Exercise is a great way to keep yourself in shape, it brings energy and life into your daily routine. But what if your partner needs some help in this department ?
What if your spouse needs your encouragement and help to find their perfect rhythm to enjoy working out ? Or, what if they actually need to start exercising to preserve or save their health ?
These are all valid questions, and until you’ve been in a situation where you’re trying to help your partner lead a healthier life, it might seem difficult to understand.
So this is for all the health-conscious couples out there, who want to help their spouse live a healthier life.
So how do you get your spouse to exercise with you ?
We’ll list the things you can do to get your partner to exercise with you, and them get into detail in the rest of the article. So you can try:
- Talking to them and deciding on this together
- Making it a couple thing so they enjoy it more
- Using gentle encouragement whenever possible
- Not nagging or criticizing, even if it would seem deserved
- Being patient, your spouse is learning a new habit
- Using the power of example to show your spouse the proper healthy habits
- Finding and setting goals together
- Celebrating the small things together
- Using positive reinforcement whenever possible
- Trying some friendly competition
- Starting small, and working you way up from there
Before we start, let’s have a word about getting anyone to do anything.
Even if you have the best intentions, with the most well thought out reasons and a powerpoint presentation, your spouse will not lift a finger until they feel it is necessary.
Keyword being ”they feel”.
People are emotional, and so are you, so are we writing this, and everyone else. We need to feel that we made the decision to start eating healthy, live better,quit smoking, or any other big shift in our lives.
A very large part of this article will be about helping your partner get to the conclusion that they need to start exercising themselves. Otherwise your efforts will just seem pushy and unwanted. Even if it’s ultimately in their interest.
So getting your spouse to start exercising with you will be done slowly, with a proper framing of the idea. Framing the workout as something that they would like to do, like a couple’s dance class, or a way to keep their cholesterol in check.
Even a common goal that touches their hearts will work, like for example building up the stamina to trek together across the mountains in your area, if this is something they’re into.
Alright, let’s get into detail with these steps.
1. Talk to your spouse, and decide on this together
Like we said before, you can’t convince your spouse to do something just because. Even if it’s to their benefit, they still need to agree to this.
Chances are, if they’re starting to get a bit heavy and get tired more easily, they’ll have a harder time understanding why they need to start exercising. Otherwise they wouldn’t be in that position in the first place, so a gentler approach will be needed.
If your partner is fairly healthy and fit to begin with, and exercising would not bring weight loss but it would bring more energy and toning to their bodies, that’s a different kind of talk you need to have with them.
Whatever the case, take into account your partner’s starting health and physical condition.
When you do talk to your spouse about starting to exercise with you, frame it to their benefit.
Talk about what would help them, but not directly related to their body. Make it about their health, and bring relevant examples of problems of theirs, that can be solved by getting into better shape.
For example let’s say you live in a 10 story building, on the last floor. The elevator doesn’t work, or your spouse is terrified of elevators. The only option left is the staircase, which makes your partner wheeze by the 3rd floor.
This is something that can get better with some cardio exercise, and a series of short leg workouts. It would be much easier for your partner to go up and down the stairs every day if they had the stamina for it.
Also, it would probably cut the unspoken excuse of not leaving the house because it’s too tiring. Maybe it’s your case or not, but we’ve met a lot of people living on the top floors of buildings, that rarely left the house aside from work, just because it’s too tiring.
Other example could be reducing the overall body fat percentage in your partner, if this is something that’s becoming a problem. Which in turn will lead them to being able to wear that dress or suit they’ve had an eye on for so long.
Whatever it is, frame it to their benefit and they’ll have an easier time seeing how their life will improve with more exercise.
2. Make it a couple thing
Your spouse will have an easier time finding what they like in a workout if it’s something they share with you. As in, a couple’s set of exercises, where you’re using each other’s respective weights.
Or maybe a set of push-ups where you high five each time your reach the peak. Sit ups with a fist bump when you get up ?
