Couples that exercise together…

Training, Exercising, Couples

…stay together.

We’ve all heard the rumours about marriages being destroyed by Ironman(TM) training. I’m sure there is some truth to them, considering the kind of commitment such pursuits demand, even though my personal experience cannot be blamed on that.

What I have witnessed first hand, however, is how difficult relationships can be when one partner exercises a lot and the other one doesn’t at all. That has certainly lead to divorce. Let’s face it, such differences in lifestyle and outlook on health are hard to reconcile, although not impossible.

What is less obvious is that even if two life partners do exercise regularly, even intensely, training together as a couple can still put a lot of strain on the relationship.

Yet there are few greater joys in life than being able to train as a couple. I am convinced it makes for a stronger relationship. So let me provide a few tips, based on my own experience and anecdotal evidence, on how to overcome the main pitfalls of exercising with your significant other.

Pitfall 1: One of the two is a lot faster than the other.

This is typically the case with running and cycling, and never applies to yoga (about which there is still a pitfall). Let’s face it, very few couples are evenly matched when it comes to speed.

But you can always do your long training sessions together, at the slower person’s speed. Yes, this is good for the faster person, too. Actually, the faster person might develop more endurance than previously enjoyed. Try it.

You can’t do tempo work as a speed-mismatched couple, but intervals are great opportunities. I’m a big fan of running slow together, then going fast for a while and coming back together during recovery. For additional kicks, go slow together, then fast for a time at the slower person’s fast speed, and then separately for a time at the faster person’s fast speed while the slower just jogs along. Then join again for recovery at a slow speed. Call it “interval ladders”; it’s very intense, especially if you do long intervals.

The pool is also a good place to train together, but careful of the slippery slope to yoga-like situations…

Pitfall 2: One of the two does a lot more exercise/training than the other.

This is where understanding is key. Understanding on the part of the person training less: a large amount of exercise often fulfills a need for personal achievement that has nothing to do with the couple. But also understanding on the part of the person training more: you still need to pull your weight around the house, buddy, even if you are tired. And you need to take your partner out on a date once in a while, even if it is beyond your bed time!

As I said, the key is understanding.

Pitfall 3: Both want to do an Ironman.

Exercise, Couples

Find things you can do together.

This one is more about sharing. Imagine you are both keeners, and intense on the training. You already have a great advantage in that you are sharing a commitment to a sport and philosophy of life. Perhaps you can both do the same event; I’ve seen folks get engaged at the finish lines of some races. Good for you!

But perhaps you need a different kind of sharing. For instance, while you can talk about the feelings of the preparation and racing, it is important that you let each other feel things differently as well, to each have a personal experience. Furthermore, the needs of each athlete, especially for such long events, are different, so one size does not fit all, and you each need some alone training.

So, by all means, do train together for long runs and long bike rides (see Pitfall 1), but also train on your own, because you need it. I strongly recommend the “alternate years” approach whereby each of you takes turn doing an Ironman. This also helps with Pitfall 2, and becomes mandatory with Pitfall 4.

Pitfall 4: Children

This is all about sharing. Sharing the load, sharing the responsibility, sharing the lack of sleep when the kids are young. But it is also about sharing your passion for exercise with the kids.

Nowadays, there are so many good strollers and buggies you can take the kids in while out on a run or bike ride. Careful with swimming though. But the point is: get equipped, and share!

However, you’ll likely need to tone it down; go for shorter outings, not go as fast, etc. And perhaps get a less competitive bike on which you can install the additional gear. But it is all worth it. And you could probably use a bit of a break from being an endurance nut.

The best advice here is: enjoy it! They grow up so fast. And then, use the “alternate year” approach and even the “alternate days” to give each other a break from chores by going out on your own for a more intense session. Or just a nap.

Pitfall 5: Bitching

It is bound to happen at some point: when the going gets tough, the toughs get going, but sometimes there is bitching involved as well.

This is where communication is key. The bitching part of the couple must remember to say that the bitching is not directed at the significant other, and the significant other must not respond too much; simply nod and otherwise show compassion. It helps to sprinkle some “I love you” in there as well. For instance, while running or cycling (not applicable to swimming, somehow):
“I really hate this f$&@ing rain. Are we there yet? And I love you!”

To which the other replies, carefully:
“I know how you feel, and I love you too.” (After a pause, smiling gently.) “It is all the fault of the meteorologists, but it could happen during the race we are training for. And I love you!”

In case you have not caught on yet, always use “and” before “I love you.” Trust me. And deflecting responsibility does not hurt, either.

This, by the way, is also valid advice for traffic jams and standing in a crowd for last-minute X-mas shopping. Always find a way to blame meteorologists; they are used to it.

Pitfall 6: Yoga

This is probably the most dangerous pitfall of them all. The way it typically goes is: one person is into yoga, the other is into endurance sports. And then you try to meet somewhere in the middle.

While yoga is good for you as an endurance nut, and yoga nuts could use more cardio in their lives, there is a big problem that is bound to lead to arguments: the outfits. In particular, people striking all sorts of interesting poses and sweating in skimpy outfits. One of the two is bound to stare a little too much, and/or make a comment, and then the next thing you know you are having an argument.

It is not worth it. Just stay away. Let the person doing yoga have yoga, and the endurance nut have endurance.

