5 STRATEGIES TO GET YOUR LOVED ONES ON TRACK WITH FITNESS
by Emma Hogan
They say couples who train together, stay together. I’m not convinced this is always the case (any evidence linking partner workouts and long-term relationships is thin on the ground) but there are plenty of other benefits from working out with those closest to you. And not just for their health and wellness, it will help your training too.
Research shows working out with others helps you get optimal results from your exercise. You’re likely to train at a greater intensity and find it more enjoyable, while the benefits extend beyond the workout itself. According to a study of exercising couples, on days when people work out with their significant other, it can lead to a greater positive effect during exercise, as well as more overall positivity and relationship satisfaction compared to days when they exercise without their partner.
If you’re physically active, your partner is five times more likely to become physically active too. Simply sustaining your fitness routine will mean there’s a good chance they’ll follow suit. But if you need a little more motivation, you can employ these five strategies, as advocated by exercise professionals.
If you’re physically active, your partner is five times more likely to become physically active too.
STRATEGY #1. BE A SAVVY ROLE MODEL
Demonstrate consistency by schedulling gym classes or home workouts, going for daily walks and spending time doing weekly meal prep. And what’s just as important – approach these tasks with joy and positivity. Anna Szymanski, an ACE Certified Health Coach, Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor say positioning is key and that you can engage others without being too pushy. “There are two ways to present options – it can either be inviting or off-putting and cause tension.” Szymanski suggests offering reflections as part of the conversation around healthy behaviours. For example, during meal prep, saying: “I always feel so much better when I do this. It takes a little planning and effort, but it will be worth it when I’m set up for a week of healthy eating,” is a lot more impactful than telling a spouse day after day: “We need to start eating healthier dinners.”
STRATEGY #2. SHARE PLENTY OF IDEAS AND OPPORTUNITIES
Exercise doesn't need to involve a treadmill or piece of fitness equipment, says Dr Deidre Douglas, fitness educator, trainer and LES MILLS Coach. “You can choose creative and fun activities that can be done together, such as walking, biking, dancing, a simple throw and catch game, or maybe a 15-minute movement challenge.” She recommends varying your suggestions and being sure to make time for these activities, always texting a courtesy reminder and never canceling fitness dates.
STRATEGY #3. AIM FOR SMALL INCREMENTAL CHANGE
Niki Campbell, an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Health Coach, says that announcing global changes – ‘We’re all vegan now!’ – is never going to work. Instead, focus on telling your loved ones about small steps, like you’re going to reduce the amount of soft drink in the house to encourage everyone to drink more water. Patience here is key. Just because you’ve made up your mind that it’s time to change, that doesn’t mean others are totally on board. Create awareness of what you’re trying to accomplish, and give others time to adjust. Dr Douglas says another option is to create a habit tracker, where you track each exercise session and then celebrate appropriately. “It's the little things done daily with recognition, that keep people motivated and engaged.”
STRATEGY #4. BE FLEXIBLE
When it comes to new routines, a ‘my way or the highway’ approach will never fly. As any personal trainer or coach will tell you, you need to be flexible and understand different preferences and priorities. Amber Long, an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Health Coach, Group Fitness Instructor and Medical Exercise Specialist, says that if a family member is reluctant to exercise, you need to explore ways to get them involved that are more interesting or exciting. While you may enjoy going to the gym five days a week, your partner might prefer outdoor exercise. In this case, going for a weekend hike or having a friendly game of tennis, even if it’s not your preferred exercise modality, can be key to bringing others on board.
STRATEGY #5. DISH OUT THE COMPLIMENTS
“Compliments are incredibly motivating, so shower people with them,” says Dr Douglas. “Everyone loves a little encouragement. It’s always a smart move to offer a compliment when your significant other exercises.”
TRAINING PARTNERS: WHAT MAKES THE PERFECT MATCH?
Science shows exercisers are more motivated by working out with someone who is fitter than they are, but who understands the power of silence.
A study of 115 exercisers holding planks for as long as possible, indicated that those who exercise with someone who is slightly better and stays silent, are likely to exercise for longer than if conditions were the same but that person was verbally encouraging them. Study author Brandon C Irwin explains: “If two individuals are exercising together and one is constantly saying ‘you can do this’ to the other, it may be taken as patronising. Those who received encouragement may have felt condescended [to].”
So, keep this front of mind while training with your partner. You might think serving up motivation and advice is helpful, but your partner probably doesn't want to be bossed around. If they've made the move to join you in exercise, try and make it as enjoyable as possible and resist the urge to push too hard.
Group exercise, either live or streamed, is a great way to work out with your loved ones. With an Instructor there to guide you, there’s no need for you to ‘take control’ of the workout and boss anyone around – all you need to do is follow the Instructor. “Group classes are a great way to introduce people to the culture of being connected with like-minded people having fun,” adds Dr Douglas.
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