Instead of snuggling side by side on the sofa and letting another TV show wash over you, why not go jogging together? Or how about a sweat-inducing Pilates session in place of the upteenth quiet evening over a board game?
Joint workouts can give your relationship a shot in the arm, but they can also be tricky. Here are some tips from experts.
> Don’t hesitate: Exercising together is fundamentally good for relationships, according to Eric Hegmann, a couples counsellor and author. It relieves stress and frustration, you spend time together, and it whets the ol’ libido. “So go for it!” he says.
Your “we’re-a-team” feeling will get a particular boost if you compete against another couple in a sporting activity. In the words of Hegmann, who advises every couple to arrange regular date nights: “A joint afternoon workout once a week is definitely terrific too.”
Jens Kleinert, director of the health and social psychology section of the Cologne-based German Sport University’s (DSHS) Institute of Psychology, says “when doing sport together, you experience your partner in a different role. This does the relationship good.”
> Set goals: As is so often the case in a relationship, you’ve first got to talk, talk and then talk some more. “You need to put your heads together and figure out what you want to achieve, ” Kleinert says. “You should agree on the purpose that sport and exercise will serve for you.”
Do you simply want to spend time together, or is your main aim to get into better shape?
> Clarify conditions: Apart from fitness exercises at home, the only options while coronavirus-related social distancing measures in place are jogging, cycling and walking. When other options become available, you should consider whether to go to a fitness centre together, join a sport club or take lessons in something like yoga.
And finally: Do you want to keep to yourselves or perhaps have a couple you’re friends with join you?
> Be well organised: It’s important to plan your joint training sessions thoroughly, Kleinert says. You and your partner need to decide on their length, intensity and frequency, and set recurring, fixed dates and times for them. And he adds: “You should plan them so they fit well into your daily schedule.”
> Pick a suitable exercise: It doesn’t really matter if you try something new together, or if one of you takes up the other’s hobby. In the latter case, it’s only important that the novice do not mind being less adept. As for the type of exercise, Hegmann sees jogging as especially suitable. “You’re outdoors, can hold a conversation and get into a state of flow, ” he says.
Golf, tennis, surfing and kite-surfing are possible as well, Hegmann notes, adding you could also have a personal trainer show you fitness exercises. This is a good way to get ideas for a joint exercise programme, especially for couples who are fitness beginners.
> Show consideration: Having different fitness levels is generally no problem during joint workouts. What’s important is that neither of you is either over- or under-challenged. “If you’re a bit creative, you’ll find a solution, ” Kleinert says.
One of you could do a more difficult version of an exercise, for example, while the other does an easier one. Or you could jog together for the first 20 minutes, and then separately. The fitter partner should naturally show consideration for the less fit one, Hegmann says: “You shouldn’t overtax your partner, who’ll get frustrated and lose enjoyment.”
> Keep at it: At some point, it hits everyone – a motivation slump. To counter it, Kleinert recommends clear agreements. First of all, this means sticking to scheduled workouts. One way to do this is to conclude a contract of sorts.
“It can simply be putting the agreed date in writing and pinning it to a bulletin board, which documents your commitment, ” Kleinert says. This raises reliability and lowers the potential for conflict.
You should also discuss in advance how you plan to motivate each other should motivation wane. Can you give your partner a kick in the bum, so to speak, or is gentle persuasion preferable? “You know each other and how best to deal with something like this, ” Kleinert says.
What if it turns out that exercising together just isn’t your thing? It’s not the end of the world.
“If joint workouts are the only thing you can’t manage to do together, fine, ” Hegmann remarks. But he says inability to agree on any shared activities, and no effort to find any, is a bad sign.
“If you can’t rouse yourselves to take fitness walks together and don’t have much in common generally, you should ask yourselves why you’re together in the first place.” – dpa/Elena Zelle
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