Workout With Your Other Half
BY: Karen Asp
Everyone knows working out with a buddy can help you stick with exercise, but when that buddy is also your spouse, the rewards can be even more gratifying. Just ask Mike Curry, a certified personal trainer in Los Angeles who exercises with his wife, Adella, twice a week, running, skating, hiking or cycling. "Just having Adella with me is a bonus, because we get to enjoy each other's company doing things we love, but also, when I see how much she challenges herself, I can't help but be impressed," he says. Even more rewarding? The intimacy factor: "Whether you're sweating with your partner or helping your partner stretch, thoughts alone can arouse you, which can lead to more sex," he adds.
Terri Orbuch agrees. “Exercise can give you that adrenaline high, which gets transferred to your partner, making the relationship feel more exciting and passionate," says the Detroit-based marriage and family therapist known as “The Love Doctor.” Becoming exercise buddies also gives you the opportunity to provide motivation and support for one another, especially if one of you needs to exercise for health reasons. "Couples are so busy these days that one of the first things to go is relationship time,” says Orbuch. “By exercising together, you're killing two birds with one stone: getting physically healthy while strengthening your relationship.”
And yet, not all couples are perfectly suited to work out together. For example, if one or both of you is competitive, this could add conflict or tension to a relationship, especially if one of you is better than the other, notes Orbuch. Tension can also build if you enjoy different pursuits and don’t like doing what your partner wants to do. However, even these obstacles can be overcome with good communication and conflict management skills. "Being together is so beneficial to a relationship that I tell people to honor their differences but find ways to come together," Orbuch says.
Interested in making your partner your exercise buddy? Make it work by following these seven strategies:
- Talk about your expectations Is your goal to push each other so you go the extra mile? Or do you want to simply enjoy each other's company and spend leisure time together? "Establishing these expectations in the beginning can prevent conflicts later on," Orbuch says.
- Be creative about differences in fitness levels, advises Curry, who works with numerous couples in his job as a personal trainer and trains one pair who likes to inline skate together. But the husband is faster than the wife. So when he gets in front of her, he just circles back and does a little extra work, notes Curry.
- Keep competitiveness at bay While a little healthy competition can add excitement to your workout (and relationship), if it starts to create tension or conflict, dial it down. In some cases, it’s best to steer clear of sports that you’re competitive in or do separate workouts then come together later in the day to walk the dog or take a yoga class.
- Plan your workouts together Trouble can arise when one spouse pushes the other to do something he or she doesn’t enjoy. Likewise, “if one person is always planning the workouts, that might create conflict," says Curry. Instead, share the job of planning what you do or where you go.
- Never correct unless asked Don't teach or tell your partner what he or she is doing wrong unless you're asked. Otherwise, you’ll get into a power struggle, and the one who's being criticized could get upset. If, however, your spouse asks for constructive criticism, the door's open, advises Orbuch.
- Factor fun into your workouts No matter how serious each of you is about your workouts, add fun to your time together. After their weekly Saturday morning hike, the Currys go out for breakfast, taking turns each week in choosing the restaurant.
- Keep the message positive "You're trying to create a program you can continue together, so stay positive in what you say to each other," says Curry. By cheering each other on and enjoying the time you spend working out together, you’ll strengthen both your health and your marriage.
Karen Asp is a fitness and health writer and a certified personal trainer who writes for numerous publications, including SELF, Glamour, Women’s Health, Family Circle, Prevention, Redbook and Men’s Fitness. Karen is a frequent contributor to Live Right Live Well.