There are so many possibilities, and there are dozens of examples you can follow on Youtube.
Making it a couple thing will also make it fun for your spouse, since it takes the focus off of the effort they have to put in, and puts it on your relationship.
You’re doing this together, as a couple, so in their minds it will feel like a bonding activity. With the added benefit of better heart condition, and more energy. But those will not be their high-points, at least in the beginning.
This is more important in the beginning, when your partner is just starting to work out with you. Even if it’s crossfit, or yoga, or salsa. Doing this together will help your partner get attached to it more.
The thing is that in the beginning it takes a while for the habit to stick, until your loved one gets over the sore muscles and initial fatigue that comes with the first workouts. And covering that period with a lot of positive reinforcement and a lot of active presence on your part will help you partner get into it.
If you’re looking for examples of workouts that you can start together, you can check out our article on the 8 workout classes you can try as a couple, and how they’ll help you relationship as well.
3. Use gentle encouragement whenever possible
This might sound obvious, but being kind and gentle will work better than barking orders at your spouse. Still, sometimes it’s the last thing on your mind when you both know it’s workout day and you see them getting ready to snooze on the couch instead of grabbing their gym bag.
Sometimes determination slips, and the bed looks like heaven. Try using gentler phrasings for your spouse, like ”I’d really like for us to get to the gym today, even if just a half hour to get some blood pumping and some fresh air on the way there”.
They might agree to it, or not, but the chances are they will. You’ve stated a want, and made it acceptable by giving a reason.
This requires more focus on your part, that’s true.
But think of how you’d like your partner to ask you to get off the couch and put your running shoes on when it’s raining outside.
Even when you reach the gym or dance class, or whatever you’ve decided on as a workout, encouragement is needed. Getting on the machines, or picking up the weights are steps that are needed but rarely take into account.
So encourage your partner with what needs to be done, even when you’ve reached your destination. Let them rest when needed, but help them have a good workout by guiding them through the exercises.
Maybe do a few with them, or stay in their general vicinity to keep a nice conversation going.
4. Don’t nag or criticize, ever
This comes as a natural continuation of the last part, but don’t nag. Be nice and encourage them, but stay away from harsh tones.
Your partner knows they’re taking it too easy sometimes, but directly criticizing them on it is a mistake. This is because even if you’d be right with the words and reasons, your partner won’t hear that.
They’ll only hear your tone and the suddenness of it. No one reacts well in those scenarios, so try and be nice.
One thing to remember though: if the situation calls for it be firm, but without being harsh or lashing at your spouse.
For example let’s say your spouse is feigning tiredness or a headache to get out of going to the gym. And you know that, because you know what they’ve done all day, or that an aspirin will take care of that headache.
The way you phrase the fact that they should come with you to the gym is important. You might want to aim for something like:
“Honey, I know this was a long day for you, and I can also see you’re trying to skip the gym these days. We’re going to have more energy after this workout, so let’s try and get to the gym today. We can cuddle for a movie later if you’d like.”
Several things are happening there. You’re telling your partner you know what they’re doing, and it’s not going to work. You’re also giving them a benefit of working out, and a treat/reward afterwards.
If your partner still insists that they don’t want to go, that’s a whole other talk you two need to have. One about principles, beliefs, and how important the body and its health are to each of you.
5. Be patient, your spouse is learning a new habit
And this can take some time. Remember when you started working out ? You didn’t wake up one day and decided that you’re going to sweat at the gym for an hour every other day, and never skipped a day since.
It took time, dedication, and a fair amount of willpower to get out of bed when you were too tired after work.
The same is happening to your spouse, just that it’s harder for you when you’re on the sidelines, watching and waiting.
So give your spouse time to get into the habit of working out, and you’ll see them slowly develop the discipline to not skip a day (or most days).
The key to learning a new habit is repetition, so we recommend insisting on the frequency of the workouts, more than the intensity. You can help your partner train on a lower intensity, but more often.
