As I stumbled into running in my mid-twenties, my husband followed me. However, for us this was a short lived commonality. The activity caused us stress and arguments. This isn’t unique to our marriage, it seems to happen in one form or another for many couples. They can’t see eye to eye on fitness, or they can’t manage to workout together. Yet, there are those few diamonds in the rough who manage to make it work. Here are three stories about couples and their relationships with fitness.
Like I said, once upon a time, people would call both me and my husband “runners.” We ran races together, went for jogs together, and made plans for other big events. This was all fine and dandy when I was only running a few miles and doing so really slowly. My husband liked the challenge of beating me. Well, I got faster, I started going longer, and I guess somewhere along the way, my husband got disinterested. I’d nag and he’d oblige, but it just turned into a mess. I’d push too fast and he’d want to take breaks. Or he’d want to slow down and I may have called him taunting names. (Oh, come on! You’ve done it, too!)
Long story short, my husband found out two things. One, he was now married to a marathoner who couldn’t be stopped (I just finished the Chicago Marathon this past weekend). Two, he had no interest in running or even traditionally exercising. This was a recipe for conflict time and time again. If you could imagine, the marathoning wife doesn’t take kindly to what she sees as a “lazy” husband.
We have had our rounds in the boxing match of disagreement, and I’m sure we’re not alone. However, today we’re working on a much more peaceful plan. We agree that everyone needs exercise, but not everyone has to run or go to a gym to do it. He hears less from my chatter when he sticks to what he’s found as practical exercise. He rides his bike to work, I run intervals on the river path. He stands on a balance board at a standing desk all day, I lift weights at the gym. I run track workouts, he planks on the floor. I go on long training runs on Saturday mornings, he takes the family on long bike rides on the weekend.
No contest, I’m the athlete in the family, but if the lab tests say we both have equally healthy hearts, we’re both winning this race.
For Abby and her husband JB, they’ve managed to keep their passion for running and exercise a shared experience. Abby is a personal trainer, a run coach, and she’s studying to be a doctor of physical therapy. She explained how her second date with JB was a ten-mile run, so from the beginning, fitness was a part of their relationship. Now, it’s eight years later and this now-married couple lives and runs in New York City together on a regular basis. Though Abby admits it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
“For a very long time, we were lousy workout partners and always fought when we ran together,” she said. Abby explains how competitiveness made things hard for them, but now that there’s an understanding that one of them might be faster they’ve learned to love the experience.
“It gives us time after work and school to catch up after very long days and a similar goal to work towards. It sure makes weekend planning easy! Long run and a nap every Saturday,” she said.
This “time to catch up” also provided a stability for the couple when things got tough. As Abby explained, major issues like JB’s military deployment, family illnesses and death, career changes, and even Abby’s own health issues made things very hectic. She told me, “Running is the constant, something we do together that keeps us both healthy while we navigate our busy, and often times stressful, lives. It’s a place where we let go, together or alone, and figure things out.”
It’s so great when a couple can either find a compromise or a solution. However, sometimes we don’t always get there, or it takes a while to find that happy place.
For newlyweds Jenn and Cole, things aren’t totally settled on the workout front, just yet. Jenn is a personal trainer and said, “I participate in anything that could remotely be considered fitness.” From dance, yoga, road races, or fitness competitions, Jenn has made working out her life.
Jenn explains that her career is also her hobby and she genuinely loves what she does. This also means she is heavily involved in the fitness world. She says she feels the statement, “I can’t, I have to be at the [health] club early tomorrow morning” is overused by her and one of the stressors for the couple. She admits that when she and Cole bump heads about how much time she’s spending in the gym, they both feel guilt.
“I am so blessed to have a job I truly love but my family comes first, so when we disagree about another activity I am involved in or the amount of voluntary hours I put in at the gym, I feel as if I should have considered the needs of our marriage first,” she said.
However, Cole feels guilt when they don’t see eye to eye either. “The guilt on his side comes from feeling selfish and inhibiting me to pursue growth in my profession.”
The young couple will celebrate one year of marriage this month and Jenn feels they’ve learned a lot in these past twelve months. “Health and fitness is MY passion and I think it took a year of marriage to realize that it doesn’t also have to be his.”
One way or another, couples can find their peace with this common battle. When it comes to keeping ourselves healthy and happy, it’s more than just our strong cardiovascular health that counts. Good relationships need happy hearts, too.