Paternity Leave

When my second child was born in 2019 I took three months paternity leave. It was great to be able to lend a helping hand to my wife, spend time with the newborn, and to step away from the office. I went to various classes like baby massage and got to meet other Dads Moms. I’m not sure I met any other Dads who were on paternity leave, and most Moms were shocked by how much leave my employer offered, and the proportion of my salary they continued to pay. I’m lucky that I work for a large company that offers paternity leave far in excess of Government policy. Not all companies have the will and/or resources to do so. Paternity leave just doesn’t seem to be a thing in Ireland, and thats bad.

One reason I assume Dads don’t take leave or lobby the government for more generous leave is embarrassment. Dads work, they don’t coo over babies. And I admit, I felt a bit of this too. I only took three of the four months on offer, crumbling to the self-inflicted pressure of coming back to the office. I only know of one Dad in the company who has taken all four months. It’s one thing to offer paternity leave, quite another to change Dad culture.

Japan has one of the most generous paternity allowances in the world with 30.4 weeks of paid leave – yet only about 3% of new dads take it. According to a study by Kyushu University most Japanese Dads said they wanted to take their full paternity leave but didn’t feel that they could, because none of the other Dads did (I know how that feels). Those “other Dads” are also “most Dads” so they too actually want to take leave. Collectively, Dads are unwittingly propping up their work-comes-first culture.

In the UK, the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service discovered that embarrassment was one of the biggest obstacles to taking paternity leave. A third of new Dads were worried that their manager wouldn’t be understanding and a fifth were convinced that it would affect their chances of promotion. Did taking paternity leave impact my career, actually yes, a bit, but you come out of it believing that theres something more fundamental to chase than just a good career.

I’m not sure I’d have been that productive even if I had been in work. The chaos created by a newborn baby doesn’t exactly lend itself to a successful working life. Those first few months I wandered around in a sleep-deprived state.

I have zero regrets about taking paternity leave. Hanging out with baby, helping/watching baby experience the world, its really exciting and great fun. It’s great for kids too because time spent with their parents in the early stages of their lives benefits their emotional development and can have a positive impact on their mental health.

Dad taking leave is also a huge benefit to Mom. Having taken leave, it seems bizarre that Dads role could be, “right, well good luck with the baby, I’m off to work” – no wonder some women suffer post natal depression. They’re being asked to handle a life changing event largely by themselves. Also, because I was a stay at home Dad for three months, I know its much harder being at home than it is in the office (and I had help). It meant that when I was back at work, I didn’t come home expecting to relax after a hard days work, because I know which one of us actually had the harder day, hint, not me.

We need to take our lead from the Nordic countries, no surprise there. Sweden is a world leader when it comes to shared parental leave. Their allowance is 480 days with 90 days reserved for each partner, and for the majority of that time they receive 80% of their income, paid centrally through the government. In Finland, Moms maternity pay is linked to Dads leave, if he doesn’t take paternity leave, the maternity pay decreases.

If you’re lucky enough that you can take paternity leave, then do. I came out better for it, as did my family. As a society we’re not where we need to be, but it’s getting better all the time.

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These newborn days don’t last long, you have to maximise them
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The world is progressing. Mommy and Baby parking has been replaced by Parent and Lawnmower parking

 

Was the gym any good in the first place?

Yes, it was, but covid-19 has resulted in gyms being closed. I can’t help but wonder what the post-covid world will look like, and will everyone just pick up where they left off, or will time away from the gym have changed peoples views on fitness and what the gym actually offers.

In any gym I’ve ever been a member of, the men tend to cluster in the weights room. I was once a member of a men-only gym that was nothing but a weights room. And the reason, men want to add muscle mass and get bigger. But men often confuse wanting to get bigger with getting leaner. Often they already have muscle, its just obscured by fat.

If you instead focus on burning fat, you’ll dial up your definition and bring your muscle mass to the fore. For most people its unlikely you have weights at home to rival the gym so you’ve probably already turned to something like running and may well be seeing the results you always wanted from the gym but never got.

As well as confusing getting bigger with getting leaner, men often confuse getting bigger with getting fitter. But bigger isn’t fitter. Fitness is the combined power of your heart, lungs, and muscles to enable you to do meaningful activities. A bench press isn’t a meaningful activity. I learned this first hand when I worked as a furniture delivery man. A bigger muscle is a stronger one only to a certain extent, because strength is largely neuromuscular, it’s about your brain connecting to your muscles in the most efficient way possible, for example, when you’re carrying a wardrobe up a flight of stairs. So to get stronger you should be learning new skills, not endlessly repeating bicep curls.

I think time away from the gym will reduce the enthusiasm for the weights room, as people realise they were mis-informed as to what you can achieve in there.

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Not a treadmill in sight

 

 

 

Training when the gym is closed

With the restrictions in place under covid-19 my gym is closed. I use the gym for the odd free-weights session and the pull up bar. The office I work in has a studio, and this is also closed. The studio is a big empty space that I use for bodyweight exercises and handstand drills.

