Below is our transcription of the podcast we did with Geoff Girvitz. Geoff is the founder of Bang Personal Training and The Dad Strength Podcast host. This episode discusses how dads can still be strong and healthy, even without the same amount of time or energy we did before kids: We may need different approaches. Highlights of our conversation include:
Using the same mental strength you build during a workout to be a better parent Ways to make workouts into your daily life Maximizing your activities for the time you have How to optimize the mental benefits of exercise And my personal favorite: A way to actually beat food cravings.
A Dad’s Path: Hi and welcome! I’m here with Geoff Girvitz. Geoff is from Bang Fitness and A Dad’s Strength podcast. Today. We’re going to talk about exercise as a dad. How do you make the time? What’s the least amount you can do. We’ll talk about nutrition and more. So thank you for joining us today. Welcome, Geoff. Thanks.
Well, first, I’d love it if you could give a quick introduction to our audience about yourself, how you ended up with the Dads Strength podcast, and at Bang?
Geoff Girvitz: Looking back, I was not like a gym guy growing up. I always did martial arts when I was 16. I discovered that, and that was huge for me.
And so I kept that up. And when I connect the dots, looking back, I realized I moved to Toronto in the early 2000s, and I was back at a dude martial arts. And I remember thinking, this has been really important to me, for my mental state, my ability to focus, my ability to feel good. So I started thinking, how am I going to make sure I can do this as an old guy?
And, , I’ll tell people now when they come into the gym, , my goal is for you to be a jacked old man or jacked old woman. I want to really reverse engineer that
I was more interested in the athletic performance side. First, I got super interested in it and later on began to figure out, okay, how can I apply this to me? How can I apply this to the people that I work with to get my toes in the water? So working as a personal trainer from part-time to full-time and then way sooner than I was ready for or had anticipated back in 2008, I opened up this space really was zero business.
A bunch of idealism and then kind of navigated from there.
A Dad’s Path: That’s great. Good for you for taking the plunge there, and that’s Bang Fitness is in Toronto, right?
Geoff Girvitz: Right. Yeah. The Dad Strength stuff came later. My son is five, and when my wife was pregnant, I began to think, well, I want to be a better dad.
And I wanted to think about what am I learning that may be helpful to other people who care about showing up to parent.
A Dad’s Path: That’s awesome. Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about today, and we’re going to get that knowledge from you. That’s what we’re here about. Maybe to jump in. I know a big challenge.
You had your own time, and then you have a child, and time is much different now in terms of free time, trying to make time for what’s important, working out, or even seeing your friends. How do you make time to work out? What are some recommendations for someone who’s really busy with life, with a newborn, and how do you keep that balance
After my son was born, realizing I’m going to have to be way more efficient. And a lot of the things that I thought had to exist in my life turned out they didn’t need to. They were not essential when it came to making time. And it’s a good question. And it’s an important question. And I think it depends on the context, and it depends on the motivation for most of us navigating our way through.
Without anything really dramatic happening. The best thing we can do is be efficient and look at what are the interstitial moments. , one of the big things, and one of the big myths I want to dispel, is that exercise has to be this epic, whether it’s sixty, ninety, a hundred twenty minutes, whatever you have in your head, you can get meaningful work done in a few minutes.
And to an extent, more is more, but the first minutes are the tip of the unicorn’s horn. The most magic is in the first minutes you apply. So you can make five or 10 or 15 minutes meaningful. You can also say, well, what am I already doing? Am I taking me? Am I taking calls? Can I do that while walking? Can I do that while moving around? There are already places in your life.
If motivation is super high in those moments, and that can be anything from, wow, I want to revamp everything. Or sometimes I’ll meet a lot of people in their forties and fifties who get some blood work back. The doctor’s not happy about it. So when motivation is really high, that is a moment where you can look at reformatting and revamping your entire schedule and building life around these priorities.
So that’s your best use of high motivation because it’s not going to last forever. Rather than throw it into an intense workout, throw it into systems, planning, organization, and reorientation. And when motivation is low, you’re kind of doing your thing, work with what you’ve got because a little bit actually makes a difference.
