Project Dad

When I was down in Cancun last week my dad came up to me and asked to help him get into shape. Dad told me that he was amazed at how far I was hitting the golf ball when we went golfing in Mexico. I was out driving him by at least 50 yards. Before I started doing P90X we would hit about the same distance.

I was surprised when he asked me because my dad does not “reach out” that much for help anymore. He is a retired pipe fitter who worked at Ford for 38 years and was a Lt. Col in the Air National Guard for 25 years. Dad is making the most out of retirement right now. He is on 3 golf leagues in the summer, a bowling league that him and my mom have been on for 30 years and started playing on a 55 and over men’s volleyball league that gets together 3 times a week. Him and my mom also spend 3 weeks every year down in Cancun with their time share. All in all a great retirement lifestyle.

My dad is 58 years old, about 6’3″ tall and is probably in the 235-250 pound range. We like to call him “The Giant.” He towers over everybody. When he worked at Ford for all those years he was on his feet throwing wrenches around. This was a workout on its own. He had little time to do any kind of exercise because he was working 12 hour days to support the family. What a nice guy.

One problem I have noticed with dad over the  years is that he has the worst flexibility of anybody that I know. He started complaining about shoulder problems back in the 90s and it was comical to my brother and I to watch him throw a football or baseball. Imagine a QB getting hit in the chest while making a throw and the ball floating in the air. Its all he could do. His shoulder is worse now. Even though he still keeps active with volleyball, golf, and softball those activities at the level he is playing is not really a “workout.”

How can I not help my dad. I mean, the guy has done everything from wiping my ass when I was a baby to helping me pay for college. All he is asking is to help him get in shape. I have to do this. My issue is what direction to take. Dad has not had a workout routine since the early 90s and he is out of shape. I am concerned about doing P90X with him because P90x is for people who have some sort of physical fitness base already. Oh well, if it takes a little bit longer than it takes a little bit longer.

This is a round up of the first week of us working out together.

We get started this past Monday. I am wondering what workout to start out with. I decide to go with P90X shoulders and arms because he has told me his shoulders are a weak point for him. Plus, there are no pull ups involved. It takes only a few minutes before I know this is going to be a challenge. The stretching routines showed how unflexible he is. Then we get into the workout and I can hear his shoulder popping even with using very light weights. I am not trying to push him because I want to make sure he can complete an exercise and maintain good form. We completed the workout but it took about an extra 30 minutes because we had to stop the DVD to share the dumbbells and resistance bands. Plus, I needed to show him the right way to do things.

On Tuesday I decided we were just going to do the X-Stretch DVD because after seeing his troubles just loosening up I have come to the conclusion that we need to work on limbering up that 58 year old body before we worry about lifting weights. Again, he struggled with a number of the stretches and I had to help him hold a pose just so he could do it right. Do I have my work cut out.

For Wednesday the workout of choice was P90X chest and back. I kept wondering how we were going to be able to do this one because the DVD moves pretty fast and with us sharing equipment I knew it was going to take 2 hours with Ab-Ripper to do. Plus, with all the push ups and pull ups, I just wanted him to be able to do it with good form. Form was going to be an issue. Dad could not do 1 regular push up and this is the first exercise. No big deal. He tried “girl push ups.” His form was shaky at best but was able to do 10. On came the pull up portion. There was no way he was going to be able to do a pull up. So I got the resistance bands and set him up like the other people working out on the DVDs. I thought I had shoulder problems (from washing cars when I was 19) but after the first pull from him on the resistance band brought out the weirdest popping sound I have heard. It sounded like an antique door hinge being moved for the first time. This continued for the whole workout. He said he could feel it stretching and I could tell he was trying. Getting through the Ab Ripper X portion was another story. It will be awhile before he can even finish 25% of it with good form.

Staying with the stretching routine I picked P90X Yoga X for Thursday. Dad struggled with the first 30 minutes as he could not do the “vinyasas,” “upward dog,” or even”downward dog.” What I kept noticing was his hamstrings. Those things just do not bend. For those of you who know what the “downward dog” yoga position is, imagine only being able to straighten out your legs to a 45 degree angle and not the full 90. I would help him push his legs back to a straight position and hold for 5 seconds and release. Yoga made him work up a sweat. It took almost 2 hours to do because I knew I had to help him get into the right form to do it correctly. After we finished he said he was surprised as to how much of a workout Yoga was.

For Friday I decided to test dad and we did Plyometrics. It had been some time since I had done Plyometrics so it was going to be good for both of us. Dad did make it through the whole workout with small breaks in each exercise. He was not going that fast but this was expected. I could hear him breathing and he worked up a sweat. Good enough for the first time doing Plyometrics. So good that I am giving him the weekend off. What a nice son I am.

