“Wanna take a run together?” my then boyfriend casually offered one Saturday afternoon.
“Oh, no . . . that’s OK, I’m . . . tired,” I said defensively, trying to play it cool. But what I really meant was: “NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS WOULD I LET YOU SEE ME MAKEUP-FREE AND GROSS.” Roar.
Time passed. My “then boyfriend” turned into my “now husband.” And at some point between those two definitions, he began seeing me in comfy athleisure wear, with a clean, makeup-free face that I knew he loved, just as it was.
Yet even when I was wholly secure in how I looked, I was not remotely comfortable with actually looking gross in front of him. I couldn’t think of anything more humiliating than turning all huffy and red, sweaty and panting. So I averted the topic of exercise; I suggested other things—lighter, less sweat-inducing outdoor exercises, such as hiking or walking; admittedly, I even went so far as to strategically schedule a hair appointment to avoid a suggested bike ride.
But you can only do this so long when you’re dating someone whose favorite hobby is cycling. One day he bought me a bike, and in my overwhelmed shock at such a gift, I couldn’t help but agree to actual exercise. The next morning, he arrived at my place early, geared up and ready. He was just so darn cute and earnest. There was no escaping.
Spoiler alert: It was more than a tad disgraceful.
Also, spoiler alert: I got over it. We love to exercise together now.
There’s some truth to the modern adage: “Couples who sweat together, stay together.” And while daily exercise might not necessarily be all that pragmatic for you and your man (we females, generally speaking, prefer different workouts from our male counterparts—but more about that later), taking on a physical challenge together every now and then is a good idea.
According to the experts, here are the perks:
The Endorphins Make You Like Each Other More
“In my experience, couples who sweat together do stay together,” shares Dr. Carrie Burrows, who is an expert in the health and fitness space. “They are happier, more energetic, [and have] increased mutual respect for each other because they understand the dynamics involved in exercise and taking care of your health.”
Plus, you’re kind of tricking your body into liking each other more. She explains that when you workout as a couple, the endorphins that are released carry over into other areas of our life. Dr. Wyatt Fisher, marriage counselor and a licensed psychologist, agrees: “When endorphins are released we feel positive and those feelings tend to spill over to those we're with—so having it be your partner—is very wise and could improve your relationship.”
The Oxytocin Makes You Feel Cozy and Close
Endorphins aren't the only feel-good hormone released when you work out with a partner. Oxytocin, aka the "cuddle hormone," or "love hormone" that makes you googly-eyed, is also at play when you bond with your guy through exercise. “In general, exercise is great for releasing endorphins—but the release of oxytocin can be even more powerful when it comes to bonding with your partner,” explains life coach Arnie Fonseca Jr.
You Will Have More Energy and Time for Each Other
If you’ve ever gone through a sedentary period (you can admit it, we all go through our seasons of too much sitting), you know that achy, lethargic feeling I’m talking about. It can be hard enough to get out of bed and go to work, let alone have enough energy to pay attention to the needs of another human once you get home. Committing to just a little exercise is basically like a two-for-one deal. It’s time well spent together that gives you more quality time together, too. Just twenty minutes a day can give you a bit of boost and help you to be more present to each other.
You Might Trust Each Other Even More
If you’re anything like me, you already trust a guy if you’re willing to actually get all sweaty in front of him. But once you've committed to a work out schedule, you're entrusting your physical vulnerability on one level—and on a more practical level, your time. Seeing this consistently play out in live action, physically manifesting itself, can be a pretty powerful experience that helps you support one another. Stacey Green, the author of Stronger Than Broken, explains, “It is a way for both of you to acknowledge that you want to take care of yourself for your partner.” And by making a pact to work out together—even if it's just once or twice a week—you're learning to trust each other with your goals and emotions.
You’ll Finesse the Fine Art of Motivation
Few arts require the subtlety involved in the art of truly motivating another human being. Honing the keen ability to encourage someone to commit to any kind of exercising schedule, while staying positive (even if just once a week) is a shrewd skill that will serve you well in many, many other aspects of your relationship. Just as importantly, if he's paying attention, he'll be learning how to motivate you, which might be just what you need in order to be the best person you can.
This all being said, sweating together is not a prerequisite to having a happy relationship. Depending on your schedule, your particular fitness goals, and the dynamics of your relationship, incorporating your dude in a workout routine might not make sense for you right now—and that’s OK. As Robert S. Herbst, personal trainer, powerlifter, and 18-time world champion tells Verily, "While working out together may be enjoyable and beneficial for many couples, it may not work if there is a big disparity in strength or fitness goals." In his experience, working out could sometimes even cause tension—especially if you have really different aims. So if committing to an exercise routine isn't for you and your guy, don't sweat it (literally).