It depends. While research suggests that having a workout buddy is the key to sticking with your fitness goals and that exercising is good for your sex life in major ways, sexologist Jessica O’Reilly, PhD and host of the podcast Sex with Dr. Jess, says that if you become too competitive with your significant other, the result can ruin even the strongest of bonds.
But even if you have a competitive personality (looking at you, Pittas), that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work out with partner. It just means you may need to implement a few rules and strategies to keep everything copacetic. Check out expert-approved tips below.
9 tips to keep workout competition with your S.O. totally healthy.
1. Be open to trying each other’s workouts
Even if CrossFit is your partner’s fave mode of exercise, while “Zen yogi” is more your speed, try each other’s fave modality on for size. Who knows? maybe you’ll end up becoming one of those CrossFit couples, or maybe they’ll find some newfound intimacy with partner-yoga poses.
Also, try to enter the workout space with a no-pressure mind-set. If you flub up, just remember that you’re with a person who cares for you and appreciates your gesture of open-mindedness. (Take a note from America Ferrara, and embrace that awkward-baby-giraffe feeling). Pay it forward by ignoring when your partner lets a yoga fart slip, or by laughing it off with them.
2. Try things new to both of you
This will help level the playing field. Plus, it’s fun, and, according to therapist Shadeen Francis, MFT, “it can be a really affectionate, romantic, relaxing, or even erotic experience.” Bonus: New experiences will help you learn some new skills.
3. Try partner-based fitness routine
If you and your partner have both already caught the competition bug, Equinox Trainer Sylvia Nasser, CPT, suggests doing a workout where you have to be equals. “Try acroyoga, ballroom dancing, rock climbing, or a mud run. You literally can’t be competitive and successful with these kind of activities. You have to work together.”
4. Or give circuits a shot
You and your partner could do your own workouts side by side. Or, in the name of bonding, you could do what Nasser calls a partner circuit. “In a partner circuit, partner A performs a certain exercise for one minute while the partner B does a completely different exercise—then you switch.”
If you work for a set amount of time, as opposed to doing a set number of reps, you’re not competing with each other. You’re simply working out at the same time. Nasser says muscle-building, body-weight exercises like planks, push-ups, lunges, burpees, and air squats are all great moves for making a customized circuit.
5. Don’t act like their personal trainer
Ensuring that your form is correct is key for reaping the maximum benefit of a workout—but constantly nit-picking at your partner for their form isn’t your job. A suggestion here or there is okay—and, of course, feel free to help if asked. “If you feel comfortable asking your partner for guidance or tips, you can do this, especially if know your partner enjoys getting to take a leadership role,” Dr. O’Reilly says. But there’s a fine line between supporting and preaching.
And if you’re actually a certified trainer? Still keep it to yourself, suggests fitness coach Rachel Turner, founder of Strong Chicks Rock. “You’ll build more trust and compassion when you chose to meet them as their equal, instead of treating them as a client.”
6. Obviously, don’t be mean
Sure, it’s sweatiquette, but it’s also just human decency not to be an ass. “If you’re at the gym with your partner, speak and move from a place of empathy,” says Dr. O’Reilly. “It’ll help build up their own sense of positive self. And they’ll feel less inclined to compete with you if they feel good about themselves.”
7. Talk about your competitive, jealous feelings
When you’re feeling competitive, ask yourself if the feelings are rooted in jealousy. If so, NBD—jealousy is a human emotion, after all. But reflecting on exactly why you’re feeling this way can help you have a productive convo with your boo.
“For example, if you’re jealous that they’re improving more quickly than you, and you believe your jealousy is rooted in a fear that you’re not enough for them, speak up,” says Dr. O’Reilly. “Being honest, asking for reassurance, and refraining from making accusations will actually build intimacy,”
8. Don’t give up your me-time
Maybe you usually hop on the elliptical, pop in your earbuds, and watch re-runs of Friends for 30 minutes. Or maybe you get into downward dog on your mat, close your eyes, and tune out the world. Or maybe you run solo to the sound of your laces clicking the pavement. For many workout warriors, fitness means me-time—which can make the shift to we-time confusing.
If this is you, make sure to still squeeze in your solo seshes. Since mindfulness is linked to less stress, losing that time for self-connection could lead you to unleash your stress in not-so-productive ways (like picking fights).
9. Also plan non-competitive dates
Hey, crystal massages, drive-in movies, and long walks on the beach all make for great dates—and making sure to take these is a great idea. Competition-less date nights can help remind you that you’re on the same team.
But also keep in mind that there’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition. “Not all competition is inherently bad!” Francis says. “If you can be challenged and motivated by the success of your partner, keeping that competition alive may help give you both the edge you need.”
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