This is so that their mind can get used to the idea of doing exercise fairly often, and regularly. After all, it took you a few weeks to get into the habit, why would it be any different with your spouse ?
Once your spouse gets into the rhythm of daily life with workouts sprinkled throughout, they’ll find it easier to raise the intensity of the workouts.
So be patient, give your spouse time, and listen to them when it feels like they’re hitting a roadblock or something is too hard for the time being. A large part of working out with your spouse is the support and appreciation you show for their effort.
6. The power of example
While both partners are independent human beings who have their own thoughts, we can’t deny that a partner’s habits will rub off on you.
So if your habits suggest a healthy lifestyle, with proper, whole foods, and a regular exercise routine, your spouse is bound to follow at least some of them.
If you’d like your partner to be consistent with their training, not miss a day, and put real effort into what they’re doing at the gym, then guess who has to do it first ?
Yes, you have to be the one who truly believes a workout is the best thing to do right now. Otherwise your partner will catch on if you’re being fake or lazy, and this can lead to serious fights down the line.
Asking your partner to do something you wouldn’t consistently do, doesn’t work in the long term.
The same goes for eating healthy, and being productive, being reasonable with money, and any other habit that influences your life.
Being a good example for your partner to follow also keeps you in a place of health and wellbeing as well. So you’re both benefiting from this.
A possible problem that might come up when you’re leading by example, is being condescending or their personal trainer. Your spouse most likely doesn’t need many pointers on how to do their squats and lifting.
But they do need a cheerleader, so to speak. So try and avoid being too bossy when showing them what to do. Don’t expect too much from your partner at first, since this is a process.
7. Find and set some goals together
When you first talk to your partner about starting to exercise with you, try and find some common goals. Sharing a goal with your loved one will be much easier for them to bond with the exercise routine.
For example a common goal could be exercising with you so that you can both participate in a marathon that donates to their favorite cause.
Or, another idea could be getting into shape so you can look stunning in your vacation photos, or be the envy of your high school reunion.
It could be anything that sparks your partner’s interest, as long as it’s something that is helped by constant exercise.
For example for Dragos and I the main common goal was looking fit and toned, so we can inspire the people we worked with for weight loss. And also just to be the best looking couple whenever possible.
In all our vacation photos since starting to exercise we felt confident with our bodies. For example here we are in Cyprus, a bit sunburnt but still having fun.
You and your sweetheart can find similar goals as well, depending on each of your personalities, and your general aspirations in life. The one with looking great worked for Dragos and I because we always wanted to look good.
8. Celebrate the small things together
Something as small as an entire month of working out without skipping a day is a reason to celebrate. Especially if your spouse is a very comfortable person, then this is a big win.
Even the first day of exercise is to be celebrated, because your spouse made it to the gym and put some effort in. It does not warrant a party, but it deserved a massage and some coffee.
You can do this by looking at the list of goals you’ve made together. Split that big goal into several steps. And then those steps become smaller, more manageable goals.
If your big goal as a couple is to lose 100 lbs/45 kg through exercise, that sounds like a big scary goal. But if you break it down into 10 lbs/4.5 kg pieces, then that’s easier to do.
Just lose 10 lbs this month, then another 10 the following month, and so on.
If your goal is not related to losing weight, but being toned, here is an example. One smaller goal is to get the first positive comments from your immediate circle on our physique. You might not notice the differences at first. But they do, way before you’re noticeably slimmer or more toned.
Whenever you go to celebrate something, be mindful of how that impacts your health.
So for example celebrating with a cupcake isn’t the best idea ever. However celebrating with some fro-yo and a walk in the park at sunset is more health-oriented.
Celebrating with your partner their small successes can mean a lot to them. It shows them that you’re watching their progress, and you’re supporting them as well.
So remember to take a few minutes and talk about the progress your spouse has made. It will put things into perspective for them, and for you as well.
