There’s always that one couple at the gym that puts the rest of us to shame, both in terms of how happy they are together as well as how fit they are (what is that, like 22 abs each?). But why chirp them if you can join them? Well, it’s not as easy as it seems. Before you can start reaping the rewards of spending extra time together, gaining confidence through positive reinforcement and seeing the pounds melt away to reveal one sexy duo, every couple has to understand how to navigate the potential pitfalls of working out together, which has a nasty habit of magnifying one’s insecurities. Because the actual exercise is the easy part, here’s our handy guide to make sure your joint exercise plan is more heavy lifting, less screaming match.
Set goals that work for both of you
When you were single, chiseling your body was just another way to get a date. But now that you’re in a relationship, there can be other goals. One, of course, is looking good for each other; however, that should be a bonus, not the main reason. You each should be working out for yourself primarily, which not only provides a target to shoot for but makes you responsible for your own actions (thus, neither party should ever feel like the other is at fault for a missed goal). Once you set a clear goal for yourself (“I want to gain five pounds of muscle”), you should share it so that the other person can motivate you. However, some things must be decided on together: if you commit to exercise three times a week together, make sure you both hold each other accountable for this. If one of you tries to skip out, feel free to lay on the guilt (it’s a lot easier to go if you have someone going through the same thing). If you mutually decide on a skip day, work together to make your quota happen by rescheduling.
Choose a workout for a stronger relationship
Girls can and should lift weights, but guess what? Guys can and should do yoga. Try to mix your interests and favourite exercises to create a boredom-proof weekly routine that involves everything from stretching, to cardio, to strength conditioning. You should also add exercises that one enjoys, but the other might avoid because they seem too hard or uncomfortable for a workout regimen that beefs up your weak points. Let her kick your ass at running one day, and spot her at the gym the next. Just remember that what’s easy for you might not be easy for her, and vice versa, so shift weights around as needed and pull out those stretching blocks. Each of you should do what feels right for you to avoid injury or overworking your bodies, while using your individual competencies to motivate each other to get better at your weak points.
Progress at your own pace
Remember, despite being a couple that works together and plays together, you’re still individuals when it comes to your bodies. You’ll both start at different degrees of fitness, and you’ll both progress at different rates. A common pitfall is comparing your progress to your partner. Know that, like any workout regimen, it will take time to produce results, and be honestly happy for the other person if their results are starting to show. If you let meaningless, petty competition enter your mind, it can affect the rest of your relationship. Likewise, don’t allow yourselves to hold back on those extra reps your workout calls for or the bonus laps you wanted to challenge yourself to, just to spare the others’ feelings. One, you’re cheating yourself, and two, it’s actually a bit insulting to your partner, even if you think you’re being sensitive. Instead, be genuinely supportive while sticking to a result-oriented attitude.
Be there for each other
A mirror’s great for watching your form at the gym, but it helps to have a second set of eyes during an exercise routine. For example, if one of you notices the other refusing to admit a limp or a strained muscle in order to keep up, pointing it out will keep you stay honest and reduce chances of a serious injury. Likewise, you both now have a full-time spotting buddy, someone to time your rest periods, etc., so take advantage of that along your journey. If you constantly give each other feedback to support each other physically (and mentally, when those small challenges arise) it will keep you guys safe, fit and looking forward to the next workout. This supportive behaviour, once it becomes a habit, will even strengthen your relationship outside the free weights section.
It’s not a race (until it is)
There may come a time in every athletic couples lives when they go head to head: a challenging obstacle race, a marathon, or even a pickup game of basketball. This is where to draw the line, lest feelings get hurt. While your workouts can be a time of mutual growth, if there’s a serious competition in which you’re both involved, agree ahead of time whether you’re going to work together, or if you’re each going to give it your all to earn the top spot (even if it means beating the other). Remember, there are no winners and losers at the end of the day if you love each other.