has got on that week in their fitness and nutrition. Like I said, it really, really works.

Number six is diet and food prep. Again, this may seem inconvenient but like I said in the beginning, if you don’t plan and track things, then you don’t know, A – if you’re going to do it and B – if you’re going to achieve it. Plan out what your diet is going to be; don’t change too many things at once. For example, if you regularly in the evening snack on chocolate or biscuits but then there’s other things in your diet that you could take away, just try taking out the chocolates and the biscuits first and don’t change anything else. Just do that for two weeks and then if you’ve managed to stick to that, the following two weeks, you can take something else out. You’re gradually chipping away but all the time you’re being consistent and consistency is really key to getting results and maintaining results long-term. It comes back to the beginning of “don’t change too much too soon” in point number one.

And around food prep, the weekends are the best time to do that. What I mean by food prep is either on a calendar or in your phone, planning your meals for the week, i.e., what you’re going to cook, and therefore you know that when you do your shopping, you know what you’ve got to buy. And in the evenings when you come in, you’ve only got to look at your phone, “Oh I’m having this tonight.” You haven’t got to wonder about what you’re having and spend 15, 20 minutes searching through the cupboards as to what you’re going to cook. Because often that will result in you doing something convenient and convenience, particularly around takeaways, and particularly around processed food, packaged food, is not the best diet to follow.

If you’ve got something planned and it could be like a fish dish, a Thai fish curry that you just whack in the oven with a couple of pieces of cod and a Thai fish sauce, you get that out and you’ve got some broccoli 15, 20 minutes, that’s a meal done. If you’ve got that planned, you know when you come in in the evening, you’ve got all the ingredients in the fridge and in the freezer. Get them out, put it in the oven, put your broccoli on, done. 20 minutes. You don’t have to think about it. That’s the key thing about planning, is it then becomes unconscious. It might take you 15, 20 minutes on a Saturday or on a Sunday to sit down with your wife or your partner or your spouse to work that out.

Number seven: It takes 66 days to form a habit. For all those people that give up 12 days into January, you’re not going to have formed any kind of habit by then. By being aware of that, that’s really conscious. That’s over two months to form a habit so if you’re changing your diet or if you’re starting to exercise, it’s going to take you till March before that’s become habitual. That’s really, really important to understand that. That’s why I have a 90-day programme. Because whilst within the first couple of weeks of the programme people start to see results, they start to see big results–that’s when the biggest gains come–throughout the programme, it actually takes 66 days to make that into a habit and that becomes habitual.

When stuff becomes habitual, you don’t need to think and put so much effort behind it.

Yes, if you want to continue to improve and get results, obviously, you need to continue to put effort behind it. But for the first 66 days of you doing something, it will become a lot more conscious and you have to put a lot more effort in to achieve it. Just bear that in mind. Maybe even put a note in your phone on the day you start and a reminder 66 days forward just to alert you to say, “You’ve done these 66 days, congratulations.” Congratulate yourself; that’s really important. You’re forming a habit so that’s really important.

Number eight is similar actually to number six. And that’s diarise your training time. To put in your diary–it can be on a Sunday, it could be when you’re sitting on the train on the way home, it could be when you’re out walking the dog or whatever. Put in your diary the three, four or five times a week that you’re actually going to train. Like I said previously, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be inflexible and you have to do that training at that time: it comes back to step four about being adaptable. But the very fact that you’ve got that in your diary will mean that you’re more inclined to actually do it than not do it.

Rather than just saying to yourself mentally, “I’m going to train three times a week. I’m going to train in the morning.” Also, obviously with our phones, you can put an alert in there, say, when you get up in the morning it can alert you to train. Again, that will feel very uncomfortable in the beginning and you might not like it but by putting it in your diary, you’re more inclined to get it done. If life gets in the way and you can’t do that training when you’ve diarised it, then move it. (My phone’s going off now. Maybe that’s my time to train.)

Just move it. Move it to a weekend, do a double training day or something like that, but be adaptable, stay consistent, and diarise your training.

Number nine is make meals from real food. And you can do that in 15 minutes. In my 7 Day Meal Plan, I’ve got some very, very simple basic meals that I have in there on the week that I know that I can create in 15 to 20 minutes. We all have 15 to 20 minutes. Even if you were to buy a processed meal or get a takeaway, it’s going to take 15 to 20 minutes for that to cook, be delivered, or whatever. Yes, that means you could probably sit down and do nothing in that time, but it doesn’t take long to make good nutrient-dense food with real ingredients, and it’s so, so basic and simple.

There are also some really, really good recipe box-type services. There’s Gousto, and I can’t remember the name of the other one; that escaped me. But essentially, you go online, you order your meals for the week, it comes with the exact ingredients you need with the exact weights and sizes you need. And you literally just tip it all into a pan, follow the little card that they send your instructions, and that’s done. That’s if you’re super busy.

