Should ‘life partner’ equal ‘workout partner’?

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

When it comes to motivating yourself to go to the gym, or for a run or bike ride, the top two contenders that come to my mind are getting in shape for an upcoming event, or knowing how badly you want to push yourself past any boundaries.  Those individuals who fall into the latter category know that for a tough workout, a partner is as essential as proper footwear.  

An ideal workout partner is one with whom you share a common philosophy: dedication, common sense, a knowledgeable plan of action and prudent nutrition.  Above all, this partner absolutely must be someone you can trust.  Many hard-core gym-goers meet another such person at the gym, strike up a conversation/friendship, and a natural rhythm of working out together begins to develop.  Others, however, choose to share their physical activity time with a significant other.  Is this wise, or does it spell disaster?

As you may expect, compelling arguments can be made in support of either side.  In the case of a dating relationship, training together can be an unfortunate mistake.  Even if both partners are already serious weightlifters, a male is almost always going to be a bit stronger…or a lot stronger.  He may be able to push her, but she may not prove to be an ideal spotter for a bench press 1-rep max.

If a man is dating a woman whom he knows feels less than 100 percent confident with her body, why on earth would he choose to take her with him to the gym, where he knows she’ll be comparing herself to every other woman there?  If he thinks he is going to get a great workout himself, guess again.  She will need constant reassurance that her body is beautiful, that those young women in Spandex really didn’t even get his attention, and that looks don’t matter anyway.  (Then why are we even here?)

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If both parties have stressful careers, each one knows the value of personal space and making time for himself/herself.  For many people, their workout is their sacred time, when they can be alone with their thoughts and become immersed in the rhythm of the treadmill.  Having a partner along for the ride often seems like an intrusion on one’s cherished hour, and may lead to a certain level of resentment.

However, there is a great deal of data indicating that couples who train together stay together.  The reasons for this are easy to see. Your mate already knows how important this gym time is, and will therefore encourage you and motivate you when energy is lacking.  Chances are you’ll share a similar outlook as far as eating clean most of the time, and when to be comfortable with the special-treat splurge.  No one will end up chastising the other for “screwing up” the meal plans! (Why did you order a pizza with extra cheese when this wasn’t even my  high intensity cardio day?) 

I’m not advocating giving up one one’s physique after the last of the wedding cake crumbs has been swept away.  However, arriving at that wonderful place in a committed relationship where the two of you are comfortable with each other regardless of attire is a key factor here. Neither of you will feel self-conscious about physical appearance after an intense, sweaty hour at the gym.  

By sharing a common goal in the athletic arena, a couple that trains together usually is happier, since each has the same method of energy release.  Being able to bask in the mutual exercise-induced endorphins can only lead to peaceful times together.

Now, the choice is yours.  Think carefully before committing to a workout buddy; it could possibly have just as much impact as the exercises themselves.