If you follow Dan Fallon on social media, he’s rarely seen without a kettle bell in his hands. A former Royal Navy Physical Trainer, he’s created the Super You project, an online community that encourages dads to take realistic steps to fitness. He’s also on a mission to promote the links between physical and mental health.
Dan’s a fascinating character. A dad of one, he’s also an author having written both a book focused on dad’s fitness and also a children’s book.
I was keen to speak to Dan and explore his thoughts on both physical and mental health. What I found very interesting was his realism. He’s realistic about the amount of times dads have and that they can’t all join gyms. He’s also quite honest about the fact people can push themselves too far. With that introduction out of the way, here’s how Dan answered the questions I put to him.
Okay Dan, could you please introduce yourself to my readers
My name is Dan Fallon and first and foremost I’m a dad to my little girl who is 4 years old, Poppy Rose also known as Sausage Face.
Sausage Face recently just started early years in school and my wife has just been posted to a war ship HMS Diamond as she is a Physical Trainer in the Royal Navy (talk about keeping it in the family).
This has made life just that little bit more challenging let’s just say, due to work commitments and all the other demands in life I have placed upon myself.
I’m an ex-serving member of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy where I practiced as an exercise rehabilitation specialist after qualifying as a Physical Trainer in 2008.
I served a total of 13 years and still work 37 hours a week in a Ministry of Defence clinic.
I’m the author of children’s book ‘Snowflake and the Seven Sacred Movements’ and the recent book ‘Start with One Thing: The dad’s no BS approach to fat loss and fitness’.
You are the man behind the Super You Project. Can you tell my readers a bit about it please?
It’s an online fitness community for dads all over the world who come together to achieve a common goal: ‘To become a fitness leader in their households.’
In the Super You community, we use state of the art fitness technology to connect to one another in a fitness challenge called ‘Burn to Earn.’
Within Burn to Earn, dads must burn 10,500 calories, the equivalent just over 1 kilogram of body fat, during a 30-day period (calories are registered using the wearable My Zone device).
This earns the dads a ticket to the Super You Monthly Raffle where they can win prizes.
There are three other opportunities to win prizes too:
- One is awarded to the dad that burns the most calories
- One is awarded to the ‘consistency ninja’ which is our most difficult to achieve. This requires our dads to complete repeated days of burning 350 calories for long periods of time. The first reward is for 100 days, then 200 days, then 300 days then the big prize at 365 days.
Now, before people criticise that this is over training, those 350 calories can be earned doing a power walk. I believe the human body is made to move daily, and the more we move, the fitter we become.
- The last opportunity we have is the ‘Super You Project – Transformation of the Year’. This goes to the dad that has radicalised their lifestyle to make fitness a priority for him and his family.
Along with the challenges I give out weekly guidance called the ‘Fitness Think Tank’ and run a live 30-minute in-house Q&A every week.
There’s some great material on the Super You Facebook page about tackling men’s anxieties about fitness. Why do you think this is such a major issue?
The perception of a man’s world is based on ideology that men can’t cry, can’t show emotion, can’t be afraid, unable to not know what to do, can’t talk about their feelings etc. All things that create a huge crisis. It is not a coincidence that we have such high rates of male suicides.
I say crisis because men often leave it right up until crisis point before they reach out or do something they possibly cannot come back from.
These problems are the same in the fitness industry. Men fear being judged. They think that they should know everything otherwise they don’t qualify to be a man. I think what it means to be a ‘Man’ is quite the opposite.
I think to be able to show your vulnerability to others is the foundation of relationships and rapport. If men could drop their ideals and were more open about not having it together all the time and shared the fact they may need help whether that be in the gym or in life, the landscape of men’s mental health might look a little different.
I understand you have a particular interest in encouraging new dads to consider their fitness. Why is that?
I recently had a dad reach out to me who has just seen his wife go through a horrific birth. To the point where his wife almost died.
In events such as traumatic births and adjustment problems to becoming a parent, being physically active is very useful in helping to self-manage emotions. We now know that being physically active helps reduce your chances of succumbing to depression or anxiety.
My wife and I went through a diabolical birth ourselves and our daughter was in hospital for a week. We slept anywhere we could find in the hospital for that period of time. I also had a lot of other stress going on in my life and shortly after my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
I am 100 per-cent certain that if it wasn’t for my passion for fitness, I would have probably hit the bottle and snapped. I truly believe that fitness and physical activity is the cornerstone of self-management.
Speaking from my own experience, I didn’t pay enough attention to my health and fitness when I became a dad (although I have made up for it). Is this a common issue do you think?
I’d say almost every dad I have ever come across has done the same thing and taken their eye off the fitness ball. By nature, we think of our children before ourselves and rightly so. That said, what I tell my dads in the community is that you cannot expect to be the best dad you can be if you are not the best version of yourself.