9. Use positive reinforcement
This will help a lot, since people respond better to words of praise, than criticism.
This is true for everyone, and think a bit about your childhood. When you were scolded for something, you did in fact avoid doing that thing again.
But when you were praised for something ? You made double the effort to do it again. And again. And better next time.
So consider using this method for your spouse as well. When you come back from their first workout, praise them for showing up. After all, getting there was a bigger step for them than for you.
Another important milestone could be the first time your spouse starts to increase the numbers of reps in a set. That’s always a sign of progress, and your praise for it will help them.
Anything can be positive reinforcement, as long as it is something your spouse enjoys. Do they like foot massages ? Give them one after the first time they manage to complete a half hour run around the park with you.
Whatever you end up using as positive reinforcement, make sure it is proportionate to the deed. If your spouse finished their first workout ever, that is no reason to take them to Disneyland. Being reasonable about the rewards will set the proper frame for your partner as well.
Even a few kind words from you can be enough, depending on the situation. An extra long hug, a cuddle, or something where your partner will feel appreciated.
10. You can try some friendly competition
A little competition never hurt anyone. And using that to spur your partner on can bring great results. It depends on your partner’s temperament though.
If they’re a more competitive sort, it might just work. Even if you’re the one they’re competing against, they will still want to have the top score.
Of course, keeping it friendly is key. Don’t rub it in their face then you’ve bested them, but do brag a bit. This is a situation where both of you need to be good winners and good losers.
For example Dragos is much more competitive than I am. Whenever he works out with his brother, they’re trying to best each other, do the reps better, or faster, or more.
If we do some exercises together, or share a machine at the gym, he will keep score of the number of reps we’ve each had, and will try to beat my score. Although that never happens on ab and leg day, since I train those much more.
If your partner is more like me, and doesn’t really get competitive, then this probably won’t work. But, what might work is setting a minimum threshold that they have to beat. That way you’re not in direct competition, and your spouse will do their best to touch and even pass that threshold.
11. Start small, and work your way up
Since your partner is learning something new, a new habit, don’t expect much in the beginning.
Do get to the gym as often as possible, but make the work easy at first. Show them things that you know they can do. This will help your partner build their self-confidence.
So for example starting your spouse with something simple like 10×4 squats will remind them of high school, but they definitely will be able to do them. Maybe they’ll feel their legs burn a bit by the end, but they can do it.
Then help them with pull ups, by holding their feet and helping them reach above the bar. Even if it’s with help, it’s still something they know they can do.
Also, 5 minutes on the treadmill are much more manageable than 15 at first. Your spouse will still sweat and be short of breath after the first few minutes, but they have to start somewhere.
So make the starting point something that your spouse can definitely do. Then, they will have the confidence to do more, or lift heavier, or whatever they need to improve.
If this means that you end up just staying 30 minutes in the gym, that’s alright. It’s still something for your partner, and you’ll be returning soon enough.
It’s more important to get into a consistent routine at first, than to get an intense workout.
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Some things to consider before you ask your partner to exercise with you
There are a few things to keep in mind before you ask your spouse to exercise with you.
For example your spouse might just be a comfy person. Sports and exercise might not be for them at all. There are such people, and there’s not much you can do about that.
If your partner does not want to start working out, no matter what you try, then it might be best to let it go.
Another thing that might happen is that your partner might like a different type of workout, or sport. So if you’re into crossfit, your partner might be into yoga. It might take them a few trips to the gym to figure out that they like holding a pose more than doing a curl.
And that’s alright too, since they’re still being active.
Finally, have reasonable expectations. Both you and your spouse. If this is something your spouse is just learning from scratch, then it will take some time. It might not stick at all, or it might stick after a few months.
The point is that you must be reasonable about what you expect from your partner. And also provide a reasonable amount of support towards them as well.
We hope this article was helpful to you, and you’ll help your partner enjoy their workout. Feel free to check out our other articles as well, you might find something you like.