Pitfall 7: Snooze and Snuggle

This is the most tricky, in my experience. You are so comfortable in bed that getting up and training becomes difficult. So you snooze and snuggle together. And don’t train as much as you are supposed to.

Keep in mind that recovery is important when you train hard. But you still need to get up and train. Thus the conflict.

I have no solution for this one, so if you do, I’d like to hear from you…


Recovery, Exercise, Training, Couples

Down time is also needed.

Pictures from Pixabay.

Dieting Does Not Work

Dieting does not work

Trying to lose weight? Stay away from the D verb…

It’s been a long time coming, and for that I must apologize. I was on a sort of “vacation” from No-brainer Fitness. Sort of.

Not an excuse, just the reality of starting a new job and upping my own training for my next Ironman(TM) (IM Louisville, on August 24th, in case you are curious).

And I took the opportunity to do quite a bit of reading, for this post, future posts, and just to relax…

So here it is, the post I’ve been planning for quite some time.

First, let’s be clear about what I mean, and what researchers in this area mean, when we talk about “dieting”.

A “diet” is, as I’ve indicated elsewhere in this blog and on No-brainer Fitness: D, what we eat. The word, a noun, in itself has no implied value of the quality of said diet; it simply is the correct term to describe the overall nutritional intake.

In contrast, when we use the verb “dieting”, or when we say “go on a diet”, we mean following a specifically designed diet that is providing a lower total quantity of calories than is generally required for sustaining normal activities. In effect, dieting is restricting the caloric content of your nutritional intake through a particular set of constraints as to which foods are eaten, or which quantity of food is eaten. Or both.

So it is fair to say things like “that’s not part of my diet” when talking about certain foods, or NOT FOOD items. But careful with anyone saying “I don’t eat that because I’m on a diet.” That spells trouble.

Dieting does not work

Eat well, not too much…


Because dieting does not work.

You don’t believe me? Perhaps you’d take someone else’s word on it:

“The typical outcome of dieting is that you will gain weight.” -Sandra Aamodt, in a TED Talk

Ah, yes, but that’s hardly better, since you don’t know who she is, and even though she has done way more research on the subject than I have, that’s still no guarantee.

Ok, so perhaps a comprehensive review by researchers on behalf of Medicare? That’s exactly the conclusion reached back in 2007 by researchers at the University of California. The title of the paper would be enough, but it would make for a very short post: “Medicare’s Search for Effective Obesity Treatments – Diets Are Not The Answer”.

The main conclusion is that, while some weight loss occurs in the short term, if you follow the dieters for a while after, and it does not even need to be very long, you’ll find that dieting alone will lead to weight being gained back. And often some more.

This is why programs designed to cause weight loss based only, or in large part, on food intake changes are misguided at best, bad for your health at worst.

Dieting does not work

… mostly plants. And don’t forget to move more!


Still not convinced? Here are some cherry-picked quotations from the Traci Mann et al. paper:

“As noted in one review, ‘It is only the rate of weight regain, not the fact of weight regain, that appears open to debate’ (Garner & Wooley, 1991, p 740).” Traci Mann et al., 2007, p. 221.

“There is some evidence for the effectiveness of diets in leading to other beneficial health outcomes, particularly in helping people stay off antihypertensive drugs and preventing diabetes, but this evidence is not consistent across the studies. In addition, it is not possible to detect whether the diet components of these interventions were potent, as the interventions all contained other components that may have reduced hypertension or prevented diabetes (e.g. increases in physical activity, reduction in smoking, alcohol use, and sodium).” Traci Mann et al., 2007, p. 224.

Speaking of the effect of exercise, because although not the focus of the research, it was mentioned, here’s a good one about one of the very few studies they came across that indicated a weight loss:

“These results may not directly be due to the diet part of the intervention, but in fact participants in the lifestyle intervention engaged in large amounts of physical activity (averaging 227 minutes per week), and this may be the potent factor.” Traci Mann et al., 2007, p. 222.

A final one, “for the road”:

“In sum, the potential benefits of dieting on long-term weight outcomes are minimal, the potential benefits of dieting on long-term health outcomes are not clearly or consistently demonstrated, and the potential harms of weight cycling, although not definitely demonstrated, are a clear source of concern. The benefits of dieting are simply too small and the potential harms of dieting are too large for it to be recommended as a safe and effective treatment for obesity.”

Don’t, not even for a moment, entertain the thought that, because it is no good for fighting obesity, it may be any better for “just losing a little weight.” The evidence is in, and anyone who tells you dieting works is trying to sell you something.

It appears clear, from this and other sources, that the solution on the food side of things is not to restrict calories and disallow some foods, or focus food intake on some nutrients or particular foods, but rather to promote a more healthy balance of whole foods in a quantity that is sufficient to sustain daily activities. It is a simple recipe: Eat food, not too much, mostly from plants.

As to weight loss, if it is a desired outcome, it must come from increasing the level of activity. There is simply no other sustainable, or healthy, way of achieving that.

So: Eat well, and move a lot.


Traci Mann et al., Medicare’s Search for Effective Obesity Treatment – Diets Are Not The Answer, American Psychologist, April 2007, Vol. 62, No. 3, 220-233.

Here’s a link to Sandra Aamodt’s TED talk

Pictures from Pixabay.