Strengthening a Relationship One Rep at a Time
Garmin Ambassador Jessica Hofheimer and her husband Robert have started a new tradition in their household. They’ve turned their home gym into a date night destination focused around setting aside time to strengthen their bodies, minds and marriage. The couple took some time to answer our questions around how they came up with the idea and give advice on how others can start beating yesterday, together.
What sparked the idea of your dates?
Jessica: I had always been intrinsically motivated to get my exercise on my own, but also know that I am much happier and more motivated when I share it with others. Running with my girlfriends had always filled both my fitness goals and my social life with energy, focus and joy. This past fall my running came to a halt when my foot began hurting (a frustrating diagnosis of plantar fasciitis), and after lots of starts and stops I finally decided to take an indefinite break from training until my foot healed completely. With my running put on hold, I quickly realized that I still really wanted to continue to set goals for my health and fitness and that I wanted to have someone to share that with. Robert had just finished his fall half marathon and didn’t have a fitness goal at the time. I wasn’t sure whether or not he would be into the idea of getting up at sunrise to workout with me in the garage, but when I asked him he didn’t hesitate for one second and said he would do it. We found that making the commitment to showing up for one another for these workouts benefited us in more ways that we had imagined it would. We both began to get stronger as individuals, and were also strengthening our connection and having so much fun with one another. We started to call this time together our “strength dates” – time spent strengthening our bodies and also our marriage.
What does the schedule look like?
Jessica: We aim for three workouts a week together, – typically on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. We set the alarm for 5:30AM and try to get started by 6:00 (which is sometimes 6:15!), so that we have time to shower and get breakfast before getting the kids off to school and heading to work. The workouts are anywhere from 30-60 minutes, depending on what we have time for. There have been weeks when we’ve had to shuffle the days around or cut workouts short because of all sorts of things – the kids bickering, sleeping late, someone not feeling well, travel, etc. We just adapt as we go and make the most of it.
Has it changed your relationship? If so, In what ways?
Robert: Exercise had always been something that we did on our own rather than together, partially out of necessity due to the demands of watching our kids when they were younger. We’d take turns in the early mornings to get our runs done before the work day, and each have our own nights for yoga classes. While we talked about and supported one another in our goals, they were individual goals. Working out together shifted the focus from personal race times and distances to simply being healthy together. The goal was twofold: both getting exercise AND spending time together. Parenting three kids and working is hard, and doing these workouts together helps us to stay focused on each other so we’re better able to handle the swirling stresses of our life as a team.
What advice would you give to other partners looking for ways to live a healthier lifestyle together?
Robert: START. Jessica was a runner for many years before I even considered running. What held me back for a while was that nasty, self-fulfilling voice comparing my abilities to Jessica and other, more experienced runners. I thought that because I didn’t have their speed or endurance that meant my effort or the benefits I experienced were somehow less. That first run was the hardest for me. Just accepting that I was going to suck at it at first, and trusting that if I stuck with it I’d get better and stronger — and it would suck less. It was the same when we started our strength workouts together – the early mornings were hard, and I didn’t have the strength or endurance that I wanted, or that Jessica had (I’m not competitive ). But knowing that Jessica was counting on me for motivation as much as I was counting on her helped a ton. That commitment to each other to get started – the first time and really for lots of the workouts since – has been a huge motivator and is key, I think, for any couple that wants to do this together. Make a commitment to each other and trust that sometimes you’ll need to pull your partner and sometimes you’ll need to be pushed. And listen to each other – what motivates and strengthens you may not be what works for your partner. Have a plan, but be open to adjusting things so that it works for both of you.
Jessica: Do your workouts based on timed intervals rather than having a set number of reps and sets for each exercise. Chances are that at least in the beginning, you and your partner will be at different fitness levels or some of the exercises will be easier or harder for one of you than they are for the other. When you set the clock and say “we are going to do these exercises for X number of minutes”, it doesn’t matter whether one of you is faster or slower at it than the other. You just keep moving until the clock stops, and you both start and finish together no matter where you are. Doing strength workouts this way with your partner is ideal I think – because pace just isn’t an issue.
How do you encourage one another to beat yesterday?
Robert: There have been a lot of mornings when the alarm has gone off and we’re laying in bed trying to find the motivation to get dressed and out to the garage for our workout. A pat on the leg and a “Come on, let’s go. It’ll feel good.” is usually just the little push we need to get going – that reminder of how good it felt after our last workout, and that we’re in it together.
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