In Pursuit of Dad Bod: Four Fitness Options Compared


It’s not easy maintaining the perfect dad bod. You have to keep your arms and legs slim while eating enough carbs and sugar to let your stomach balloon out to a second trimester baby bump. You’re already tired running around after your kid, and with the cost of diapers rising to inkjet cartridge levels, money is tighter than ever. So when it comes to fitness, it’s important to choose the solution that’s right for you. To save you some time, here are four options I’ve tried, along with answers to the most important questions.

  • What kind of exercises will I do?
  • Do I have to interact with people?
  • Will I get hurt?
  • What’s so great about it?

Alright, grab a Coke and a pop-tart and strap in.

The Contenders

Today, we’ll be looking at four fitness options, presented in the order in which I tried them.

P90X. Work out in your own home with super-extreme Tony Horton.

Austin Impact Jeet Kune Do. Work out in a spacious studio with super-cuddly Forrest Caudill.

Camp Gladiator. Work out in a random parking lot with super-smiley Marissa.

Orange Theory. Work out in an intimate gym with super-intense Erin.

What kind of exercises will I do?

Here’s what you can expect from each of the programs.

P90X prides itself on the glamour of weightlifting. Get huge biceps! Get a sculpted sixpack! Do a thousand push-ups! You’ll do a lot of dumbell work that hits every muscle you can think of. The routines do a good job of separating out muscle groups so that some can recover while others get attention. With P90X, you’re basically working out every day, interspersing weight routines with cardio, yoga, and stretching.

Austin Impact Jeet Kune Do isn’t really a fitness program, but it’s hard to avoid building muscle and cardiovascular endurance when you’re sparring people for 3-5 minute rounds. The constant punching, kicking, and falling down will have you gasping for air. Once you learn enough technique, you’ll find yourself wanting to supplement classes with your own running or weightlifting–whatever it takes to get an edge in a fight.

Camp Gladiator requires only three things: a mat, dumbbells, and your dad bod. If you’re way into burpees and high-fives, CG is for you. You’ll do a lot of body weight exercises, lots of core work, and some running around the parking lot. There’s an element of HIIT that makes it really challenging.

Orange Theory is all about using your hour in the gym efficiently. You’ll run intervals for half an hour and then head to the gym floor for weights, core work, and rowing. There are alternatives for every exercise, so even if you’re not in great shape, the coach will help you modify and still get a good workout. OT prides themselves on “never doing the same workout twice.” I’ve only been to 3 classes, but so far that holds up.

Do I have to interact with other people?

Not at all! Since you’ll be doing P90X in your living room, garage, or master bathroom, there likely won’t be anyone there to talk to except your mother-in-law. Tony Horton will provide all the socialization you need by introducing you to his workout buddies. Every day. Again and again.

Yes. Multiple studies have proven that most people are likely to be assaulted by another person and not by an inanimate punching bag. Expect to pair up with a buddy at the start of class and switch often until the end. This is a good thing though, as it is important to experience fighting different styles and body types.

You won’t be able to avoid it. You’ll work in groups, you’ll work with partners, and you’ll give more sweaty high-fives than you ever thought possible. When you sign-in for CG, you write your name on a piece of duct tape and slap it on your chest, which makes it that much easier for other people to engage you in conversation. If you’re looking to zone out and just focus on the work, you’ve come to the wrong place.

If you want to. I’ve seen people laugh on the treadmill as they compete in all-out sprints. And I’ve seen people keep completely to themselves, listening only to the coach as they move from one exercise to another. There is a definite sense of community at OT, but it seems to be more opt-in than CG. The more you interact with it, the more it interacts with you.

Will I get hurt?

Probably not. Aside from dropping a dumbbell on your face, the risk of injuring yourself with P90X is quite low. Tony provides modifications for all exercises, so there should never be a point where you’re doing something outside your comfort zone. I got through three rounds of P90X over the years without any injuries.

Probably. Forrest prides himself on safety at the gym. Headgear, mouthguards, and thick gloves are required during sparring and most exercises. That said, you’ve still got someone punching and kicking you. In my years at Austin Impact Jeet Kune Do, I’ve had a few injuries:

  • Bloody noses
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Fractured rib (x2)
  • Fractured foot
  • Labrum SLAP tear
  • Bruises, cuts, scrapes
  • Damaged ego
  • Footprint on chest

But hey, that was just my experience. Maybe you’ll actually be good at fighting and not get injured at all.

Maybe. CG does a lot of body weight exercises that reach muscles you might not been aware you use on a day-to-day basis. If there are any weaknesses in those muscles, CG will expose them. Knowing your body is imperative to avoiding injury. You can go all-out with CG and get really banged up. But you can also go at a reasonable pace and get a good workout.

