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What to Do When Your Partner Hates Exercise


Here's my big confession: I'm a recovering sloth. Barring whatever phys ed classes they made us take in high school (and even then, I sat out for an entire semester while I "recovered" from mono), I didn't see the inside of a gym until my early 20s. In college, more phys ed requirements encouraged me to take exactly two classes: a step aerobics class, and something called Willpower and Grace, where I did my first plank and approximately 80 million forms of squats. Once I graduated, it was another year or two before I finally signed up for a gym again, along with the personal training sessions that taught me how to use weights and how to turn on a treadmill, thereby triggering my still-strong love affair with fitness.

The only problem was, my new love was interfering with my old love—my long-term boyfriend. He'd been an athlete in high school and, like me, took a few gym classes in college, which was when we met. But for the most part, we spent our time together eating out, going out, making out... just not working out.

At first, my new gym and running obsession was no big deal. After all, both he and I enjoyed the perks —sexy new muscles, more energy, a better mood. But let's be honest, it was an adjustment for us both. I started to make other changes. Realizing how awful it felt to work out after a heavy, greasy meal, I began opting out of pizza or burger nights, which had been a tradition for us. (Can Your Relationship Affect Your Weight?) I also was cutting short our time together—already limited, since we were long-distance at the time—to squeeze in a sweat session here and there.

He didn't mind; in fact, he encouraged me, seeing how amazing I felt (and looked). But something was taking root in my mind. I loved my new lifestyle; I loved my boyfriend. How great would it be if I could the latter on board with the former? We'd be like one of those cute gym couples I kept seeing at Trader Joe's, clad it matching Lycra, talking about their last race or their triceps or whatever. (#fitcouplegoals.)

I broached the topic a few times with my boyfriend. My big thing was running. How great would it be if we ran together sometime?!

The first few times I brought it up he hedged. Then eventually he gave it to me straight: Not going to happen. Running hurt his knees, he said. He was too tall. In truth, he wasn't particularly interested.


I tried to brush it off, but every time I passed a couple jogging together or had to leave early on one of our already too rare weekends together because I wanted to get a long run in, I felt a pang of disappointment. I imagined us trotting along together, chatting. Enjoying that post-run runner's high together over protein shakes. Helping each other stretch our hamstrings.

Maybe he was sick of hearing me wax poetic about how great it would be, but finally I convinced him to give it a shot—in the dead of winter, in upstate New York. The deck was stacked against me, but I was sure once he started, he'd love it as much as I did.

He hated it. His shins hurt. ("We'll get you more supportive shoes!") He was cold. ("We'll get you fleece-lined leggings!") His glasses were fogging up. ("Have you tried contacts?") When we got home, I asked if he felt good now that it was over, thinking that once he felt that post-run glow he'd be hooked. He said he thought he was going to throw up. When I offered him a sip of my protein shake, I think he nearly did. That's about when I remembered that it took me at least six months of walk-running on the treadmill (and hating every minute) for me to build up enough endurance to actually enjoy my runs. Shoot. (I wish I'd known about the 25 ways you can learn to love running.)

To his credit, he tried it a few more times—with more supportive shoes, on warmer days. But he never took to it, and eventually I stopped asking (okay, nagging), despite how cute I thought he looked with his cheeks flushed and his hair all mussed up.

Then we moved in together, and I started working at Shape.

Suddenly, a whole new world of fitness classes was open to me. Spinning, bouldering, rowing, Piloxing, TRXing, pilates reformer-ing... I loved it all! And every time I tried something new, I'd find myself thinking, Maybe he'll like this! (Check out the 12 Stages of a Fitness Class Obsession.)

To his credit, he's always game to try. He SoulCycled with me and really enjoyed it. This past summer, we took a pretty intense week-long kayaking vacation that was life-changing. We've been talking about trying out the bouldering place next door (for about two years now). On most Saturdays or Sundays, we go to the gym in our building together and exchange kissy faces in the wall-to-wall mirrors from our respective machines. But I haven't hit on the one thing he loves, that we can do together. And I've slowly been coming to accept that this might be how it's going to be for us. I'm a six-times-a-week runner, madly in love with a weekend warrior gym-goer.

But you know what? Sometimes I think it's better this way. As it is, when I come in from a long run, he acts like he's in awe of what my body can do. I like that! If he was as into running as I was, he'd probably be faster than me, less impressed by my PRs, and more competitive about our limited running sneaker space. (Too many sneakers, and 20 other things All Fit Women Have Around the House.)

Plus, when I reaaalllllyyyyy feel like a rest day, he's always 100 percent on board with ordering a pizza and vegging on the couch. (Except if I've been really cranky; then he encourages me to go to the gym.) Even better, when I run in the MORE/Shape half-marathon this spring, I know he'll be on the sidelines cheering me on. For now, that's enough.

But for the record, he promised me he'd give running one more shot when the weather warms up again. I've got my fingers crossed.


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