A Dad’s Path: I love that. You said a lot of great things there. , I think first, get rid of the non-essential. That was really smart. That’s what we have to do as dads. Cause there’s a lot of things we thought were essential and then, Hey, maybe they’re not, and yeah, work out can feel daunting. I don’t have time to go to the gym, change, warm up, and lift.
But your point is right on. You don’t need that. So I guess what, I’d be curious, what would it look like? Hey, I’ve got seven minutes or 10 minutes. What should I be doing? how do you sort of guide someone through that? Making the most of their time, the little moments when they don’t have a lot of time.
Geoff Girvitz: Yeah. Do something that you can do right now. You don’t need more information. Very few of us need more information about fitness or nutrition or anything else. So all I would say is any movement that absorbs all of your attention is using. We want to do things that take good care of our joints.
That’s one of the big things that I’ll say we are really playing the long game here, and that means anxious hurt. You can be uncomfortable, you can be sore, but if you’re feeling in your joints and your knees or your shoulders, your low back, that’s a signal to say, Hey, can I revamp what I’m doing?
Take that information, redo your posture, and redo your movement choices. And working within that. If you’re completely immersed in this, you will figure it out. And the big thing I would say is it is not about how intense you go. Conjure that I played her, but it’s more important, far more useful to ask the question of what do I like doing what is enjoyable to me?
What absorbs my attention. A lot of what I do when I take movement breaks during the day they’re more meditative. I’m not someone who always thrived or really ever thrived with traditional seated meditation, but get me moving and coordinating breathless movement. And I get the same therapeutic benefits.
Plus, I get some extra moving around. So again, we have to be masters of efficiency, right? And we need to sometimes layer in what we’re doing on top of already useful or frequent tasks.
A Dad’s Path: I like that a lot. And as you said, we’re all getting older. That’s what happens as we age, as we have kids, we have new health challenges, and that could be something like joints, as you’re saying.
And that’s an interesting area to start thinking about. And then, as dads, we have natural movements we do that we never did before or didn’t do as much, like bending over, picking up, twisting, being hit in the face. Okay. To me, that’s almost like training. How do you do the dad training?
So someone who sits at their desk all day now has to be bending over, picking something up. Cute little thing up, but still have you thought about that? Is that plank, is that, what are we working on there?
Geoff Girvitz: It’s a really good question. If we were a baseball player, is there any strength training that particularly transfers into, say, rotational power, lateral changes of direction?
What do we need to do as parents? And again, I would say, do things that take good care of your joints and have your body feeling good. The number one reason if I watch parents engaging or not engaging with their kids physically at the park, I believe that the number one reason is pain. It is a real buzzkill.
If your low back hurts, it’s not that you’re not going to do it, but you’re less likely to do it. , the standard commercials for all the analgesics stuff. It’s like, I took this, and now I can ignore my body. That’s not what I’m saying. Right. What I’m saying is can we get to a place where things don’t hurt, it’s going to make you more likely to move.
So if you’re seated all day, is there a version of this where we can stand for part of the day? It’s really simple. The body likes variety. When we get stressed, and we get busy, what do we do? We tend to collapse. We curl up. We go fetal. So a lot of the opposite direction we can do when we apply strength training is to be expansive, to reach out, to be big, to extend the hips, to be as tall as possible, and to create maximum space in the hip joints.
And then in between the vertebra, create traction and space and mobility. And a lot of this is checking in with your body. Here would be my big message. There’s no magical thing. Somebody’s going to hand you. This is the ultimate workout. There’s no such thing. Nobody can know your body, or nobody should be a greater expert on your body than you.
So a lot of our process and what I would recommend for any dad is to pay attention to the signals you’re getting, whether it’s discomfort, pain, energy, soreness, like positive stuff, as well as negative stuff, and ask, how do I work with this? When I’m getting a signal? Like my low back is tight. What positions have me feel good?
Does it feel better to breathe more shallowly? I feel better breathing deeply and start testing stuff out. And in time, you’re going to develop a series of positions and exercises that when you’re done, you feel better than when you started. And that becomes self-reinforcing. And that is again in opposition to how much can I suffer?
How intense can I make it? How sweaty can this be? That stuff will all happen pretty organically once you’ve got a good one.