Probably not. It’s not hard to imagine flying off the back of the treadmill during a 12 mph all-out spring, but other than that, all of the exercises seem rather safe, especially with modifications.

What’s great (and not-so-great) about it?

P90X is very straightforward. Follow the schedule. Pop in the appropriate DVD (or now, stream from the BeachBody app). Do the exercises. There are no frills here, just solid routines that will challenge your muscles and show you just how out of shape you really are. 60 minutes a day. 7 days a week. No thinking required.

Unfortunately, working out in your own home means it’s easy to quit halfway through or worse, not do it at all. P90X requires strong personal discipline.

Joining Austin Impact Jeet Kune Do back in 2011 was the best decision I ever made, despite the injuries. I liked it so much, I even recorded a testimonial for it.

On the not-so-great side, injuries can be expensive, even with health insurance. JKD classes are mostly in the evening, so if you’re a morning person or have a young boy who needs to be tucked into bed, AIJKD may not be convenient.

What I liked most about CG was how different it was from everything else. Despite the forced socialization, it was nice to be part of a group. There’s teamwork involved and tons of positive feedback. I’ve never received as much praise for my efforts as I have at CG. It’s fun, it’s friendly, and it’s a goddamn workout.

But then again, everyone has bad days, and if you’re in a bad mood or just not into people, it can be overwhelming to deal with all the positivity and interaction. And if you’re not into people touching you, you aren’t gonna like someone kneeling on your feet and trying desperately to avoid looking at your crotch while you do sit-ups.

I like the no-nonsense approach to Orange Theory, but I absolutely love the real-time biofeedback. When you join OT, you have to buy a proprietary heart rate monitor that feeds info to a large screen in the gym that everyone can see. Feel like you’re dying? The screen will tell you if that’s the case. There’s nowhere to hide, and accountability is high. At the end of class, you get a report on how well you stayed in designated heart rate zones, along with steps and calories burned. I love data, and OT is the only place I’ve ever been that provides this much feedback.

On the downside, the heart rate monitor isn’t cheap (over $100), and the early classes fill up so much that they have to change the format of the class. Getting the data to you is also a concern: the phone app is nice but limited, and the website is slow and unreliable sometimes. If you’re gonna offer those things, they need to be 100% done.

So why Orange Theory?

There’s been an OT studio near my house for a while now, but I had never tried it out until last September. Even though I liked it, I didn’t sign up until last week, mostly because of the cost. Running around the neighborhood is free, after all. Here are some of the reasons I ended up going with OT and why I’ve committed myself to trying them for at least 3 months.

  • Convenient location – near my house and several around Austin
  • Multiple class times – there are morning classes at 5, 6:15, 7:30, 8:45, etc., almost every day
  • Biofeedback – I get to look at data in real-time and afterwards.
  • Indoors – and temperature controlled. Too hot or too cold outside? Doesn’t matter.
  • Variety – cardio and strength every class
  • Showers – need to go from working out straight to the office? No problem.
  • Cost – Unlimited classes at OT are twice the monthly expense of CG and on-par with AIJKD. However, you don’t have to sign a contract.

We’ll see how the experience changes through month 1, 2, and 3, but for now, I’m happy with the classes. It’s a good workout, and the feedback helps you push yourself into the splat zone.

Okay, this whole “splat points” thing is silly. I don’t know what to do about that.

In Summary

So there you have it, four viable options to meet your fitness needs. My favorite of the four is Austin Impact Jeet Kune Do, as I really do enjoy punching and kicking, and also Forrest gives the best back rubs. AIJKD is part of Fighting Fit, so they have packages that get you access to kickboxing, yoga, and more.

But honestly, any of them will get you on your way. The important thing is to find something you can enjoy.

Good luck, fellow dad bodders. And remember…

MAKE PILES (of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups wrappers).

About the author

Daniel Verastiqui

Daniel Verastiqui is a Science Fiction author from Austin, Texas. His novels explore relationships and identity in the context of ubiquitous technology, pervasive violence, and frequent nudity. His most recent book, Brigham Plaza, is now available in print and digital formats on Amazon.


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  • As the owner of a genuine dad-bod, let me know if you want to buddy up on my regime. We would start at Hopdoddies, then head to the Alamo Drafthouse for shakes (both liquid and muscle) and a movie, before heading home for some pug-cuddling on the couch and some Disney+ until exhaustion overtakes us and we sleep the sleep of the damned.

    Just realized, this is also how I do date night. Interesting.

By Daniel Verastiqui
photo of Daniel Verastiqui and his writing partner Jetson


I'm Daniel Verastiqui.

This is my blog.

I'm a Science Fiction author, so I mostly post about my experiences with writing, publishing, marketing, and self-loathing.

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