5 Ways To Support Your Partner in Their Fitness Goals
I still remember going to my first weightlifting meet. It was in a small, crowded gym in Louisville, Kentucky. I sat on a box for 4 hours while Wil competed in the snatch and the clean and jerk (the two lifts in the sport of Olympic Lifting). I didn’t understand how the meet was judged, I thought it took an awfully long time, and frankly, I got a little bored, and tired of sitting there for hours.
The meet ended up being a big success. Our Force lifters did well, Wil won his division, and was overall best lifter (he typically wins – he’s a bit of a show-off on the platform). I could tell how excited he was about the meet, how much he loved competing and coaching, and I knew this was something he would continue to do for the long-haul. I also knew I was in for a lot of years of training, and competing in this sport he was so passionate about.
When Wil and I were first married, we had a lot of adjusting to do. We had never lived together, and our first home was a 600 square foot rental with no air conditioning, and no outlets in the bathroom. Not only did we have to adjust to life living together, but we had to adjust to each other’s workout schedule, and fitness goals.
I am an endurance athlete – I train for half marathons, marathons, and triathlons… and I lift weights occasionally. Wil is power athlete- he trains for Olympic Weightlifting. That means we do completely different exercises, and train in different ways. It also means we have different goals.
Not once in our time of knowing each other have we had the same fitness goals….except for the one time when Wil ran the Team Indiana Elite Thanksgiving 5k and hated every minute of it, but we’ll save that for another story.
Over our 6 years of marriage we have learned how to support one another as we each compete in our own sport. We’ve found out what works, what doesn’t work, and also how we can help each other. After all, we are the biggest (and most important) team of our life.
Supporting your partner can be challenging at times, but research shows that it can make you healthier in the long-run.
“In my 10 years of experience evaluating what creates long-term health-and-fitness success, the single most important factor is having a support system,” says Wayne Andersen, MD, cofounder and medical director of Take Shape for Life, a nationwide health and lifestyle coaching program based in Owings Mills, Md.
A 2011 study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that the exercise habits of people you know have a positive influence on your exercise habits.
Another study, from the Department of Kinesiology at Indiana University, surveyed married couples who joined health clubs together and found that couples who worked out separately had a 43 percent dropout rate over the course of a year. Those who went to the gym together, regardless of whether they focused on the same type of exercise, had only a 6.3 percent dropout rate.
As the article states, the couple didn’t have to be doing the same type of exercise to reap the benefit of a lower drop-out rate; the common denominator was going to the gym together.
I’m not suggesting that all couples workout together, or partake in the same fitness activities, but I do think having a supportive partner can be a huge benefit when trying to achieve new goals.
Here are 5 suggestions for things you can do to be a supportive partner when it comes to fitness:
- Listen – When your partner has a fitness goal, ask them about it, and listen. Sometimes this is easier said than done- things can go in one ear and out the other. Or, we listen, but we don’t really take it in. When your partner talks to you about their training goals, listen to them, hear them out, and let them explain why they have a certain goal. Next, ask if they need your help (they may not!), and how you can be supportive to them.
- Encourage – Once your partner has shared their goal with you, be an encourager. Encourage your partner to do the workout, take the class, sign-up for the nutrition seminar, etc. Whatever their goal is, you will find that you are both happier if you exemplify an encourager mindset.
- Support their nutrition habits – This one can be a touchy subject for some. Supporting your partner in their nutrition habits is important, and it may make you healthier depending on your current diet. It can also be easier on your budget when cooking meals because you can both eat the same thing instead of making two meals. Offer to cook a meal for your partner, food prep for them, agree to try a new dish once a week, or even chip in and do the extra dishes if they’re cooking a lot.
- Help create strategies – We can’t get to our goals without a set strategy. If your partner has a specific health or fitness goal, help them create ways to get there or be supportive if you don’t have any input or ideas. If your partner is finding it difficult to find time to workout, ask what you can do to help make it happen. Can you watch the kids for an hour on the weekend, can you take over bath and bedtime routine, or can you offer to to help them look at their schedule and find pockets of time to workout?
- Be willing to make compromises – If you and your partner are a team, and, if your partner has specific fitness goals, and is serious about achieving them, it can mean making sacrifices to help one another. That might mean your partner continues training on vacation even if you wanted to relax all day together. It might mean that you have to choose between a vacation or a trip to compete in a specific fitness event. Whatever the case may be, be prepared to help.
If fitness is important to your partner, be as supportive as you can, give them space to make mistakes and to find what works best for them.