A Dad’s Path: I like that, listen to your body, like you’re saying, and grow that way through exercise and through what we need and sorta interesting because, you alluded to the mental benefits of exercise and strength training.
And I think what you said about cardio, whatever it is you’re doing, you’ll do what your body needs, and from a mental side, I think you need to do something similar, but that framework is not nearly as out there. It’s not as obvious as having to go to the gym or I’m going to. , there are a lot of tools out there.
There’s Google, and there’s meditation, there’s therapy, and a lot of tools, which is great. I almost think it’s useful to think of that as another toolbox. For some people, they go hand in hand, strength, training and physical fitness, and mental fitness. And for others, you need something different.
Geoff Girvitz: Yeah, it doesn’t have to look a particular way. It doesn’t have to be a particular thing. If you like to dance, if you like to bike, start there, it builds a foundation. Let me ask you this. Your oldest is seven, right? Yep. What have you noticed over the last seven or so years in terms of your own back?
A Dad’s Path: So lower back issues, I’ve had those sort of on and off from before kids, but I tweaked it more off. Definitely was careful around my kids, but now I have a pretty solid exercise routine that could always improve, of course, but I play tennis, I run, and do strength training three or four times a week.
Geoff Girvitz: Awesome. Does it make a difference a hundred percent? Do you notice the difference when you’re not doing it?
A Dad’s Path: Yeah. That’s the best way of putting it, Geoff. Exactly. When I don’t do it, actually, it’s not that I noticed. It’s the people around me who notice. My wife is, Hey, when did you last workout? Or so, for me, it’s intertwined with the mental and the physical.
I am curious. I was going to ask you the same question. What’s your current routine, and is it your ideal routine is what you’d like to be doing right now?
Geoff Girvitz: Yeah, I deal is a funny question, right? So much of the message and fitness culture and media is about how do we optimize our bodies? How do we get you within an inch of your genetic potential?
I’m not super interested in that at this point in my life. The main reason I exercise. It’s to feel great. So I prioritize, for example, being pain-free over how much I squat, to be clear. I think one of the great benefits of exercise is that moment of really being challenged. We build resilience by going to the edge and saying, , for example, knowing your body, be more aware, invariably, what happens in a workout is you’re doing a bunch of reps rowing a dumbbell, you’re curling it, and you go, that’s it.
I can’t do another rep; I’m in fatigue. And at that point, a big part of the value is to ask the question of this. Do I have more in the tank? I’ve come to learn over time. That’s the moment I get to a place where I’m like, O, I’m regretting my life choices right now. What did I get myself into? And it really feels like I’m at the edge.
The onset of that moment lets me know that I’m about halfway through compared to my capacity. So it’s not about going beyond your boundaries, but it’s really about interrogating what they are. All you do is come up against it and go. I want to stop now and add another five seconds, another ten seconds, a little bit more.
And you apply that in a consistent way over the long term. You build resilience in a really reliable way to dependable way. It’s not particularly dramatic. It’s not like the Rocky montage. It’s not like the Instagram Reel. It’s what happens as part of a long-term process.
A Dad’s Path: That’s awesome, that’s where the gains happen, and it’s not saying, Hey, I have to add an hour to my workout to get the workout.
You’re saying, Hey, this is the last, literally 15 seconds or 10 seconds of my rep or doing a couple more reps or again, , that’s where you started, , we’re being more efficient with everything, and I’ll mention one other thing is in those moments, I think it’s really useful and helpful to pay attention to your internal Lang.
Like, what are you noticing? What signifies to you? What indicates, okay, I should stop now. What does that message? Right? Where’s it coming from? What does it sound like? And then when you go beyond it, what does your self talk to? Like? I will often say, , when I really push, and I do something really challenging, I will, I will say to myself, remind myself, I can do hard things.
And almost invariably, when I’m saying that I’m doing something really tough and I’m pushing, but, I’m stretching boundaries, but not breaking them. So that has become a really reliable thing that when I say that, I know it’s true, and I’ve got a huge track record to back me up.
A Dad’s Path: I love that internal language, as you’re saying, or, or self-talk, or almost like a mantra you can have going in your head and talk about that as a tool you can use to keep your patients to, right.