I am happy that he keeps asking me to help. In his first week he worked out 5 days in a row and kept coming back for more. Very impressive. His main goal is that he wants to be able to continue playing golf, softball, volleyball, and other activities as he gets older. He tells me that he sees guys in their 70s who can barely get around and he does not want to be like them. Also, how many of our elders do you see with the hunched over look? A lot. This is why I am emphasising all of the stretching. Nobody wants to see a hunched over 70 year old giant. Another thing I noticed was how much more I enjoyed working out with him. It kept me focused and pushed me to try to do one more chin up or push up. It has been awhile since I had a workout partner. My brother and I started P90X in the beginning and then  he started working a weird schedule making it hard to get together.

Me and Dad

Me and Dad in Cancun Jan 2009 – I Know What I’m Going To Look Like When I’m 58

We did not take any before photos of him yet. Once we do I will post them so everybody can see how he is progressing. I am keeping track of everything he has done so far and will post updates every 30 days.

(Week of 3/9/09)

Dad is doing ok but his eating is kind of pissing me off. We met up to do the Power 90 Sweat Phase 3-4 and he decided to eat a hamburger and fries before we worked out so he could have some “energy.” I don’t get this logic. A apple or banana would have been better instead of fries and a burger. The body just cannot process that type of food before a workout. Maybe after it could with the metabolism being high. Then I learned from mom that he had ice cream 3 times this week.

He does have quite the sweet tooth but without a change in his diet all of this working out is not going to get him in the kind of shape he wants to be in. Him and mom have a copy of the nutrition plan and know how to cook healthy meals but its just a matter of changing habits. I might need to go through the fridge and the drawers and throw all of the junk food out.

(Week of 3/2/09)

Power 90 is helping Dad out though because since he is so out of shape that the workouts are helping him gradually. He has told me that he is starting to feel more flexibility in his body already. For me to stay with it though we are going to have to skip to Power 90 Phase 3-4. Hopefully these workouts will be a little more intense and push me a little harder.

Monday (2/16/09) To feel ready for my vacation to Mont Tremblant I needed to get in some cardio and had to do something with Dad included. I decided to get out Kenpo X for the first time in awhile. I am not really a fan of Kenpo because I don’t feel like I get that much out of it. When I signed up to be a Beachbody Coach and bought the “Showcase Pack” there were a set of weighted gloves in there. I decided to put them on and use them. What a difference it made. Throwing all of those punches with just a little bit more weight made a huge impact. It was Dad’s first time doing it so he had a little trouble keeping up and having good form.

Tuesday (2/17/09) I went to the gym and did 3 miles on the treadmill and .5 mile swimming. Dad said he was ready to workout and I was kind of tired. Since I cannot let him down we went with P90X Plyometrics. I needed this because of all the jumping involved to get me ready for skiing and snowboarding at Mont Tremblant. This was the first workout he had done twice now and was starting to remember a couple things.

Friday (2/12/09) – Dad was telling me that he “was not all that sore” from the workouts we have done so far. I took this as a cue to push him a little. It was time for P90X Chest, Shoulders, Triceps. He was not all excited after the first exercise where we did the “Slow Motion 3-in-1 Push Ups.” This was the last thing he was expecting to start a workout on. I tried the resistance bands for the first time in this workout and they made a difference. I used the purple band and dad used the pink. I could hear his shoulders popping again but even he admitted he enjoyed this workout because of his shoulders being so bad.

Dad cannot do a normal “guy push up” yet so instead of calling them “girl push ups” my brother came up with the name of “senior push ups.” Dad did senior push ups for the entire workout. He did struggle a lot and his form was sub par. It was tricky trying to workout myself while watching him. His senior push up looks like he is swooping down to the ground and not dropping to it like he should be. I did do way better on one exercise in particular.

For the “side arm balance” part I was able to increase the amount I could do from 15 to 20 total in the one minute you get to do it. For those who do not know what this is its a move where you do a push up then move onto one arm and reach up to the ceiling with the other while putting your opposite foot on your other one. Then you drop back down into a push up and do the other side until you can’t do anymore. Here is a photo of me doing one.

Side Arm Balance

About the Author: Brad Gibala

Shreds Gnar. Hall & Oates Fan. Practicing Libertarian. Beachbody Coach. Detroit-ish. Contact - Start Here - About - Recommends


  1. Very cool story (and project with your dad). Every time I’ve succeeded in getting really fit, there’s always been a personal/emotional connection. Good luck to both of you!

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