There’s also some really good meal prep places now. There’s one close to me called HIIT Kitchen which breaks down all the macro nutrients in the meals, so if you’re following a specific nutrition plan, that’s really, really good. But you can make good nutritional food in 15 minutes with five to six basic ingredients. It can be really, really tasty. Stay away from sauces in jars; use normal herbs and spices. It’s really, really simple. Like I said, in the 90-day programme actually as well, and in the 7 Day Meal Plan, I list it all out in there. It’s really, really simple and easy.

One little additional tip I’ll give you as well is I use something which is called a capsule menu: I’ve got my capsule cupboard. You might have heard me talk about that before but a capsule menu is that you have the same meals noted down five days a week. Obviously, the weekends it’s different because you have more time. But yeah, I use those same five meals week in, week out so I know what I’ve got to buy at the supermarket and I know what I’m going to cook.

You might be thinking, well, that’s quite boring, but whenever I get bored with a meal–you don’t get bored of them all at the same time–I just swap one recipe out for another and then mix it up a little bit. It just helps from a shopping perspective, on a preparation perspective and from a time perspective in terms of cooking. The most important thing is you know that then you’re getting good nutrient-dense food, which is my mantra.

Finally, number 10. You do not have to train for an hour. There’s this kind of old unwritten rule and I actually don’t know where it came from, where whenever you train, exercise, go to the gym, you have to do it for an hour. No, you don’t. Absolutely not. If you’re doing the right kind of training, then you can train for about 20 minutes to half an hour and you can get a really good, solid workout.

The four disciplines that I follow are swimming, cycling, running and strength training. You can do all of those in 20 to 30 minutes, unless you’re training for a specific event. If I’m training for an Ironman then obviously that time is extended and it’s very different. But you can do HIIT workouts in all of those as well. One of my coaching clients, he’s a cyclist and he likes to go out on his bike for an hour but he doesn’t always get the hour. So I’ve said to him, go and do a HIIT session on your bike. And he’s, “What do you mean by that?”

HIIT session is you do like a 10-minute warm up then you find a little hill, you power up and down the hill 10 times, and you do a little 10-minute warm down. You can do all of that in half an hour. Again, it’s about adapting your training. HIIT workouts: go onto my YouTube channel, there’s HIIT workouts. I’ve got a 12-minute HIIT, one-page workout you can download from FitterHealthierDad.com. In the swimming pool, you can do a HIIT session. You can do a 200 metre warm up and then you can do 10–if it’s in a 25-metre pool–10 all out sprints. Sprint for 25 metres down to one end and then swim gradually back down to the other end, and then sprint again.

Same with running, exactly the same concept. Now, this is a whole different podcast but to run 5K, you don’t go out and run 5K: you need to do interval training and all the rest of it. And for interval HIIT sessions with running, you jog five to 10 minutes to a local park or a hill or a track if you’re lucky enough to have an area that’s got a track, and then you can do 10 X 100-metre sprints where you sprint 100 metres and then you jog back which is your rest, and then you sprint again. You can do all of that in about 20, 25 minutes.

You don’t have to train for an hour; you do HIIT in all of the different types of disciplines. It’s no different if you are a member of a gym or you do want to go to a gym, you can do the same thing but make sure you have a plan. Make sure you have like your circuit worked out in the gym, of either machines or kettlebells you’re going to use, and make sure you choose four exercises. You can have the little Tabata timer on your phone and you could do a 12, 15 or 20-minute HIIT workout in the gym. So you do not need to go for an hour.

Those are my 10 top tips for 2020 for dads to get started. Now, we launched our new website on New Year’s Day and it is a remarkable improvement over the old one. For any information or resources, you can head over to that. You can download our 4 Step Fat Loss programme, our 12-minute HIIT workout, or if you’re feeling really brave, you could do our 5 Day Food and Fitness Challenge, where every day for five days, you will get an email which will give you a food challenge. That’s something really simple and basic you can implement, takes no more than five minutes, and then you get a 12 to 15-minute HIIT workout for five days.

And then once you’ve done it, you’ve got that and you can just go over and repeat that. For those of you that really want to hit it hard, you can do my 90 Day transformational Busy Dad Weight Loss and Fitness Programme which goes into great detail, not just about nutrition, but about sleep and you’ve got a calendar in there. So that’s for 90 days. And then for those of you that want accountability, I’m tailing it back this year, but I’m still taking on some one-to-one clients. You can either contact me on any of the social media platforms: Instagram, Facebook, or even on the website via the contact form.

I really hope that those top 10 tips help you for 2020 and I look forward to hearing your results. Speak to you soon!

Thanks for listening to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please hit subscribe and I would really appreciate it if you could leave a review on iTunes. All the links mentioned in the episode will be in the show notes and a full transcription is over at FitterHealthierDad.com