What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Couples workouts, like that little blonde girl in all the Sia music videos, are having a moment. This became apparent to me as I read this article, scrolled through the impressive Cross Fit themed engagement photos of this impossibly fit couple, and then did an Instagram search for #couplesworkout where I found endless photos of toned people who found other toned people to love them.
Despite this, I was a bit hesitant to broach the subject with my husband, Mark. While the Internet told me that working out as a couple is an adorable and romantic way to get fit, I wasn’t so sure how the fiction would match up to reality.
Partially because Mark and I never work out together. In fact, we’ve done it precisely three times in our seven years together. That equates one workout every eight hundred and fiftieth day. Now, it would funny if I could now say something like, “that’s because we’ve only worked out three times in our lives” but it’s untrue.
Mark goes to the gym all the time to lift and I regularly do an extremely slow jog on a treadmill (I am very careful to not go too fast because that is my valuable time to catch up on my People mag. SIDENOTE: I started reading People during my workouts because there is a mirror right next to the treadmill and, after staring myself in the face for sequential days, I started second guessing every life decision I’ve ever made. I think I’m one of the only people who almost became depressed working out).
So why don’t we work out together? Well, the first time we went for a jog we made it about two yards. Literally. Ah, marriage, the institution in which a simple jog can turn into WWIII.
Let’s just say that if that jog was a celebrity divorce, the statement would read: “due to completely incompatible running styles, we have decided it is best to part ways.”
With jogging out of the question, we waited five years and then did two sessions of yoga together. It went much better but I’m fairly certain it’s because you can’t talk in yoga.
Luckily, there are many, many, many things we love to do together, like watching and discussing "Game of Thrones" (we held each other during the Red Wedding), trying all the fancy new fast food sandwiches at 1am (Buttery Jack, anyone?), and venturing into LA for various museums (they are free on Tuesdays!). Despite these shared interests, working out has been firmly on our “no fly” list.
However, when I suggested it to Mark, he gamely agreed. Since the workout was for this article, I hit up my little sister to take the pictures.
I had to have someone from the inside so we could react as Mark and I typically would. If it was a friend, I would be tempted to go Stepford Wife status. Kylee, however, has seen me at my best of times and my worst so she was the perfect candidate to document Autumn & Mark v. Couples Workout: Round Four.
Determined to create an Insta-worthy workout, I researched various positions. The concept is to use each other’s natural body weight to create resistance. But that’s just one part of it. I noticed that a hallmark of these workouts is kissing. There is a lot of kissing in couple workouts.
I watched YouTube videos of couples doing pull ups and smooching above the bar before lowering themselves down again. There are many iterations of this. There is also lots of body on body contact. After a while, I wasn’t sure if I was watching workout videos or the Kama Sutra.
I quickly decided that we would be doing this in our empty apartment gym, a decrepit place featuring an 80s workout mural and terrible lighting (I do all my working out there anyway so I would have home court advantage).
How did it go?
Here’s the breakdown.
We walked in hand in hand as show of unity:
The first exercise we did was more like a pose. Here is how it looked online:
And here is our rendition:
Mark did push-ups and I (attempted) to do shoulder push-ups. Disagreement almost immediately commenced. It took me forever to figure out how to get in place and Mark (understandably so) was suffering from having to hold the position as I climbed on, got off, looked at the picture again, commented on the girl’s workout clothes, and then got back on.
We did the obligatory kiss for the shot and then began. Let me just tell you—the picture was the easy part. Doing shoulder presses while balancing on your husband’s sweaty back is hard, especially since he is moving as well. My thoughts went like this:
OK. You can do this. You’re a strong woman. Lower yourself. WHOA! So maybe you’re just a mentally strong woman. Note to self: lower slower. Slower. SLOWER! WHY ARE MY ARMS SHAKING??? WHAT IS THAT BURNING IN MY ARMS??? OH GOD, WHEN WILL THIS BE OVER?
I quickly cut the required amount (10 reps) down just a bit (OK, I confess. I did two) for the sake of my mental and physical health. We then worked our way through a myriad of insanely taxing movements. After a certain point, I just wanted it to be done. I was sore and tired. Having to coordinate our two bodies was inefficient.
Our two very strong personalities made it an exercise in futility more than anything else. Mark critiqued my form (since he works out a lot, it was difficult for him to handle my bastardization of the drills) and I, in my exhaustion, became overly sensitive.
And, if that wasn’t enough, there was the sweat factor. Having perspiration seep through your shirt into your husband’s does not feel sexy. At all. By the time we made it through it, I was ready to take a vow of immobility for the rest of my life. Collapsing against the mirror at the end was the best part.
So, how do I look back on it now…well, in a way, it went as I expected. We bickered a bit and sweated a lot. Yet, the memory isn’t upsetting at all. It’s the opposite. I think it’s because we got through it together and tackled something that wasn’t compatible to our personalities. Instead of just giving up or tuning each other out, we figured our way through it, bit by bit.
But my favorite takeaway from our couples workout is this: It made me appreciate how strong Mark is. I mean, I know he’s emotionally strong. In our marriage, he’s the bedrock of stability and shoulders a lot of responsibility so I can pursue the things I love. This might sound weird but working out with him made me see his physical strength in a new light. He was able to hold me, lift me, and basically move me around with the ease of a dog with a chew toy. I was safe and secure, a physical illustration of how he makes me feel each and every day.
And it must not have gone as badly as I thought because yesterday Mark stopped me in the kitchen as I was cooking dinner and said,
“Hey babe, that couples workout was actually kind of fun. You did a good job. Maybe we should do it again.”
I don’t know if we will (honestly, my muscles are SO sore!) but his words made me happy. I think we might be able to say that we won Mark & Autumn v. Couples Workout.
For those of you wanting to try a couple’s workout here are the moves. Let me know how it goes for you!
1. Push-ups/Shoulder press
Partner #1: push-ups/Partner #2: shoulder presses done while balancing on Partner #1’s back. CAUTION: the blood will rush to the head of Partner #2.
2. Reverse push-ups
Partner #1: push-ups/Partner #2: feet on Partner’s #1 shoulders, holding Partner #1’s ankles.
Partner #1: holds Partner #2. Partner #2: wrap legs around Partner #1, dig deep, engage your core (just close your eyes and picture bikinis because this one hurts!), and do sit-ups. Be sure to kiss.
Face each other on a pull-up bar. Get to work. Stare each other in the eyes.
Partner #1: does squats. Partner #2: sit on Partner #1’s shoulders. I did great at this exercise.
6. Leg presses
Partner #1: leans into Partner #2’s extended feet, engaging core. Partner #2: bring feet to chest and then extend outwards again. Partner #2 may feel like this is an instrument of torture.