Sharing a Fitness Journey with Your Spouse

I played basketball and softball when I was in elementary school, and, although I wasn’t the strongest athlete, I loved being a part of team. I loved practicing with my friends, talking about our upcoming games at school, complaining about the cruelty of wind sprints, and cheering for each other both on the court/field and from the bench. As a teenager, I thrived on the camaraderie and support that came with running for my high school’s track and cross-country teams. Although the miles were never magically easier just because I was running alongside my teammates, the distances felt more manageable and the workouts were always more enjoyable. Whether we were logging long runs, doing speed workouts, or hitting our school’s weight room to fake our way through strength circuits (because we were totally clueless!), everything was just more fun, more doable because we were in it together.

In a previous post, I wrote about how I fell away from running regularly during college once I didn’t have the built-in support network of a team. And Allison wrote a fantastic post earlier about the importance and benefits of team-based training (seriously, go read that one now if you haven’t already done so!). Despite my own wonderful experiences with team-based running and athletics and the many amazing testimonies I have heard from my fellow athletes about running teams and clubs, after hanging up my track and cross-country uniforms in 2000, I haven’t joined a team or club.

What I have benefitted from, however, is the support, encouragement, and accountability of working out alongside my husband. My husband, Joe, and I discovered our mutual love for running during our early days of dating. I wish that I could say that we log miles upon miles together now, but we don’t. Due to a knee injury in college that has continued to cause him trouble, my husband isn’t able to run anymore. Instead of running together, we do strength training, cardio, yoga, and ab workouts together.

Joe and I after an exciting weekend of hiking and outdoor activities

Joe and I after an exciting weekend of hiking and outdoor activities

We first started training together in 2010 when I felt the need to increase my strength and endurance in order to keep up with my active kiddos. I was probably thinner than I had ever been, but I was constantly fatigued and constantly sore because I was most likely undernourished and just unfit. Joe had had lots of experience with weight lifting and strength training from his college and post-college years, so like almost every other couple you know, we jumped on the P90x train. For any of you who have followed this program, you can certainly imagine how spent we were after our first Core Synergistics workout and then how sore we were the following day – and forget about Yoga for those first couple of weeks!!

As we moved through the program, though, we saw ourselves grow in strength, endurance, and flexibility, and we happily cheered each other on as we reached milestones each week. My husband helped me with my form when I did tricep kickbacks and I encouraged him through the ridiculous Ab Ripper moves that I could miraculously do with more ease.

This experience was amazing for reasons far beyond the fitness that we gained throughout the cycle. Going through the intensity of the program together afforded us the opportunity to serve each other in ways that we hadn’t yet benefitted from in our married life. Sure, we were already supporting each other in shared parenting experiences and in our jobs and in multiple other ways, but supporting each other in fitness provided the chance to encourage each other and cheer each other on in a shared endeavor to improved health – and it offered that shared camaraderie that we had both loved so much when we were high school kids on track and cross-country teams.

Due to time constraints and just the busy-ness of life, we haven’t done another cycle of P90x. We have, however, continued to work out together with strength and ab workouts and taking on yoga at various points. We have found that working out with each other continues to make us not only more physically fit but also more in synch as parents and partners in our marriage.

My husband is a man of great discipline. He goes to daily Mass, works out every day, and is a Catholic who goes to weekly Confession. His dedication to physical fitness and spiritual growth motivates me to be a more dedicated athlete and a more faithful Catholic. And, much like Colleen explains in her awesome post on running and motherhood, working out together regularly sets an example for our kids that fitness is an important element of a healthy lifestyle. In fact, our kids often join in with our workouts.

A weekend of hiking in the Hocking Hills of Ohio with the kids

A weekend of hiking in the Hocking Hills of Ohio with the kids

Whether it’s an intensive fitness routine, logging miles together training for a marathon, taking on hiking or skiing or swimming, or going for daily walks together, I highly recommend working out with your spouse. I pray that you find, like Joe and I have, that the benefits of a shared fitness journey are unquantifiable.

Jennifer is a wife, mom of three, runner, and PhD. She and her family recently moved back to the Carolinas after a five-year grad school stint in the Midwest. Jennifer is a cradle Catholic, and she began running almost thirty years ago, participating in her first road races as an elementary-school kid at the annual Knights of Columbus Turkey Day Run. She frequently turns to both the rosary and distance running (oftentimes simultaneously) for assistance in embracing the joys and the demands of family life and academic life. You can connect with Jennifer on Instagram. (@jennifer_2582)