What’s difficult ‘though, is finding something that triggers this thought process. That’s why I think the Super You Project is so powerful because by repetition the dads begin to embody that process.
What about dads of older kids, do you think they face particular challenges in keeping fit?
About 25 per-cent of our dads are 40 plus and four dads are in their 50s. These dads are probably the easiest to group coach as they are feeling the effects of age. It has never been more important to stay fit and strong in our older years.
I find older dads are at the peak of their career and often own their own companies, so it’s not their kids taking up all their time, it’s their work. It’s a lot easier to manipulate time away from work. When it comes to these guys, you hit them with stats of being physically active related to productivity, they are all in.
Changing the subject for a moment and thinking about your days in the armed forces, what challenges do you think dads in the armed forces face?
Within the Super You Community, 30 per-cent of our audience is either in the armed forces or are ex-military.
Some dads will make good use of their time away and really focus on their fitness as a tool to cope with being away from their family. However, some dads suffer with low mood due to being away from their family which has a huge effect on their motivation. It can be very overwhelming to know you are going to be away from your family for 6 months or so.
Depending on which section of the armed forces you serve in; time can certainly be an issue (I know from my previous experience of serving onboard a ship). If you are keeping watch at sea and are working 6 hours on and 6 hours off, finding the motivation to do 30-45 minutes of exercise rather than sleeping or eating can be a challenge in itself.
I understand you have teamed up with father’s mental health campaigner Mark Williams (see a previous Q&A I did with Mark here). What have the two of you been getting up to?
Mark and I connected over social media. I saw the work he was doing and I reached out to find if I could be of service in any shape or form. We got chatting on a video call and immediately hit it off.
He was keen to join our community to experience the Super You first-hand and he loves it.
We met up in Portsmouth together with the Honest Midwife (Louise Broadbridge) to discuss their training model for employers to recognise and become more aware of fathers’ mental health in the workplace.
Their workshop will include Louise’s experience in the antenatal period to birth and Mark’s knowledge of working with dads in mental health. I will be working with them both to develop a pre-birth health and wellbeing strategy for dads and will also be offering my ‘Start with One Thing’ talk in the workplaces they are delivering.
In your experience, do you think a healthy body equates to a healthy mind?
This depends to be honest. For example, during my training on Physical Trainers course in the Royal Navy, we were pushed to our absolute limits, to the point where we would become run down and develop colds etc. Here we were sacrificing our health for fitness. We all had rippling six packs and big biceps, but we also had sniffly noses and in worst cases, a dose of diarrhoea.
For me, the definition of maintaining a healthy body balances the elements of mindset and movement along with good sleep, connection with friends and a playful nature. Striking the balance of those factors is what creates a healthy body and health mind.
It also depends what people identify as a healthy body because in order to be 12% body fat or less in your thirties and being a dad is going to cause you stress. When you are striving to operate at those sorts of fat percentages, you will have a routine that includes monitoring your calorie intake and will be very active and not just in the gym. Maintaining this sort of ‘healthy body’ can sometimes be a negative thing.
In a lot of your videos you are using weights and similar equipment. Do you encourage guys to invest in special equipment or do you promote keeping it simple and using what you have to hand?
I’m definitely a ‘use what you can’ kind of guy. I have nothing against gyms but for most dads getting to the gym can prove difficult. That’s why I always do my best to give dads ideas and options to use where and when they can.
I’ll talk about bodyweight and kettlebells at home or for those with the luxury of a gym membership I will give ideas for there too.
One routine I suggested this week was the 20:10. The principle is to work for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds for a total of 5 minutes. Pick 3-5 exercises and off you go.
You say your daughter is one of you biggest motivations for keeping fit. How important is it for you to encourage her to lead a healthy lifestyle?
A guy called Simon Sinek wrote a book called Start with Why? a few years back. I would challenge him and say; “Start with Who?”
When I am about to consider ducking out on anything I know I need to do, I think; “What would I say to Poppy in the future?” That gets me out of bed in the morning.
If we want our kids to behave in a certain way, we must first practice what we preach.
For me, it is crucial for her to adopt a healthy relationship with health and wellbeing. Giving our children the education to be able to self-manage their emotional wellbeing through the power of exercise is a gift that ALL parents should hand down in my opinion.
Anything else you’d like to add?
When dads are first starting out, I explain that they need to find something they either enjoy or they need to find purpose in what they are doing.
They need to set goals and break them down into parts, it helps guarantee success.
That’s why ‘starting with one thing’ is so powerful. It prevents goal stacking and promotes confidence. Once the dads have built some consistency and momentum, they often find adding other goals easier.
Where to get more information about the Super You Project
More information can be found online at the Super You website. You’ll also find @SuperYouProject on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.