Exercising as a couple: can it make you workout more?
It might rain. My hand feels weird. Not memoirs of a snowflake, but genuine excuses I’ve made to get out of exercise. Despite being surrounded by colleagues constantly clad in Lycra, having obnoxious access to the London fitness scene and having been on the receiving end of an endorphin high more times than I can count, my default setting is lazy, and if I can get out of physical activity, I will.
The result is a scatter gun approach to fitness – a run here, a barre class there – and a mistrust of anyone with a routine they’re capable of sticking with week in, week out.
So a study published in Health Education Research is music to these flaky ears.
Researchers set out to explore the power of partner support in the management of type 2 diabetes and found that working out with a partner gave couples the motivation to stick to an exercise routine.
The benefits of having a workout buddy aren’t breaking news, but the researchers pointed to the ‘in-this-together’-ness of pairing up with a loved one as being key to reinforcing positive exercise behaviour.
To be clear, the concept of couples anything makes me want to vom and I reserve a bucket of cynicism for the kind of images you find on certain couple-focused fitness feeds.
In my relationship, exercise is bragging currency – he cycles to and from work on the daily;
I find a way to drop the marathon I ran in 2016 into at least one conversation a day. (See?)
But I’m curious to see whether channelling our mutual competitive spirit into a collective cause could give me the stickability I crave on drizzly days.
I mention it during a week when his bike is looking decidedly dusty (‘it was raining this morning…’) and he agrees to give it a go.
We sign up to Blok London– all polished concrete, exposed brick and immaculate clientele. It’s a studio so achingly cool that, despite it being convenient for both home and work, I’ve always felt too intimidated to take a class there.
We book into HIIT. At least, I do.
I’m packing my gym bag in the morning when he tells me he forgot to actually book into the class. I’m annoyed for a second, until I realise this is a legit excuse to flake.
The next day, we try again. It’s seven minutes before the class is due to start when we realise he’s at the studio in Clapton and I’m at the one in Shoreditch.
But by week two, we’ve managed to show up at the same place at the same time. Three times.
When my alarm goes off for 7am yoga, I’m desperate to stay in bed. But the promise of a backie on his bike to the studio gets me out from under the duvet.
When he comes downstairs in his Arsenal kit and football boots and asks ‘are these shoes okay for yoga?’ it’s the hardest I’ve ever laughed pre 6.30am.
Come the weekend, I feel weird letting him intrude on the sacred ritual that is my Saturday morning class. But I agree to try something new (he isn’t keen on arse, arms and abs) and we settle on box-con.
He loves the boxing, I love the conditioning; I celebrate with a banana, he with a Greggs sausage roll. But it’s another workout in the bag.
Exercising as a couple: my verdict
The next day, we sit down with our respective calendars and schedule our workouts for the week ahead. I’m diarising exercise and then actually doing it. I’m the person I’ve always wanted to be.
I suspect the setting of a joint alarm and having someone to leave the house with in the dark has something to do with the fact that I’ve been to three classes a week for four weeks in a row. It’s the closest I’ve come to a workout schedule since I was marathon training. (Did I mention?) But I’ve also tried classes I never would have showed up to alone.
My workouts aren’t entirely co-dependent – I prefer to run alone, I’ll never get him to barre and he’ll never get me on a bike. Nor am I immune to a rain check. But our joint workouts have become the framework around which I now plan the rest of my workout week.