My husband George and I met on a blind date five years ago. Of the many things discussed that night, one that particularly delighted us, was discovering our shared love of fitness. I had recently become hooked on Barry's Boot Camp, and after a few weeks of dating, I invited George along for a class. He was a bit worried (he was still in a phase where he was trying to impress me), but he agreed to join.
Something happened during that class. Side by side on our treadmills, we playfully competed in our sprints, clapping our hands and shouting encouraging words to each other. We stood side-by-side lifting weights, glancing back and forth at each other in the mirror with sly smiles. When it was over, we felt like we had made it through a war together. I no longer cared what my hair looked like or that I was sweating like crazy. The shared flood of endorphins and pride at a job well done overshadowed everything else.
That one class kicked off a theme for the rest of our relationship. We began to take Barry's together several times a week, and when the time eventually came for George to propose, he did so on their treadmills!
Fitness was the cornerstone of our relationship, and it turned out to be a firm bedrock on which to build a life together.
One day, a friend invited us to participate in a 5k she was organizing, so we signed up. We immediately fell in love with races and began doing them together regularly. They provided really cool opportunity to spend quality time together and develop a shared hobby. But when our son was born, it seemed like the days of enjoying those weekend morning adventures together were over.
Around that same time, we began to encounter another struggle that befalls many new parents: finding time for "date night." We read over and over how important it is to schedule these pockets of grown-up time, so periodically we would go through the motions: hiring a babysitter, getting dressed up, and dining at a nearby restaurant.
The problem was this: We don't really care about going out to dinner. In fact, we have to go out for dinner with clients so much that it is the last thing we want to do with our free time. We found ourselves eating foods we regretted (we typically cook very simple, clean meals at home every night) and spending money we didn't want to spend. "Date night" left us feeling a bit befuddled—wasn't this supposed to be our relationship-replenishing "us time"? Why wasn't it more fun?
Then we realized: Date night doesn't have to be the same for everyone.
For us, if we're going to spend the money on a babysitter, our idea of a superfun indulgence is having the time to engage in our shared love of fitness and healthy living.
We started looking at "date night" through a different lens, turning the conventional model on its ear. Instead of Saturday nights, we began hiring a babysitter from 6 to 11 a.m. on Saturday mornings. Races are typically from about 7 to 8 a.m., so we could participate in a race with time left over afterward to hit our local diner (yes, in sweaty running clothes!) for a nice breakfast of egg-white omelets (hold the potatoes!), fruit, and child-free conversation. These special outings have become our "date night," and for us, it's heaven.
Once we were able to prioritize our shared hobby again, we scheduled runs regularly and even started adding in longer distances (half-marathons and marathons) to give ourselves some "reach-for-it goals" to attack together. Our physiques began to morph into slim, streamlined "runners bodies," and I lost 10 pounds without trying.
Also, the results of our weight training suddenly became much more visible, as our extra layer of body fat began to drip away (hello, six-packs!). It was an amazing by-product of turning our "us time" into "let's be a better us" time.
Coupling up means having a co-pilot, and making fitness and wellness a part of that union is a huge benefit to having a life partner. It delivers an opportunity for so much shared joy as well as a healthy dose of accountability. The most important part is framing it as a blessing rather than a chore.
In other words, viewing fitness as something you "get to do together" rather than something you "have to do." Oh, and watching each other get hotter as the fruits of your labor emerge in your ever-changing bodies doesn't hurt either. By reframing "date night" into a mutual opportunity for self-betterment, you're giving each other the best gift there is: the feeling of accomplishment and an increased chance for a long, healthy, happy life.