Four kids. Two jobs. One mortgage. A lot of bills. Like many men who fast track the journey from single college student with few responsibilities to husband, father and wage earner with many, Dr. Travis Jewett saw his calendar filling up and the time he had to exercise shrinking. He also noticed that many of the people around him – from friends and family members to the patients he sees at his physical therapy and chiropody practice in Iowa – had given into such pressures and ditched being active entirely. So he created Dad Strong, a simple program for busy guys like him to fit in some purposeful activity daily and to get their kids involved, too. In this exclusive interview, Travis shared with us the thinking behind the belief that even those sedentary folks with the dreaded “dad bod” can get “Dad Strong” in just a few minutes a day.
What are some of the key principles behind the Dad Strong concept?
One of them is efficiency – how can a busy Dad like me get maximum benefits from a minimal time commitment. I also wanted to make the program simple. I don’t have a lot of experience with Olympic lifting so there’s none of that in there. We try to focus on some of the main lifts that improve strength– like the squat and deadlift – that anyone can do. Every day we want you to be in the seven-movement archetypes that my colleague Kelly Starrett identifies in his movement and mobility system, even if you’re only hitting some of them in your warm up. Then we want you to get your heart rate up, such as by doing sled drags and pushes. And finally, there’s an explosive component, such as kettlebell swings. It’s really about putting in a little time each day and doing it consistently and becoming a better, more frequent mover who creates a sustainable and positive habit.
How do kids come into play?
I think that many parents make the assumption that teachers and coaches who run their kids’ teams and programs are paying attention to whether the children are moving correctly. While I admire the work these people do, often they’re oblivious to that part of it. So I wanted to educate parents about how to move safely so they could not only improve their own performance but also help their kids move well. My oldest son joins my friends and me for a lifting session once a week. We’re not having him do anything complicated. At first, it was just a question of having him carry a kettlebell around, then showing him how to deadlift it correctly. I’ve been lifting since I was 12 so I might be biased, but I think that parents can help their kids be healthier and better athletes if they understand the basics themselves and know how to teach the fundamental movements and positions. Again, it’s about giving people a starting point and providing them with helpful resources that they can put into practice to benefit their own wellness and that of their families.
What other concepts do you think are important in increasing family health?
One of the biggest things for me was learning to cook real food. Even though my wife and I each run an office and we have four kids in different activities, we make an effort to sit down at the table together around six p.m. each evening. We split the cooking duties. People spend all this money on supplements but you can get everything you need from real food. Most of what you buy at the grocery store should go bad within a week if you left it out on the counter. And you should know that you can’t out-supplement bad nutrition, poor sleep or inadequate hydration. It’s important to take care of these basic elements of your lifestyle and to add more movement into each day. If you pay attention to these simple things, you’ll reap big benefits.