When you’re your little one who loves you so much is maybe not listening to everything you’re saying, and you feel your anger rising or not being as patient as you want internally again. It’s Hey, what’s that voice? What is it saying? Why is it saying that why am I feeling this way, and how do I be more productive with mine?
Geoff Girvitz: It’s very interrelated, and it’s really helpful to be able to practice this stuff when the emotional stakes are low, right. It’s not a big deal in the gym alone. You’re fine. When we’re trying to develop a new skill, it’s ideal to practice it in kind of a sandbox if it’s really important to me, how I am interacting with my kids, how Self-regulating when I’m part of being a parent is, you’re going to be angry, and you’re going to be annoyed, and you’re going to be bored and frustrated and all the other stuff that doesn’t make it into like the hallmark movie, right. You’re going to experience all these emotions. And so to have the opportunity to practice elsewhere of, I’m noticing.
Where’s this coming from, and what does it mean? And, I’m going to get five more seconds. I’m about to yell. I’m about to lose it. I’m going to take this five more seconds and see what I can do and what my emotions are. So there’s such a roller coaster ride that five seconds later, or at least like a minute or two later, you can have a wildly different experience.
If you can get over that sticking point.
A Dad’s Path: Totally. It feels silly that counting works so well, but for me, it does, for example, counting down in my head, and I’m like, okay, easy little trick and feel like I’ve been like trained. I’m an animal or whatever, but hey if it works, then it works!
Geoff Girvitz: Yeah, whatever gets the job done a hundred percent.
A Dad’s Path: We talked a lot about working out and conditioning, and the flip side, especially as we get older, is nutrition and diet. Before I had kids, I could have a healthier household. I wouldn’t have as much dessert around or foods that I know tempt me.
And now all bets are off. Right? It’s a family household. It’s a family pantry. So I guess diving right in with temptation if you don’t mind going there for a second, in terms of you have clients or people you talk to who deal with that successfully.
Geoff Girvitz: I should preface this in the spirit of full transparency that I will always eat my son’s fruit snacks.
That will never stop. I make no promises to stop. Nutrition is one of those things where everybody feels pretty knowledgeable about it. And I find it a real challenge in the sense that I’m really not telling anybody anything they don’t know, or at least like, feel pretty confident that they know very little about nutrition comes down to science, comes down to physiology or biochemistry or anything.
Most of it is dealing with the human side. When we talk about emotional eating and craving and snacks, , it’s the same thing. I would apply the exact same advice. First of all, what signals are you getting from your body? Like what you notice before you go? Are you legitimately hungry?
Some people don’t even let themselves feel hunger or feel kind of panicky about it, but, the good news about the human body is we are able to part from a continuous source of nutrients. We store fat as energy. We can hang on to vitamins and meals for at least a couple of days. And so, if we’re in a real energy deficit, we won’t die. We’ll be okay.
And it, especially if you’re, if you notice, if you have ever said to yourself, wow, I’m carrying more body fat than I would like to ideally great. That means you have more surplus. And all that means is hunger is not a true emergency. It might feel like one, but you’ll be fine. A lot of times when I find myself snacking, Do I have general dysphoria, like something else up.
Am I looking for something to sort of attenuate the discomfort? We check our phones a lot for the same reason. I would never counsel for restriction or to not do something. But I do think it’s really useful to say, like, what am I feeling? Why do I think I’m feeling it? And one of the most useful tips I can share is to add friction. Add a little bit of a time delay.
After I noticed if you said I’m trying not to snack after dinner. Great. And now you’re feeling snacky. You said that 45 minutes ago. Now you’re watching a show with the family, and now you’re feeling snacky. You can say, what, after I noticed that I’m feeling like a snack, I will, make a cup of tea, for example, or fill in something that takes a few minutes.
And like I said, that emotional experience if it’s hunger, hunger may be consistent. But if it’s not a lot of times, what happens is what felt like, I have to eat right. The urge completely dissipates. It’s like, you forgot your mind has moved on to other. So figuring out those frictions can be an easy way to navigate intermittent.
