What Role Does Fitness Play in Your Marriage? | Engaged Marriage

What Role Does Fitness Play in Your Marriage?

By Dustin | Individual Fulfillment

When I wrote a recent post about my (re)discovery that fitness is important to my marriage, I never realized the pivotal role that it would play in my life. I’ll be sharing much more on that front over the next few weeks, but today I’d like to share a bit more about my thoughts on the relationship between physical wellness and a happy married life.

More importantly, I really want to create a dialogue with and between the awesome members of our community in the comments to this post. If you are reading this via an RSS Reader, please do me a favor and come over to the site so you can engage in this conversation.

I want to ask a few questions and then give you my thoughts on each. In the comments, please share your perspective on this super-important topic.

Do You Think Fitness is Important to Your Marriage?

Obviously, my answer here is Yes! based on my last post and posts from the early days of the site where I made the case for Getting Fit and Having a Healthy Marriage.

Recently, I’ve become even more enthusiastic, and I think that’s because my mindset has changed.  Instead of viewing exercise as a self-centered activity to simply look good or feel good about myself, I’ve really started looking at it as a service to Bethany and my children.  Not only is my self-confidence improved, but so are my moods, health, enthusiasm and energy.

I am a better husband and father when I am fit (or working towards a state of better fitness).

Do You Exercise Regularly? If Not, Would You Like To?

For the last few months, I can certainly say that my workouts have been consistent.  My history with exercise has been one of up-and-downs and starts-and-stops.  My weight has fluctuated 40 pounds several times since college along with my overall wellness.

I honestly think I’ve gotten beyond that with the help of a realistic and effective training program as well as some great accountability partners.  I am a regular exerciser now.

Do You Ever Exercise With Your Spouse? Would You Like To?

Sort of.  Lately, this hasn’t been much of an option for us as Bethany is currently 9 1/2 months pregnant.  However, I’d definitely like to exercise with her as much as possible after the new baby gets here and everything settles down.

Some of my best memories of our dating years (and pre-kid years) include tennis matches, shooting baskets and taking long walks and bike rides.  We’ve allowed life to get in the way of this form of physical connectedness, and I do miss it.

The program I’m following now would definitely allow us to workout together at home as long as we could find a time when the kids are asleep (or they could join us).  This could be an issue with a newborn!  If we can’t exercise together, then we’ll be sure to allow each other a little time to workout individually, and hopefully we’ll be able to do so together from time-t0-time.

What Are the Biggest Obstacles Keeping You from Getting in Shape?

This one’s easy: TIME!

One of the main reasons my previous fitness programs have stalled is that they weren’t sustainable for the long haul.  For example, P90X requires an hour to an hour-and-a-half workouts six days per week.  This sounds doable and does get results, but how long would your lifestyle allow you to maintain this before you get derailed or simply rundown?

Also, it is just so easy to get sidetracked during the course of a busy day and miss a workout.  When this happens, one day turns into two, then three and then I say “might as well restart at lunchtime on Monday.”  Except Monday brings a lunch meeting and the whole plan goes down the tubes.  Hey Gym, see in you six months when New Year’s Day rolls around!

My current program allows me to workout at home and it takes less than 30 minutes a day, five days per week (and two of those days let me get outside when the weather permits, which is awesome).  So, in the time it used to take me to drive to the gym and back, I can knock out a great workout in the morning before work.

This works great for me because all of the distractions of the day can’t get in the way!

Let’s Talk!

I am really interested to hear what you have to say about the role of exercise and fitness in your marriage.  I thought about doing a survey on this topic, but I’d much rather have an open dialogue and get your honest perspective.

If you’re going to comment on one post this year, I’d really like it if you chose this one.  Thanks!

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About the Author

Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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(33) comments

I agree 100% with the improved “moods, health, enthusiasm and energy.” This is one of the biggest benefits to me and my family when my wife and I work out.