Staying at home to prevent the spread of covid-19 does not mean the end of exercise. Long ago I started moving much of my exercise into my own house. If you’re looking for ideas on how to exercise at home, the links below to some of my previous blog posts could be useful.

Below I’ve linked my most recent review of Rushfit, a home fitness DVD. Don’t think that a home fitness DVD is any less beneficial than a gym membership. Rushfit was so intensive and the benefits so great that I quit the gym when I did it as it made the gym redundant:

Blog post revisited: Rushfit

And if DVDs are too old school for you, there are loads of fitness apps that you can download to your phone or tablet. I use a yoga app called DDPY which is one such fitness app, you can read more about it in the link below:

DDP Yoga – a review

Home equipment doesn’t need to be a bench press or chin-up bar, which can either be big and bulky or difficult to set up. The parallettes are a simple and effective tool, they don’t take up much space, and require zero installation:

Parallettes Pt.2

There are so many options to train at home, and they are so effective, that once the gyms re-open, you might even be reluctant to return. Forcing yourself to be more creative with home workouts might just broaden your training horizons beyond what the standard gym can offer.

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The complete home gym

A tale of two races

My new Vivobarefoot shoes arrived today. Its mad to think that they are the only brand of shoe I wear. Minimalist shoes have really helped strengthen my feet and ankles. Running has become low impact and pain free. As an example, I give you a tale of two races.

Walt Disney World Half Marathon 2012

  • I had a standard pair of Nike running shoes, nice big soles on them
  • I trained for the race using Jeff Galloways training programme, two timed runs a week, and one distance run a week that gradually got longer
  • I ran the half marathon in 2hrs and 5 seconds.
  • My knees were in agony. I hobbled back to the hotel.
  • I was in Disney World so after I’d showered and changed, I went to the Disney Studios theme park. With my knees too sore to actually walk around, I spent most of the day on a bench people watching, envious of the other runners I saw with ice packs strapped to their knees, “clever” I thought

Walt Disney World Half Marathon 2014

  • Between this race and the last I had learned to run with a professional running coach (yes, running is a skill that has to be learned) and on their advice I now wore Vivos, a minimalist shoe
  • I trained for the race using Jeff Galloways training programme, two timed runs a week, and one distance run a week that gradually got longer
  • Ran the half marathon in 2hrs, 9mins and 24 seconds.
  • I felt fine and walked back to the hotel
  • I was in Disney World so after I’d showered and changed, I went to the Disney Studios theme park. I spend the day in park, went on all the rides and had great day

If you have 9mins to spare, the below video from Vivobarefoot is a great watch.

Benefits of Running

Running has been a big casualty of becoming a Dad. Running is not something you can do in the vicinity of your children, unlike say, yoga, because its not stationary. And going for a run is nicest during the day, but during the day is when you want to spend time with your kids. After everyone has gone to bed, and its dark outside, I’m less inclined to go for a run. I ran for a bus today and not that it was hard, but it wasn’t as easy as it has been.

I’ve run a few 10k’s in recent times but the last half-marathon I ran was in 2016. How is it already 2020? I’d like to get half-marathon fit again this year so I think I’ll go search for a race that I can take part in.

Theodosius Dobzhansky stated, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”. And we have evolved to be endurance athletes. The homo sapien is very much the running ape. Running is the most species specific exercise there is. In 1984 the Stanford Runners Study took 538 runners, and 423 non-runners that were otherwise healthy to use as a control group. All 961 people were over 50. Twenty years later the running group had a 20% lower mortality rate and a 50% lower disability rate than the control group of non-runners.

The benefits of running include:

  • Stronger heart
  • improved circulatory system
  • improved immune system
  • better muscular – skeleton system
  • improved digestion

Lace up and get out there.

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New Vivos ready for 2020

 

 

Blog post revisited: Rushfit

I bought Rushfit way back in 2013 and wrote a blog review on it which you can read here. Rushfit consists of multiple DVDs and an 8 week training programme with nutrition guide. I remember finding Rushfit intense enough that I stopped all my other training to focus on the 8 week programme. And once I’d finished the 8 weeks, I did the programme again, and then again, I think I may have gotten through it 5 or 6 times because I found it so beneficial and enjoyable.

I still do Rushfit today but I no longer do the programme. In my ever evolving routine, Rushfit still has its place. I typically do one of the Rushfit workouts every 8 days or so. I’m actually amazed the DVD’s still work after nearly 7 years of constant use. I can’t remember how much I paid for the Rushfit DVDs, I think it was somewhere between $100 and $150, but after 7 years, its probably the best return on investment on any fitness item or service I’ve ever bought.

I went looking and the Rushfit website doesn’t seem to exist anymore, I certainly couldn’t find it. Georges Saint Pierres own website doesn’t have Rushfit available in their online store either. Amazon seems to be the only place its available to buy. And if you don’t want to buy it, its easy to find on Youtube for free. The lack of a Rushfit website makes me think that this was a one time thing and there won’t be any sequels coming, which is a shame because I’d love to see an updated version.

