Okay, we get it. It’s the time of year where you and your girlfriend renew your commitment to each other by eating chocolate, drinking champagne, and indulging in a fancy dinner. There’s nothing wrong with that. But for the rest of the year, we think you and your girlfriend should commit to your relationship by hitting the gym together.
To that end, we spoke with professional triathlete, Ironman competitor, coach, and all-round fitness guy Doug MacLean, who had this to say.
What are some of the benefits to working out as a couple that you don’t get from working out alone?
Well, if only one person in a relationship works out, then that may create stress on a relationship, because “working out time” becomes time apart from each other. But, if you workout together, then all of a sudden, the time you’re working out doubles as “together time”. So, you get in shape, and spend time with your partner. It’s win-win.
Also, if one of you is having a bad day or a rough workout, then it can be helpful to have the other one there to help snap you out of your funk. Working out with a partner also allows us to stay up to date with the latest trends. This can range from certain foods or juices to the best running shoe. For example, some athletes aren’t familiar with the performance enhancing benefits of beet juice, so I’ve shared some Beet Performer with my training partner, because it helps deliver oxygen to muscles during activity, reducing both fatigue and inflammation. She loves it, and I’ve created another “Beet Performer addict” [laughs]. New products and practices are always emerging and it can be hard to keep on top of all the latest trends on your own.
We’ve heard that couples who workout together also have better sex. True or false?
Ha! That may be a confusion of “correlation vs causation”. If there is a correlation, it’s likely just because they have a shared interest (working out), that makes their relationship better, and so all aspects of the relationship improve.
Let’s say my girlfriend is really fit and I’m just getting back to the gym after a two-year hiatus. How do we balance different fitness levels?
A lot of ways! One way is to sit down and discuss what workouts you can do together, at a similar level. Another way is just to set up situations where you can workout together, but at different paces. On side-by-side treadmills, for example, or maybe on a running trail that loops back so you can see each other frequently.
What if we aren’t terribly excited about hitting the gym—are there some good recreational sports that are co-ed, accommodating to different fitness levels, and won’t carry a very high risk of injury?
A million! Swimming, biking, indoor rock-climbing, tennis, racquetball, crispy wickets, hiking, surfing . . . the list goes on!
Speaking of injury, how should we be mitigating that risk?
Perhaps most importantly, make sure to become proficient at the skill of what you’re doing, before you try to do it with any real intensity, or in any potentially risky situations. So many injuries are simply the result of poor form, or not understanding proper technique.
Some other, more obvious rules would be to make sure you get a proper warmup, and if something hurts in an “injury way”, then stop doing it, and get to work on diagnosing and treating the pain. Remember: it’s better to cut a one workout short, than to be forced to miss weeks of workouts!
Here’s the million-dollar question: how does a guy broach the question of working out together if his girlfriend is maybe a little sensitive about her appearance?
A lot of “appearance sensitivity” has to do with self-esteem, not appearance itself, because there are plenty of very fit folks who still have a negative self body-image. So maybe try to find an activity that helps her feel more confident, something she knows she’s good at. That will put her in a “comfort zone”, help her feel better about herself overall, and maybe help relieve some of her anxiety.