We do exercise regularly (mostly individually). Although many of our dates have involved going for walks, playing tennis, etc. We’ve even used a babysitter just to go to the gym together for a date. One thing that I do to stay motivated is have a specific goal in mind – not just a weight goal. I sign up for triathlons and spend 3-5 days a week swimming, biking, or running my way to fitness. Last month I raced in a triathlon with my wife and it was a blast!

Another aspect of being fit and healthy is diet – It is nearly impossible to eat healthy without your spouse doing it too, you need each others support!

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    Dustin

    Thanks, Eric! I absolutely love the idea of competing in events alongside my wife. And I’ve never thought of a date night spend being active…but I have now!

    And yes, I totally neglected nutrition in this post. It’s obviously very important, but for me it starts with exercise. When I am working out regularly, I eat much better since I don’t want to “waste” the effort. 🙂

    Reply
Deacon Bradley

Totally agree! Fitness has always been a huge part of my life, but has only recently been a part of my marriage. My wife and I started CrossFit in February and both totally love it! We work out three days a week for one hour at a time which saves a lot of time, AND we’re both in the best shape in years. Some days I struggle badly with the workouts, sometimes she does, but we’re always doing it together. It’s been fun sharing the challenges, victories, and defeats that come with fitness training and has really influenced us in positive ways far beyond fitness.

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    Dustin

    Thanks so much for sharing, Deacon! It was your tweets that helped fuel my initial rush of motivation, and I love hearing about the success you’re enjoying working out with your wife. How cool!

    Reply

I have come to realize now that we have kids it is more important than ever for Alisa and I to stay physically fit. We have a lot going on, but being healthy is a benefit for each of us and our family. I also believe that by exercising and eating healthy my kids are off on the right foot.

I’ve been an avid cyclist for the last 5 years riding as many as 6,000 miles in a year. Cycling is apart of our live. The cool thing is when Alisa started doing Tae Kwon Do and really started to find her passion. We now do a core, full body circuit, and yoga together as often as we can. It is a great way for the two of us to connect and encourage each other.

Being physically fit also leads to a healthy bedroom. It’s amazing when you feel good about yourself how amazing the intimacy can be. We’ve come a long way from being where we were when we first got married, I was 30 lbs heavier and Alisa 20 lbs, and we can say without a doubt that exercise and having a solid diet has made the difference.

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    Dustin

    Awesome, Tony. You make a great point about the influence your healthy lifestyle has on the formation of your kids. And I love your point about enhanced intimacy!

    Oh, and that workout you guys are doing sounds fantastic. 😉

    Reply

After my Hubby and I got married in 2001, we got “happy fat.” What can I say? I’m a good cook! 🙂
Anyway, we joined a gym, and got into better shape. This was before we had kids.

It took a few months of “forcing ourselves” to go to the gym before it became a habit, but it did and eventually we got to the point that if we don’t go, we don’t feel good. We get cranky and feel fat and sluggish.

Kids came into the picture in 2005 and 2009. That changed things, but through it all, we have managed to retain our gym time. It might seem selfish, but it’s good for the whole family. Not only does it help keep us healthy and fit and able to keep up with two very active little boys, it also gives us our “me time” every day–a mental break. It’s necessary. Makes us easier to live with. Plus it shows the kids, by example, that staying active is important and non-negotiable. We give up TV time to stay fit, and it’s worth it.

Due to job schedules and kids, we don’t get to work out together very often. When we have run together on vacation or during races, though, it’s SO MUCH FUN! We push each other and do better than we would if we were running solo.

I am so happy we decided to become a “fit family” and I think it is good for our marriage and kids.

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    Dustin

    Krystal, I laughed when I read “happy fat” in your comment. I know exactly what you mean!

    I totally agree with the trade-off of TV time for exercise…that’s a very wise investment of time. And your fitness is certainly not selfish and I wish more families would recognize these benefits.

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Maya

I’d like to workout, but time is my enemy. I like the idea of making is to that I workout at home. The whole ritual of getting to the gym, doing the gym, and coming home wears me out thinking about it. I have about 90 lbs to lose and it is definitely affecting my marriage because it is affecting me. I don’t feel good about me. Thanks.

