A few years back, I visited my doctor for a routine check-up. Having seen my doctor for three of my five pregnancies, he had gotten to know me well and knew I was an avid runner.
On this visit, my doctor asked how the running thing was going, and I told him it was going well.
Then he asked a question that surprised me. “So, with all your running, is your husband getting any time to exercise?”
I was taken aback. It wasn't because I felt he was attacking me for being fit or accusing me of taking all the time to exercise; it was because the thought had never occurred to me that one spouse would get more “time” than the other.
I responded that my husband and I were both keeping it up.
On the drive home, I thought a lot about that short but significant conversation. I grew more grateful to my husband for his support and encouragement in my fitness goals, as well as his example of health and fitness. It was together that we made it work, and because of this partnership, we have both been able to achieve a healthy lifestyle.
The question posed by my doctor, though, made me realize that this may not be the case for all or even some of the married couples out there — especially those with children.
Here are some suggestions for both husband and wife to successfully fit exercise in:
1. Communicate: Talk with one another on a regular basis regarding your fitness plan. Decide when each of you is going to exercise and put it on the schedule. Treat this time just like any other appointment you may have that day, and remind one another if needed.
2. Encourage: You wouldn't let your spouse miss a doctor's appointment or job interview. Treat exercise the same way. For example, my husband and I will often trade off on who gets the early morning run, aka “peak time.” Before we go to bed, we know whose turn it is. When that alarm goes off, I make sure he gets up and vice versa. A little nudge goes a long way.
3. Make a date of it: When people think of a date, their “go to” is often dinner and/or a movie. Why not make a date to exercise together? If you have young children, you may need to pay a baby-sitter, but it will be well worth it. Some of my favorite dates have been when my husband and I have gone for a run together in the mountains and then gotten a Smoothie afterwards.
We have even found inexpensive 5Ks or 10Ks to run — which often cost less than dinner and a movie, and we end up with some good “swag” to take home as well as some yummy bagels and chocolate milk. Although we often won't race together (he is much faster), it is great to have him cheering for me at the end. Doing dates like this is a reminder that we are in it together.
4. Compliment each other; don't compete. I have known couples to turn exercise into a competition of who can lose the most weight, gain the most muscle or run the farthest. Although it may be seem to be a good motivator, this eventually turns negative and can be counterproductive, with one or both giving up because it is no longer enjoyable.
When you encourage each other, you will develop that team aspect that is so crucial in making this work.
As you and your significant other work together in your fitness goals, you will find that not only will your waistlines shrink, but your respect and love for each other will increase.
Oh, and it doesn't hurt to be able to wrap your arms all the way around each other when you hug just an added bonus.