When it comes to developing a fitness routine, it seems like everybody has their own methods and rituals that get them motivated to consistently head to the gym or a class and have a workout that’s effective and feels energizing. There are people who prefer working out in the living room at home, there are others who prefer the outdoors for a walk or a quick one each morning, and there are the fitness junkies who like structured classes in sweaty rooms with loud music pumping through the speakers.
If you ask around, there’s probably quite a bit of flexibility for people in terms of the settings in which they like to work out, but that setting is often determined by a bigger question: Do you like to work out with a partner or a group, or do you like to work out alone? For some people, working out as a couple might sound like a waking nightmare. For others, it’s the only way they end up getting out to the gym. While working out with your significant other might sound uncomfortable, strange, or just really annoying on paper, it can actually be an awesome tool to get to the gym and stick with a dedicated fitness plan!
Why it works
One of the most recommended ways to start making fitness a habit is to get an accountability partner into your life. Accountability partners are there to make sure we stick with our goals, to meet us halfway, to be a sounding board for our frustrations, and to show up when we need them there so that we can fulfill not only our workout goals but to be present when we confront the bigger things in our lives, too. Finding a fitness and health accountability partner in the form of friends or mentors is great, but when your significant other becomes your gym-going accountability partner, it takes on a whole new level of commitment and dedication.
Making a plan to hit the gym with your partner not only benefits your physical health, but it benefits the relationship, too. Studies have shown that couples who participate in physical activities and challenges together report feeling more satisfied in their relationships and feeling more in love with their partner. You can thank the uptick of endorphins that course through our bodies during workouts and the physiological arousal that occurs during any invigorating physical activity—which in turn drives romantic attraction—for that. Sharing fitness goals, taking runs together, making commitments to hitting the gym at a certain time each week, all elevate your appreciation and respect for your partner and can actually boost your level of attraction towards one another.
Working out as a couple can also improve the efficiency of your workouts, which supports the longstanding social psychology idea that even the mere presence of another person affects your ability to do an activity. Results from a study done by the Department of Psychology at Santa Clara University in California showed that individuals try to mirror the perceived level of exercise at which their partner is working out. When your partner is at the gym with you doing five more crunches than you are during each set, it’s more likely you’ll push yourself harder to try and match that number not because the two of you might have a competitive streak, but because socially—on a larger scale—we all tend to gravitate towards the behavior of those around us.
If you’ve ever been to a workout class like SoulCycle or Orange Theory, then you know how easy it is to quickly want to mimic the level and energy of everyone else working out in the room, but this same mindset rings true even if we’re working out with one other partner! This also brings to mind The Köhler Effect, which is a phenomenon first described by the German industrial psychologist Otto Köhler in the 1920s that occurs when a person works harder as a member of a group or when there are others present than they would if they were working alone.
Partner exercises to try at the gym
Another reason why working out with your S.O. might just be the game-changer for your fitness plan is that so many exercises at the gym can be done in tandem. Weight lifting, boxing practice, resistance band training, two-man rowing, and even sports like racquetball, handball, and squash are all awesome workouts to get your heart rate up alongside your partner. Exercising with medicine balls by tossing them back and forth to one is also an effective way to work on strength and the faster you throw it to one another, the more effective of a workout you’ll get.
It’s also great to have a stretching partner to work with before and after workouts. Take some time to stretch alongside your partner, and have him or her push you into stretches that are harder to hold on your own!
It’s an opportunity to try something new
Exercising as a couple might seem a little weird at first (hanging out at the gym?! Lifting weights together?!) but once you get into a groove with one another, you’ll probably find that it opens up a whole new dynamic to the relationship that might not have been there before. If both of you are busy and don’t get to spend lots of quality time together, going to the gym together and taking some time to work out is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship in a new and different way.
It’s widely known that working out can increase your level of happiness, both because of the awareness that you’re doing something good for your body because of the endorphins we get when we work out, and because we feel better when we’re taking care of our bodies and living a healthy lifestyle. Working out with a partner brings an added level of happiness to the table because you’re still getting the same feeling of pleasure and accomplishment you would from working out solo, but having your partner there—pushing you and working out alongside you—can increase the emotional bond you’ve built together and help you develop a deeper love and enjoyment of one another!
Emma Trevino is a freelance writer who splits her time between Los Angeles and Wimberley, a small town situated on the Blanco River just outside of Austin. She's combined her passion for wellness and beauty with her knack for telling stories to help brands communicate their narrative in an honest way. When she's not writing, you can find her swimming in the river, growing veggies in her garden, finding tasty natural wines, and reading on her porch.