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    Dustin

    Thank you so much for sharing, Maya. I definitely understand your time constraints and the issues with getting to the gym. When I used to workout at a local gym over lunch, I’d waste around 30 minutes just driving there and back and changing clothes.

    With my current workout, I’m done in that same about of time right after I get up in the morning, and then I jump in the shower and get ready for the day. It’s been a life-changer, and I look forward to sharing more about it with you.

    Reply
    Bill

    Maya,
    For a possible solution for your time problem, please see my post further down (July 11, 2010 at 2:44 pm).

    God bless.

    Reply
    Elizabeth Ikemire

    Maya,
    I started my weight loss journey with the same problem. I highly recommend DVD workouts to get going. I lost >100 pounds, and in the beginning, I was doing all my workouts in front of the TV. I really like Leslie Sansome’s DVDs. They don’t require much floor space, and you can do them at any fitness level. I was doing them at 275 lbs, and I still find them useful now that I’m at 140.

    Most of all, don’t beat yourself up. If all you can do is 10 minutes at a time right now, that’s enough. That’s all I could physically handle in the begining, but it was enough.
    Hang in there!
    Elizabeth

    Reply

    Maya, I know how you feel. I am a working mom (executive level in a global company) so I have to travel, do early morning or late evening conference calls and work crazy hours sometimes. Finding time to workout has been last on my list because I felt that spending time with my husband and kids was most important. BUT, I found that the time I was spending with the family could be done while still getting in some type of fitness. We bought bikes and a trailer for the kids and now our quality time is going around our neighborhood and on trails. Not the intensive workout that I would like, but it has helped. Thankfully my work also has a gym onsite and I have been sacrificing some lunches to get in a 30 min elliptical workout. Every little effort counts. I average 2 days a week in the gym which is better than none. And as others have pointed out, when you feel better about yourself, it shows in every aspect of your marriage. I also have about 90 pounds to lose but in the past 2 months have lost 10 just from changing my eating habits and doing a little exercise. Don’t give up, you can do it!!!

    Reply

You are right, staying fit is so important for the family. It goes beyond sexy body and health benefits. Exercising gives anybody more energy, it makes you happier, healthier and gives you opportunities to try so many things in life!
My husband and I are both fit and we make sure that neither of us misses our workouts. We do not often get to work out together (somebody has to stay with the babies) but when we do, we have a blast. So far hiking and running are our favorite activities. My husband even tried Pilates with me (I am a Pilates instructor so it was very important for me).
Thank you Dustin for this insightful post. Being active means staying engaged and connected in the marriage. The more things we can share with our second halves, the better it is for the marriage.

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    Dustin

    Thanks for your kind words, Anastasiya! I love that your husband has tried Pilates with you. That is definitely a challenging workout, especially for us inflexible guys!

    By the way, I love your site at http://www.BalanceinMe.com 🙂

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Cheryl

I understand your obstacle, Maya! That was mine too – However, I lost 60lbs using Walk Away the Pounds. It’s an “In home” DVD by Leslie Sansone (and it has a few Christian values thrown in during the work outs). You can choose a 1, 2, or 3 mile walk each day. It really has made a difference and it was so easy to incorporate into my busy schedule since I could do it in the privacy and close location of my own living room. 🙂 Good luck to you!

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    Dustin

    Thank you for sharing that encouragement and that resource, Cheryl! Here’s to working out at home. 😉

    Reply

I absolutely believe that staying fit is important in marriage. Sure there are the obvious physical benefits (health and vanity) but there is tremendous mental benefits as well. Just this morning I was feeling down and my husband drug me out to the garage where I led us in a kettlebell workout. I also don’t believe in “no time to workout”. We are getting older every day and there is NO TIME to NOT workout. At the risk of sounding self-righteous (which is honestly not my intention) we run our own business from home and homeschool two kids which makes for a very busy schedule but we till make time to workout almost every day whether it be taekwondo, kettlebells, or a walk. That said b/c of the time factor, I do very quick efficient workouts that get me awesome results. My main tool is the kettlebell so I take them on roadtrips, to parks, to the beach, ect. It’s not unusual for me be sneaking in workouts at the most random times or places. I also pay close attention to what I eat but that’s another topic. 🙂

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    Dustin

    Awesome, Jenn! I’m totally with you on the mental benefits of staying fit. I’ve heard a lot about kettleball workouts…I’ll have to check those out!