I have two kids so exercising at home is often the only option available. If you’re strapped for time and can only train at home for whatever reason, I can think of no better combination of exercises than the Rushfit DVDs combined with the DDPY yoga app. If you’re not fit, and your resolution for 2020 is to get so, and you asked me to recommend one thing, it would be Rushfit.

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Georges Saint Pierre
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DVDs still going strong after 7 years
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A bit of Rushfit in the sunshine

 

Movie Review: The Game Changers

The Game Changers is a documentary movie about the benefits of plant based diets.

There is no denying the results that the athletes in this movie are seeing by switching to plant based diets. I was most shocked by Patrik Baboumian. Patrik is an extremely strong human and is on an entirely plant based diet. I didn’t realise someone could get that big, or be that strong, without at least some meat protein source. I’ve been proved very wrong. I was also surprised by some of the athletes on plant based diets, like F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton and MMA fighter Nate Diaz, I had no idea and I’m a fan of both sports. These athletes are seeing improved cardio, faster recovery, and longer careers by cutting out meat, to the point that they see a vegan diet as a strategic advantage.

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Patrik doing his thing

Arnold Schwarneggar is also interviewed and I like how rational he is about going vegan. He comments that if you tell someone to stop eating meat, they’ll respond, “fuck you”, but if you tell someone to have “meat free Mondays” – they might actually do this. So the movie doesn’t argue for sudden and drastic change. Perfect is not the enemy of good here.

The movie is by no means perfect. Some areas I’d like to see more of or changed:

  • It focus’ on high level athletes competing at the top of their games. This is not me. I’m an office employee who likes to exercise so its not clear what the results would be like for me if I were a vegan.
  • The health benefits of vegan over meat diets are often given in terms of relative risk, not absolute risk, which is a nice trick to make things seem more dramatic.
  • The movie talks about the evolutionary traits we have to highlight that we, and our ancestors, are plant eaters. Downplayed or just not mentioned are our evolutionary traits that show we are also meat eaters. I’d suggest reading “The Story of the Human Body” by Daniel Lieberman for more on this

My blog is health and wellness based so I don’t want to delve into the environment too much, but if you’re trying to save the planet it seems that giving up your car in favour of an electric scooter is a waste of time, going vegan is how we’ll save the world.

The movie itself is well made and interesting from beginning to end. My nit-picking above it just that, nit-picking. I walked away from this movie committed to eating less meat, primarily to make a healthier version of myself, and if it reduces pollution too, thats an added benefit. The Game Changers was so interesting and I’d like to know more and I wish this had been something like a four part series rather than a movie. But isn’t that the sign of a great show, leave the audience wanting more.

Below is the trailer, give it a watch, and I’d recommend the movie too.

 

Can you feel the ground beneath your feet?

Below is a video by Klaus Sports Chiropractic showing the effect shoes have on the newest walkers. Aside from being ridiculously cute, the video shows that shoes take away propreception. The soles of your feet are very sensitive to touch because they have a high concentration of nerve endings, similar to your hands, tongue, and nose. When this poor kid had all the sensory input from their feet blocked off with thick shoes, they had no sense of their body position in relation to the ground. I love how they tried to take the shoes off! – an obvious solution.

At the same time that the above video made its way into one of my feeds, so too did the below picture of some running shoes. I mean honestly, they look almost nothing like a human foot, its like its designed to impede movement. You won’t get much sensory inout from these. Walking around barefoot is not practical, but we need to move away from these massive soles, they don’t help human movement and we end up adapting our natural human movement to suit the shoe, rather than the shoe suiting human movement. Once you’ve gone far enough down the massive sole path you’ll have forgotten your natural running gait (it can be re-learned) and you’ll have to buy shoes like the ones below, to help solve the problems that you created by wearing shoes like the ones below, its a vicious cycle.

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Lets make sure you can feel nothing

 

Gym Review: Flyefit Dundrum

After the closure of Raw Gym I joined Flyefit. The main Flyefit that I use is near my office in Portobello, and I wrote a review of it that you can read here.

Because Flyefit gyms seem to be popping up everywhere, I chose a membership option that made me a member of all Flyefits. I was in the area so I did a workout in Flyefit Dundrum.

First the good. Like the Flyefit in Portobello, the Flyefit in Dundrum is not a purpose built gym, its a building that has been taken over and turned into a gym, but this time it is has worked out really well and the layout is far more understandable. The gym is big, clean, and has a wide range of equipment and open spaces. The locker room is a decent size too.

And now the bad. Sadly, this gym, like the majority of gyms, has no Olympic Rings. Thats really all I can fault it for. I showed up at an off peak time and while this gym is large, I can imagine it getting full quickly given its location, but I don’t actually know how busy it does get. Also, when passing by, this gym looks like it has a carpark, but don’t be fooled, the carpark out front is blocked off at all times.

Overall, this is a good gym. Not as good as the now closed Raw, but better than Flyefit Portobello. Aside from the few bits of special kit that I like, its hard not to see this gym being pretty perfect for the masses.

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Not a carpark
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Studio Room
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Open Spaces
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Weight Room

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