Saturday, November 28, 2015

Elizabeth Street


Competing With Your Partner has the Power to Make you Healthier

Mar 11, 2014

Competing With Your Partner has the Power to Make you Healthier

In addition to trying to beat my own personal best race times for various distances, I'm chasing my partner's half-marathon personal record.

I want to beat him so badly, if only for the all-important teasing rights.

Never mind the fact that we're at different stages in our life--his work consuming much of his would-be training time, his speed not what it once was. His running peak is behind him, whereas mine lies ahead. I have no desire to make him feel poorly about his past or current accomplishments. He will always outsprint me, that I'm sure about.

Laughter is a big part of our relationship, and he remains proud of the fact that his fastest 13.1 miles are faster than mine (so are his marathon times), chiding me while simultaneously expressing pride over my accomplishments. In front of friends and families, he is my biggest fan, boasting that I'm the "athlete in the family," but at home, when it's just the two of us, he drives me mad with his ceaseless competitive nature.

People frequently ask us if we run together, and the truth is, we rarely do. "I like to think on runs, not talk all the time about our relationship," he said once, which, of course, offended me. I realized that it wasn't an activity we needed to participate in side by side, much as we loved the sport and each other. However, about once a week or so, we enjoy a quick loop of the park together with the dog. Those are friendly runs, and neither of us feels the need to make it a competition. 

Whether or not you work out by yourself or with your beloved, often an underlying competition exists, and that doesn't have to be a bad thing. Figuring out if it's productive depends in large part upon how you both manage the subtle (or, in some cases, not so subtle) competition. What happens, for example, if you and your partner make matching New Year's resolutions to drop ten pounds each, and his melts off while you can't seem to lose more than four to save your life? Do you resent him, or do you see his seemingly easy weight loss as a call to arms? 

Differences in fitness aptitude can actually lead you to become healthier in the long-run if you have a good attitude. If you think your sweetie is fitter than you are, it's likely that will push you to burn more calories on your next bike ride. A little gentle poking fun here or there is fine, so long as you both feel emotionally supported by the other.

If you choose to work out together, focus more on the time spent together and less on who's doing it better because what does that really mean, anyway? 

If, on the other hand, you decide to go your own way but update each other on your progress, consider it a compromise that, as Runner's World's Susan Paul says, "gives you the best of both worlds. Everyone needs support and positive reinforcement when making healthy lifestyle changes."

Competition that encourages you to better yourself without taking a hit at your self-esteem is positive. It's like constructive criticism. While it can be annoying to learn that your partner's weight loss is happening at a faster rate than your own, as long as you continue to be happy for him while you work to get to a place that makes you feel good, no harm is done.

As for me and my man, I don't mind his friendly jabs, knowing that not if, but when, I finally beat him, he'll offer me a proud hug and ask me why it took so long.

Consider trying Crossfit at home, with or without your partner. The recommended exercises in the slideshow above are a good start.

By Stacey Gawronski

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