    Reply

One aspect of sharing fitness (and weight loss) is how much easier it is to stick with it when both husband and wife are working towards similar goals. Over the past year, the two of us together have dropped over 70 pounds. We’re eating less than half of what we used to eat, and have a lot more energy. The key is to own your choices – the choices that got you to where you are now, and the choices you need to make to get yourself where you want to be. Once the excuses are gone, you can focus on what it takes to get fit.

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    Dustin

    That is awesome, Daniel! Congratulations on the great weight loss and, more importantly, the unity that you and your wife have around your health and fitness. Very inspiring!

    Reply
Bill

If time is a problem, have a look at The Men’s Health Big Book of Exercise and The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercise (I have no financial interest in Men’s Health Magazine, Women’s Health Magazine, nor in Rodale Press).

I believe both books have essentially the same exercises with different pictures so a couple might get by with only one book.

They have hundreds of illustrated exercises and then some recommended workouts that use these exercises. The exercises given in these “canned” routines are the objective exercises. They may be too hard for you to do starting out so you may have to use one of the alternate lighter versions until you can do the recommended exercise.

There are body-weight workouts that don’t require any equipment other than your body, the floor, and possibly something to lean on. The objective exercises (the ones you are to work up to) are plenty tough. The entire workout takes about 30 minutes and there’s no time wasted going to the gym. If you add a warm-up at the start and one of the quick cardio workouts to finish, then it will take a bit longer but they can all be done at home with minimal equipment.

There are also 15-minute workout plans so there should be no complaining about time requirements.

The author/editor recommends you only work out three days a week although you could work out every other day if you wish. The cardinal rule is to have at least one day of rest between exercise sessions to allow for muscle repair and building. A real advantage of the programs described in this book is that that you’re not “living at the gym” in order to achieve your fitness goals.

He also gives pretty good nutritional advice to my way of thinking.

Chapter 1 starts with “20 Ways Lifting Helps You Look Great, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer.” This chapter may be available online.

I hope this information helps take you from a vague idea of getting fit, to a focused idea of what you must or should do if you want to get fit.

Whatever you do, please start easy and don’t hurt yourself.

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    Dustin

    Thanks, Bill, for the great information! I have used similar routines in the past and had good results…for a while. It seems that the limitation of these workouts is a continual source of motivation and accountability, which may need to be found elsewhere. But I agree with you that the information is available out there for self-starters, and amazing results can be achieved in 30 minutes.

    Reply

I was probably at my phsycial best when I was unemployed and single. So much free time to do fitnessy stuff. Nothing to get in the way of going to the gym. I remember going on a date with a guy where we walked the beach and him having to ask that we stop walking because he wasn’t as fit as me. I don’t think I was ever that fit.
Somehow, but gym membership disappeared when I got engaged. I have this joke that i was the only bride not actively trying to lose weight. I’m not sure how so much of my time evaporated once I got engaged, but suddenly it seemed impossible to find the time to get there.
My husband doesn’t seem to have any interest at the moment in getting fit, because it would definitely be easier if it was something we could do together. I’m interested in theory of getting fitter, but the reality doesn’t seem to happen.
Sometimes I think about getting one of those Fitness things for the Wii, just because its something I could do in my own home without having to go anywhere, but i can’t guarantee I’d still do it. My only other plan is to hire a trainer, and make appointments, because i’m good at keeping appointments. Its just a matter of finding the right trainer.

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    Dustin

    I’m with you, Mary. Its’ SO much easier to find the time and energy to stay in great shape when you’re single and have free time. When you’re dealing with “real” life, you need to find a routine that works for you and some good accountability partners to help make it happen.

