The fitness racket is a long con with no real finish line. You just spend your life trying to find ways to trick yourself into busting your ass, trying to convince yourself that you don’t need a third cheeseburger, or trying to sell yourself on new and creative ways to burn it off after you ate it anyway. Eventually, if you’re devoted enough, you’ll manage to look quite dapper in your casket as you’re lowered down, just to disappoint the worms that were counting on your cheeseburger intake for their own cheat meals.

Basic fitness is just about staying healthy and prolonging your life – but as you strive to add more miles to your run, more plates to your bench, or more reps to your maxes, it’s not about prolonging anything anymore. Pushing from 350 to 375 on the bench isn’t about longevity, it’s about a strange juxtaposition of narcissism and masochism, overlayed in such a way that you somehow start to derive self-worth from the pain. Look at me, you say in your head, I’m a god damned animal.

But then something happens. You lose your job. You break your arm. You get married. You have a baby. Good or bad, life has a habit of getting in the way of fitness – and because fitness is, as I said earlier, a long con, chances are good that it’ll happen again and again. As anyone that follows me on social media may have noticed from my constant posting… for me, the latest challenge has been daddy-duty.

Writing an article about parenting can be surprisingly divisive. As a new parent, I still have strong recollections about skipping past articles about being a new dad, occasionally thinking, “well that looks interesting, but I don’t actually care.” Seasoned parents that have already proven their mettle by keeping their kids alive for years aren’t all that interested in what a new dad has to say either: it’s like being a Staff Sergeant and reading about the Marine Corps from the perspective of a Private.

So maybe it’s best not to think of this as an article about staying fit with a new baby in the house, but rather, it’s a form of commiseration. If you’re currently battling an injury, just moved to a new town or started a new job, maybe you’ve just been buried in work lately and your workouts have tapered off from where they ought to be… I’m with ya. I’ve been here before – and although the trail out of these woods is winding, I can confirm that it will lead you back to where you want to be, as long as you keep moving.

Being a dad may have slowed down my fitness game, but she’s still the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

Since my daughter was born, I’ve found myself feeling increasingly guilty about spending too much time working out. I used to split my workouts into two parts of the day: cardio for an hour or so at one point, and lifting for an hour or so at another. Because I work from home, I have a lot of leeway with my schedule, and it helped me to establish a daily routine. With the kiddo in the house, however, I’m lucky if I get 45 minutes to devote to working out… and even that is occasionally cut short by the flickering light and static-filled cries of the baby monitor. As a result, I’ve watched my midsection soften up, my shoulders slump down a bit, and my self esteem droop along with them both.

To the casual observer, I may not seem all that different, but as I get out of the shower and walk past the mirror in my bathroom, I have to admit that I’ve seen a shift. The dad-bod may be “in” according to some websites, but it’s never been my fitness goal.

Now, I may not have been a dad before, but I have been in the fitness game long enough to see these cycles come and go in the past, and not always due to injury.