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How to Make Working Out as a Couple Work Out

It’s definitely not for everybody

Earlier this month, writing for The Guardian, Lily Canter vented about why couples should never go running together: “By the time we reached home I was fuming, accusing him of treating me like his training guinea pig, and of a complete inability to understand my level of fitness,” she wrote.

Though Canter would go on to cite research that suggests having an exercise buddy can promote sustained involvement in physical activity, for her and her husband, running together did just the opposite. “I think the issue with running was that I was trying hard to train and develop a new sporting activity and my husband would just breeze along without having done any training and still be far better than me,” she writes to me over email. “He would try to encourage and push me, but I found this patronizing.”

Still, there are myriad articles online that suggest otherwise: Based on nearly all of the articles that have been written on this topic, exercising with someone by your side is supposed to make things easier. But because every relationship is different, we spoke to a few different couples who exercise together to find out how they successfully share their fervor for fitness.

Use it as a way of increasing your time spent together…

“Working out is a shared time where you just focus on the simplicity of working out,” says Pieter Vodden, a gym owner in L.A. who exercises with his wife. “If you’re both busy people (and we are), this can be a very nourishing event in your day.”

…and increasing your lust

“Working out is also sexual,” admits Vodden. “The energy, the hormonal release, the feeling of being strong and in control, it all transfers well to the bedroom.”

Allow some healthy competition to build trust in each other

“As long as you’re encouraging of each other and not putting each other down, it’s healthy,” explains Vodden. “Don’t be overly critical of one another — just support the journey. I don’t think there are any exercises you can’t do together.”

Canter, meanwhile, thinks your best bet is to choose something where you’re both at the same skill level. “I think for playing sports with a partner, you have to be on a level playing field for it to work,” she explains. “The two of us can play tennis together as we’re equally hopeless at it. We also go climbing together as this isn’t done in tandem, but each taking a turn, so there’s no element of a race or competition.”

Choose something that you both mutually enjoy

“I know of a lot of relationships that actually started in the gym,” says Shepherd Tate, a fitness instructor in L.A. who regularly trains with his wife. “They blossomed through collective effort and triumph. The gym is a positive place and spending time in a positive place is important.”

This may be why running didn’t work well for Tate and her husband: “With running, some people are just naturally better at it if they already have a good level of fitness, which is hard for others who are working really hard to reach that point,” she explains.

It’s all about mutual growth

“You grow together, work together, win together and join a community together,” says Sarah O’Dwyer, another L.A.-based fitness instructor who has been working out with her husband Matt for the past five years. “It can be one of the most powerful places in a relationship. We have multiple couples in the gym, and the time they spend here is vital to their longevity.”