There’s been a collective sigh of relief that the UK’s various Government’s have revealed their plans for relaxing lockdown. Even so, we’re at least four months away from getting back to the ‘new normal’ and in the meantime we need to keep fit without the benefit of gyms, sports clubs, leisure centres and so on. Darren Kirby, AKA the Fitter Healthier Dad, has clear ideas about dads and how they can stay in shape and improve their health during lockdown.
Darren has been getting a lot of press coverage recently as there’s been a lot of interest in his Fitter Healthier Dad programme. Darren’s not only a big believer in consistent, regular exercise but focusing on nutrition.
His story is an interesting one. Darren, who worked in IT, had been going to a gym three times a week and tried out various diets for several years. He not only failed to lose weight, but entered himself for a triathlon and discovered he was desperately unfit, despite his regular work outs.
That was in 2013. He subsequently developed an interest in nutrition, lost 28kilograms and is now training to qualify for the Ironman 2021 World Championships. He has also developed his approach into the Fitter Healthier Dad programme and is helping men reach their fitness goals in a sustainable, healthy way. What I like about Darren’s approach is that he believes you can get fit with what you’ve got: He doesn’t believe you need gym memberships, expensive equipment or diets. In this Q&A, Darren tells me all about his approach and what guys need to keep in mind to stay in shape.
Fitter, healthier dad: is this just as aspiration in lockdown, or can it be done?
“Yes! Absolutely it can be done, dads just need to follow the three Ms: Metabolism, Movement and Mindset, as set out in my Fitter Healthier Dad Programme.”
Okay, cheeky questions aside, can you introduce yourself Darren? You have quite a story that involves losing about 28k in weight, right?
“That’s correct, my transformation happened in 2013 when I was invited to enter a triathlon. At this stage I had been going to a gym three times a week for 15 years so I thought that I was in good shape. Once I started to train for the event it was only then that I realised I was very overweight and hugely unfit. This was when I started to research why, despite going to the gym regularly, I was still borderline obese. I researched for many months and my biggest realisation was that the weight only started to come off once I understood nutrition, NOT dieting.”
You may have excelled at weight loss, but whenever I post content like this, I like to stress this is about being healthy and taking sensible steps to achieve and maintain that health, right?
“Absolutely, 100%. This is all about underlying health, I am hugely against dieting and the damaging nature of it. What is interesting is that when you focus on a nutrient dense diet with all different types of foods, dieting becomes irrelevant because you are providing the body with the correct nutrients it needs and therefore the body maintains a health weight.”
We’ve been living in lockdown for a while now. What are your main lockdown health and fitness tips for dads?
“Maximise the one outside trip that you are allowed per day: do work calls whilst walking to get at least 10k steps in a day and ensure your children are coming outside with you (despite their moaning about walking).
“Stick to a routine, take regular breaks from your work to go outside for a few minutes to get in sunlight and take in fresh air.
“Drink plenty of water, as your body can make you feel hungry when you’re actually just dehydrated
“Follow a routine and ensure that you are still doing workouts, which can be done in as little as seven minutes.”
Being in lockdown means we don’t have access to gyms, swimming pools or fitness classes. Do you believe we can keep things simple and make the best of what we have to keep fit?
“To keep fit, all you need is you. You have enough body weight to use that as resistance without adding weights. High intensity interval training is great for fitness and weight loss. I have plenty of free workouts on my YouTube channel: Fitter Healthier Dad TV. Most importantly, involve the kids and make it fun!”
Of course, some people are seeing lockdown as an excuse to take up exercise for the first time. What advice have you got for newbies?
“It’s a process and progress doesn’t come overnight, just accept it’s going to take six to eight weeks before you start to see your fitness improve. Make sure you are doing something you enjoy, if you don’t like running, then don’t run, walk. The most important thing is once you start, stay consistent. It’s through consistency where you will see real improvements. Plan your workout time in your diary and ask your partner or a friend to hold you to account.”
Nutrition is a big thing for you. Is there anything nutrition-wise us dads should be paying attention to while in lockdown?
“Yes, snacking! We are a nation of snackers and we can quite easily consume more than a meal’s worth of calories in snacks. We don’t need to be continually snacking. It’s really basic but it is these things which really work: Drink plenty of water, try and eat more protein and fats (yes, I said fats, but healthy fats), and have a low amount of carbs (eg. low amount of bread, potatoes, rice etc.). You may not be moving enough to burn off the excess energy that carbs provide.”
I noticed an interesting blog post on your website about improving your energy levels as a busy dad. Can you say a bit about that as I am sure many dads feel drained at the moment.
“Sure, low energy levels or lack of energy is one of the most common issues I see. There is a lot which can impact our energy, but there are some basic fundamentals that we can follow to boost our energy levels. First off, ensure you are getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep a night, and make sure you are hydrated, as we can lose up to 50% of our concentration if we are 10% dehydrated.
“Pay attention to your sugar intake. You want to have nicely balanced blood sugar levels and there are so many hidden sugars in processed foods. Where possible, stay away from processed foods and eat foods which are as close to their original state as possible.
Do you have advice for dads in different age groups? Are there particular exercises men in their thirties and forties should concentrate on for instance?
“Society will have us believe that as we get older, we should deteriorate, but it is quite the opposite. The first thing to remember is that we have to move more. In terms of more focused exercises there really aren’t any; you are only limited by your own mindset. Having said that, I do see the ego get in the way and many men think they need to lift lots of heavy weights. Whilst that is beneficial, our own body weight is enough. The most important thing is to find something you enjoy so that you stay consistent.”
And what about foods for dads in different age groups? Your metabolism slows as you get older so surely men must have to think differently about food as they age?
“This comes back to my earlier point, eat a nutrient dense diet which is high in protein & fats and lower in carbohydrates and that is all you need. Stay away from processed foods and have smaller portion sizes, we have digressed into eating way too much food for our activity levels.
Finally, where can people find you online?