Could Your Significant Other Be the Accountability Buddy You Need?

You love doing things with your significant other—Netflix binges, cooking, traveling, pillow fighting, shopping—and now you've decided to get fit together. Maybe you're on a quest to lose weight or manage a health condition like hypertension or Type 2 diabetes. Or, perhaps you're looking for new ways to rekindle the flame. Maybe it's all the above.

Whatever the reason, exercising with your significant other is an amazing way to improve your health. But first, consider this: How will you incorporate fitness into your relationship?

After all, being a fit couple isn't just about showing up to the same spin class—you can take it even further and become each other's accountability partner. This way, both of you will be more likely to develop new habits, stick to commitments and crush those fitness goals.

"Your significant other makes an ideal accountability partner because they deeply care about your well-being," says Candace Rhodes, a certified personal trainer and creator of Rhodes To Strength. "Your success impacts their lives and their relationship with you, so it's in their best interest to hold you accountable for the things you want to change in your life."

To top things off, being a fit couple can strengthen something more than just your abs and biceps. It can also play a huge role in strengthening your relationship.

"In today's hectic world, it's often difficult to find quality time together when both partners are unplugged," explains Malia Frey, M.A., CPT, CHC, an educator and founder of The Daily Diet Tip. "Exercise can give you time to focus on a common goal, which can help the two of you bond and build intimacy."

Don't be so quick to hit the pavement, though. Like most activities with your other half, pairing up on workouts isn't always a simple task. That's because exercise is a physical, mental and emotional challenge. Add your partner to the picture, and you've got yourself an exceptionally unique situation.

Before you start plotting workouts over a candle-lit dinner, think about how exercise will fit into your dynamic. Reflect on your approach, attitude and expectations, and recognize that your emotional investment in this person may affect the way you handle challenges. Most importantly, focus on how you can create a positive experience for both you and your partner.

Ready to share a sweat sesh with your sweetheart? Check out these six expert-approved tips for keeping your workouts strong—and your relationship stronger. 

1. Talk About It 

It's no secret that communication is the foundation of a healthy relationship. And when it comes to getting fit together, this still holds true. It's especially important if one of you is new to exercise or hasn't worked out in a while.

Chat about your fitness goals including your priorities and any hesitations. Share how you want to be supported. Ask questions, be honest and listen to what the other one has to say.

By making time for real talk, you'll gain a better understanding of your own goals and intentions. You'll be able to learn where your partner stands, too. In turn, you'll find more opportunities to support each other as you push toward your fitness goals.

2. Find Mutual Interests

There's a good chance common interests brought you together in the first place. Why not apply the concept to exercise?

Think about activities that you both enjoy. It can be something super casual (like hiking) or structured (like CrossFit). If you can find a common ground, you can start exploring new workout studios or exercise routines that are both challenging and enjoyable for both parties. Try not to treat workouts like chores. Instead, look at them as "workout dates" where you can bond and catch up.

At the same time, don't be afraid to try new activities together. Not only will your partner's presence make the experience less daunting, but you'll be able to mix things up, too.

"[Trying a new workout together] can remove some of intimidation because you have someone else to focus on other than yourself and you're less self-conscious," says Rhodes. "It can also be more fun!"<pagebreak>

3. Check Your Tone   

When you're close with your workout buddy, it's easy to get on their case when the going gets tough. You might even take on the role of their personal trainer, especially if you have more exercise experience. However, despite your good intentions, this will only do more harm than good.

"In a trainer-client relationship, one person is the 'expert' and the other is the 'learner'," shares Frey. "There is a hierarchical relationship. [But] if that occurs in a couple's workout, it could impact the relationship overall. In short, no one likes to be bossed around."

That's not to say that you shouldn't share tips, tricks and ideas, but as Rhodes reminds us, you're going home with this person after your workout. Therefore, it's crucial to treat your partner as a partner—not a student or client.

4. Keep Competition Friendly

A fit couple isn't complete without some friendly competition. For example, you can race up a hill, chart daily steps or challenge each other to a plank showdown. Regardless of the activity, friendly competition is an excellent way to infuse hard work with fun.

In fact, according to a 2016 study in Preventive Medicine Reports, social competition is the best motivation for exercise. Researchers found that it's more effective than social support, which primarily involves emotional and mental care from others. And while these factors are still essential, a competitive vibe can push people even further. The study focused on online social networks, but the findings can certainly be applied to in-person workouts with your other half.

The only catch? Friendly competition should be, well, friendly. A competition that's too serious can not only dampen the fun, but strain your relationship, too.

"If you walk away from a couple's workout feeling defeated, the competition was too intense," explains Frey. "But if you walk away feeling affirmed and stronger, chances are good that the competition was healthy."

Keep this in mind if you're naturally competitive. To create healthy competition, Frey recommends avoiding comments that target body shape or physical results. "For example, comments like, 'If you want abs like mine, you need to work those sit-ups harder!', is not friendly, and could [make] your partner give up," she says.

5. Avoid Comparison

When you start a fitness journey together, it's natural to expect the same rate of progress. But what happens if your partner sees better, faster results? Understandably, it can feel like you're falling behind.

First, try not to compare yourself to your partner. "Each person will respond differently to workout programs," Rhodes explains. Remind yourself that these responses are influenced by a variety of factors, including genes, existing medical conditions and exercise experience.

One might argue that some comparison is needed for friendly competition. And while this is certainly true, placing too much weight on the other person's results will only cultivate bitterness and resentment.

If you're jealous of your partner's progress, consider your outlook. Think about what you're using to define your success. Are you focusing on the discrepancies between your results? Or are you looking at your individual journeys? When you focus on the latter, you learn how to celebrate everyone's progress in a way that also honors your unique paths.

6. Listen to Your Body

On a similar note, it's essential to acknowledge biological variations between men and women. In some cases, these natural differences can impact the overall safety of a shared workout.

Take weight lifting, for instance. Generally, men have more lean muscle mass, which can lead to them being able to lift more than women. Depending on a woman's fitness level, it may not be safe for her to lift the same amount of weight.

"Men's and women's bodies are built differently," shares Frey. "For example, most men carry more muscle mass than most women, especially in their upper bodies. Certain movements, like pull-ups, are likely easier for a man based on the way muscle is distributed [in] his body." She also adds that men typically have a greater lung capacity, which allows for greater aerobic ability.

Yet, despite these biological differences, Frey warns against making assumptions based off gender. "It does not mean that every man is stronger than every woman," she clarifies. "Or that every woman is less fit aerobically than every man."

If your partner is of the opposite sex, it's wise to recognize these differences without belittling physical ability. Instead, encourage each other to beat their personal best while keeping things fun, fair and safe.

Much like planning vacations and buying a home, becoming a "fit couple" is both exciting and complex. There will be ups, downs and everything in between. By approaching the process with love and patience, you can create a healthy and enjoyable experience, both inside and out.