The idea of working out with wife or girlfriend is fantastic. Most men’s magazines will tell you it’s a great way to bond, get in shape, and fall deeper in love with each other. Then you try it, and find the actual practice of working out together is an exceptionally volatile experience.
Thomas Paine said it best: “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Working out together will test your bond. It will cause pain. You will come out on the other side, and if you’re smart, you will not attempt this ill-advised activity ever again. My two cents: If you insist on following the misguided advice of men’s magazines touting the wonders of “working out with your woman,” your muscles won’t be the only thing recovering.
Ask Men suggests the following:
The truth is you can do your woman (and yourself) a huge favor by taking her to the gym and showing her the benefits of a high intensity weightlifting workout.
Great. Now you have a bunch of wannabe Romeos rounding up their women to show them the awesomeness of weightlifting, and of course those girls are just going to fall all over themselves with gratitude. That’s the idea. In practice, guys are taking something they enjoy and assuming their girls will enjoy it just as much. Guys are also assuming that a girl will be 100% ok with the suggestion that her own fitness routine (and maybe even physique) is woefully inadequate, and what she really needs is a hunky exercise guru (like us guys) to show them how it’s done.
So what if you both enjoy working out? Allison and I both have an exercise routine, and for a few painful months at the beginning of our marriage, I gently attempted to persuade her to adopt a variation of my strength training routine. This was a terrible idea, and our trips usually consisted of her not following my advice, and me getting frustrated. This was mainly because we both had (and continue to have) different fitness goals, and there is nothing wrong with this–that’s why you don’t see personal trainers simultaneously training two people with radically different fitness objectives. Yet we expect to waltz into a weight room with our wives while they drop everything to follow our manly master plan.
For the Sensitive Types
Maybe you’re different. You are unselfish, full of grand ideas to help her achieve her goals. Even this altruistic act of husbandly sacrifice has its pitfalls. For example, a few years back Allison asked for a few good exercises for her legs and butt. I had been waiting for this moment for years, and I launched into an admittedly overeager description of squats, deadlifts, and lunges. I gave her a quick demo, and she informed me that she “didn’t do exercises that made her stick out her butt.” Well my genius plan consisted of a bunch of butt-sticked out awkwardness, so there went that idea. In her defense, she was concerned about the modesty of my exercise selection. (I understand modesty and awkward concerns, but someone needs to explain the female fascination with the immodest AND awkward abomination that is the abductor and adductor machine. This has to be the most popular machine at any health club).
So is working out with your woman a lost cause? For the most part, yes. There are a few ways to make it happen, the easiest of which is to show up together at the gym, kiss at the front desk, then go your separate ways. That worked pretty well for Allison and I before we had kids. Otherwise, the best call for us is to keep individual workout preferences separate, while using date nights and family time to explore activities that we can do together. When we’re both on the same level as far as knowledge and experience, we have a great time. We’ve had success with kayaking, paddleboarding, horseback riding, tandem bicycling, and rock climbing, so we have found a way to stay active without driving each other crazy.
One More Try
Some guys never learn. I invited Allison to the gym with me a few months ago, hoping for some sort of a tandem fitness breakthrough. When she agreed to try an exercise I suggested, man I was stoked. It was happening! I was working out with my woman! Then I noticed her backing away any time I came within a few feet of her, and she was glancing side to side to see if anyone was watching us. Like we were doing something against the rules. I asked her what the problem was, and she told me, “Um, sweetie, you look like a hobo in that shirt, and it’s really embarrassing me.”
The times that try men’s souls indeed.
Allison’s Take On It
Most of this post is pretty accurate. I was once a gym lover. Now? Not so much. The practice of exercising indoors and staring at other people working out is just not so alluring anymore. This stay-at-home mom of two littles needs fresh air, sunlight and most importantly …peace and quiet. Our kids are bursting with energy from the moment they wake up and exercising outdoors is my attempt at boosting my energy levels to match theirs. I can also use this quiet time to listen to audio books, sermons or my favorite jams. It’s a win-win. So basically, I said to the gym, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
I gave the tandem workout a valiant effort for the sake of spending time with my guy but it’s hard to keep up with The Hulk (a.k.a my husband). In his account of the most recent attempt at a tandem workout, he very kindly, and patiently coached me through an awkward variation on a pull up. He was super excited. I tried it despite curious stares from other men in the weight area (because after all we looked like chimpanzees). I also couldn’t help but nervously eye my husband’s tattered t-shirt. It’s been a big source of contention for us. He loves to keep clothing that is nearly as old as our marriage. This particular shirt is so old Tom Hanks could have worn it in Castaway. Thus the hobo comment. Eh, should have kept it to myself… File that under, “Wifey Fail”. But I digress.
My advice? Exercise the way that meets your health needs best and then find something both you and your significant other can enjoy together for fun. It’s really that simple. Are you listening, Men’s Health?