    Reply
Dawn @ Intimacy in Relationships

Great post, Dustin. I do agree with you that fitness has a major role in one’s marriage. After all, you are what you eat. Being fit boosts self-esteem, which in turn has a major role on any relationship. It has a snowball effect. If a person feels good about himself (i.e., because he’s fit), then it develops his self-esteem. As a result, the person starts to focus on the positive aspects of the relationship.

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    Dustin

    Thanks, Dawn. I like how you phrased this issue as a snowball effect because that’s exactly what it is…both in gaining fitness and in losing it. It starts with us and how we feel about ourselves.

    Reply

[…] dinner for your wife or a backyard game of catch with your son. It can’t be traded for better fitness, a nice nap or some quality time snuggling on the couch with your […]

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Bethany

I love your posts about fitness in marriage, Dustin! They always get me motivated!

I grew up in the mountains, so fitness was a huge part of my life. Hiking, biking, and rock climbing were regular weekly occurences and my family also spent a lot of time at our local health club. My husband had a different “fitness upbringing” in that all of his workouts were directly related to sports. He was always playing soccer, football, baseball, and basketball which kept him in great shape.

Now that we are married I still want to work at staying fit regularly. My husband is not as interested in going to the gym or going for walks because we are out of school and he’s not playing any sports. I want him to be as excited about staying in shape as I am, but I don’t want to nag him if the desire isn’t there. It’s tough and sometimes I think the only thing I can do is lead by example!

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    Dustin

    Hey Bethany, I love your name. 😉

    My experience with fitness was much closer to your husbands where working out was just something you *had* to do to meet other goals and obligations. I want my family’s memories and attitudes to be like your own growing up…especially if we had some mountains in Illinois!

    Like so many things in marriage and life, I agree that all you can do is lead by example and also ask your husband to join you in some fun fitness-related activities. It may not hurt to let him know you think it’s sexy when you have fun together being active. 🙂

    If you enjoy these fitness-related topics, please stay tuned…there are big things on the horizon!

    Reply

Hey Dustin

Im half out and half in two relationships. I finally ended my almost 30 year relationship and marriage and one of the overriding factors was to do with fitness and physical attractiveness. My ex-husband did not feel that expending the time on keeping fit whilst cutting down his diet was a priority and seemed to believe that I should love him as is. However, as an anorexic, having a huge tyre of blubber forever between us was a real problem for me. My feeling was that he should at least make some effort to stay trim, even if it was only for the sake of his own health, rather than the benefit of my eyes.

Whilst I wait for the divorce to come through, I am in a serious relationship with a man who does believe in working on his fitness. We regularly attend yoga classes together and also engage in separate fitness pursuits. The increased fitness and energy levels allow us to enjoy a very healthy sex life but, doing the yoga together, also reinforces the intimacy of our connection.

Learning from the failure of my first marriage, I understand how important it is to stay fit but also to stay connected. Doing a work-out together, in whatever form that takes, is really beneficial to maintaining the relationship.

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Agreed… fitness makes your relationship better! When I am being consistent in taking care of myself, I feel better, I have more energy, I feel sexier, and all of that translates into better interaction with both my guy and my kiddies.

And when I am NOT being consistent (like lately!) I feel terrible, I get cranky, I feel frumpy and in general not very happy. lol But unfortunately getting my guy to exercise WITH me is a losing battle. He’s naturally thin and athletic, and doesn’t feel the need to exercise beyond his job. 🙂 So my workouts are either done alone or with a girlfriend!

C

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Eric

My wife and I enjoy training together and competing in running and biking events. I was a former competitive bodybuilder and a personal trainer by trade. With that, it has helped me transform my wife from a casual runner to a complete athlete. We have decided to not have children, which I believe is the best decision for us. With that extra free time, we can always find balance in our relationship, which is the most important thing to us. My marriage is the most imporatnt thing in my life, with exercise…and our dog being a close second

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