I work out all the time. Every single day involves a certain amount of planning around work, weather, upcoming races, family responsibilities, keeping the house from collapsing, and how I am going to burn at least 1,000 calories, lift, swim, cycle, run, all, or other. If it rains all day and I don’t have access to the gym, I start to twitch.
One solution is the “Dad Bod”. This is a new(ish) trend launched by some Hollywood male stars that are getting old and, well, chubby. At the drop of a hat they could be back in form but between gigs, they are enjoying the life. According to the MSN article that was the top Google match which I didn’t actually read all the way through, there is this McKenzie person who wrote a blog post that started the thing in which she said:
… Mackenzie describes the Dad Bod as “a nice balance between a beer gut and working out”. She continues: “The dad bod 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.’ It’s not an overweight guy, but it isn’t one with washboard abs, either.”
Yeah, it is the new normal. The weekend warrior that is an inflated shadow of the college man he was. He hasn’t gone ‘full-accountant’ or neck-beard, but he won’t win the 10k race this weekend. It actually looks more like a conscious decision to back away from competition rather than the ‘lost control around every cheesecake ever’ look.
I’m not one of those that thinks North American men need to be euro-trash spindly because that is unattractive in its own awful way. Yes, that is a good look racing in the Tour de France while simultaneously being the worst look possible in a Speedo. OK, yes, I can think of a worse look but I choose not to think of such things.
To me, the Dad Bod looks like giving up. It looks like a sub-conscious decision was made to not take the time, not make the effort, and not care anymore. They’ve married the girl, spawned some kids, taken all the good pictures they need, and now it is time to put the body into a glide path and just chill out. It is an extension of frat boy culture that breeds selfishly off the status quo: all anyone has to do is look or act or be just slightly better than average to be a winner.
I find it strange then that I need to defend the Dad Bod. There are chapters in a man’s life and there is a long chapter where the family needs to come first. It just isn’t possible for all of us to be successful in our careers, be good husbands, pour love and time into raising children, keep the house from collapsing, and still compete to win in our age group in six or seven triathlons a year. Something has to give and backing away from four hours of exercise a day is simply the right thing to do.
I did, sort of. I have to work out an awful lot to stay lean and mean. I’ve never been sedentary, but I sure wasn’t as viciously dedicated as I am these days and my new low-teens body fat percentage is new and fun.
During the years the boys were growing up, I wasn’t this way. There was a time when running was my sport of choice because it was the biggest burn for the time. Then I played hockey over lunch and late in the evenings. Truth be told, I would have been a much better hockey player if I had been in better shape but I played hockey to “stay” in shape.
Perhaps we should eat better and less. Perhaps we should be less stupidly dedicated to our pathetic dead end careers. Maybe we should spend more active time with our kids. Maybe we can be fit as well. Maybe, but I doubt it.
For the men out there that aren’t at their fighting weight, can’t compete like they used to, can’t hang in the pack, or had to change to lifting kilograms from pounds to force themselves not to compare against what they once were, you are doing the right thing. It is only temporary but during this chapter, you absolutely must be a man and a man serves his family. When you are older, you will have the luxury of working on yourself but now, you need to be a real man and a real man doesn’t look like one of those guys in 300.
That said, if you are being a tool, stop it. I get it that you want/need to ride the Leadville 100 but if you have a couple kids, demanding job, and wife you love, just don’t do it. Let the kids grow up, let the career settle down, and maybe let your wife get sick of you being around the house so much. Don’t be that guy that has to get a notch in his belt for completing some stupid stunt–climb that mountain, run that trail, ride that nightmare, sail that ocean, whatever–at the expense of his family. Don’t be that guy that needs to accomplish some insanely time-consuming and expensive adventure to feel complete, whole, or superior. Just don’t. Not just because of your family and marriage but because you make us all look bad. Just stop it, grow up, be responsible, and do your job.
Then, when you have the time, get back on the bike and ride. Drop the pounds and instead of having a midlife crisis where you buy a fast car, buy a couple bikes and a metric ton of awesome gear. Chisel yourself into a middle age piece of stone. Work yourself like iron. Become the body your wife remembers from when you started dating. Make your grown children proud. Be ‘that guy’ in the office who looks half his age.
I hate the Dad Bod because I need to kill my Dad Bod and get busy building my Mature Grandeur: Mat Grand. It is easy to look good in your late teens and early twenties. Slow down the metabolism and it is harder to keep that weight off. A little less testosterone will make building muscle tricky. All that damage to my back over the years will make working out trickier. My arthritis makes this a challenge as well.
If you want to be a hero, be in the best shape of your life at 50. If you want to command respect, be that guy that competes at that age. Anyone can kick ass at 22 but doing it at 52, 62, and 72 is a challenge. Anyone can compete in their 20s and 30s but a real man is a good father and husband when the family needs him most. Do the Dad Bod then and when the time comes, come out and play with us old guys. We’ll wait.