Fasting has worked not because it’s some miracle at the end of the day; it’s managing total intake. It is a math game. We’re managing a number of calories coming in but having clear rules. The expression I like is 100% is easier than 98% rather than going, well, it’s not technically a carb or has a low-glycemic load.
And when I’m thinking about it, it’s like quasi paleo. It’s like if you’re doing mental calisthenics, whatever you’ve chosen is way too complicated. Make it really easy for yourself to make decisions.
A Dad’s Path: That’s a great idea! I’ve heard of brushing your teeth right after dinner, so then you’re done eating for the night, and I’ve done that before, but I really like your idea of adding friction in particular with something like tea, it’s something you can make. It has to take time.
It’s not something that you can do in a second. And then maybe say, Hey, I’ll take five sips or something. , it doesn’t have any calories. And if I’m still hungry, if I’m still feeling it, then I’ll eat for myself. It’s definitely not a hunger where I need to be eating or likely should be eating. If I’ve eaten my dinner, then I don’t really need to be eating more after.
But unfortunately, it can’t happen.
Geoff Girvitz: So, yeah. And I have sort of a different priority list in my head, , I’ll say, okay, if I still really feel like eating, is it nutrient-dense? And that could be veggies or lean protein or something with like Omega-3 is if you are convinced, wow, my body’s telling me I really need nutrients.
Probably. It’s not an ultra-processed snack with a long ingredient list that was made by a multinational conglomerate. That’s not really what your body needs. Right? A lot of times, the bank will say friction, not restriction. So you don’t ever have to say no. And I don’t think it works very well for people.
And usually, there’s sort of a hangover from restriction, but if all you say is I’m going to give myself a minute, and if I still feel like it, it’s about paying more attention to your body signals. And as you get better at it, you’ll have a more accurate view of what you.
A Dad’s Path: That makes a lot of sense.
I love the nutrient-dense snacks, too, saying, Hey, if you are going to do it, listen to your body and try and do it at least in a more right way if you’re snacking. So, and then, like you said, with the fruit snacks after dinner, my kids have Mac every night. So, , I’m cleaning up, and I’ll scoop one in my mouth.
It’s very easy to do this sort of mindless. Do these calories count or…
Geoff Girvitz: 80% of my caloric intake is from food my son didn’t finish. It’s the father’s food chain, right.
A Dad’s Path: This is great. Geoff.
I know we hit a lot of key topics that I know I deal with and that other dads on my podcast have dealt with. And I know you have your dad’s strengths podcast, which was very valuable. And then I know my listeners would get value from so they can give you a listen as well here.
Geoff Girvitz: Heck yeah. Heck yeah.
I like it.
Not to be too sharp with the language, but yeah, I appreciate it. I hope it’s helpful. So much of this messaging we get implies. Like it’s gotta be this complete overhaul, and I can tell you definitively that little things matter, and it’s not always apparent how they matter, but you stack them up, and the incremental and time becomes exponential.
So don’t ever write something off because it doesn’t feel like it’s big enough because to me, it’s like saying, Hey, I’m trying to save up a hundred dollars. Well, here’s $1. No, no, no. I don’t want that. I need a hundred dollars. It’s like, it all goes somewhere.
A Dad’s Path: Yep. That’s how you get a hundred dollars. I love that.
I like all the different tips you gave and how, , that’s what we try and do is give different ideas because we’re all different, and our kids are all different, and you don’t know who’s going to respond to what and what’s going to resonate. So we get ideas out there that work for other dads and the ones that work for you, great, and the ones that don’t, you ignore.
Geoff Girvitz: 100% percent. Your process is going to be your own. So a lot of it comes from experimenting, and they’re not all going to work, and that’s totally fine. Keep trying stuff.
A Dad’s Path: Appreciate it, Geoff. This is a great message. And, thanks so much for joining us today.
Geoff Girvitz: Thanks for having me. Awesome.
A Dad’s Path: If you liked our podcast, please subscribe and leave us. You haven’t joined us yet. Go to a dad’s path.com to get a free newsletter exclusively for dads. But if a friend, might like this podcast, send it on. We want to help as many dads as possible. Make fatherhood count dad on.