Keys to Happiness for Athletic Couples

I was minding my own business, munching on a pop-tart and putting on my Mio arm warmers after climbing Mt. Diablo when a voice yells out from behind a guy who had just rolled to a stop near me; “If you wanted to go harder you should’ve just said so!” I stop chewing and slink down on the bench, trying so seep into the cracks and disappear from being party to a fight I’ve had before. It goes something like this:

“You can just go ahead, you’re faster than me, and I want you to get a good workout.”

“Its ok, I want to ride with you!”….awkward, heavy silence. Neither of us is enjoying this. I think she hates me now.

If you are a cyclist or runner in a relationship that values being active, you’ve been here. Being active is a very important thing to both my girlfriend and I, so we have committed years to finding a balance that works for us, and I can confidently tell you that there is hope! Here are 5 tips I have for you and your main squeeze on your next couples adventure:

1. Plan Ahead

plan ahead

Uncertainty can blossom into stress, and stress often results in anger directed toward anyone within earshot. Knowing your route, agreeing on a pace, and bringing enough food are all things that can reduce unnecessary stress.

2. Pace Yourself

pace yourself

The best and worst quality many endurance athletes possess is their inability to go a little slower than they are capable of at that very moment. We don’t need to always hammer to enjoy ourselves and improve fitness, and no two people are going to want to go the exact same pace, so having an open mind and leaving your intensity behind will greatly improve your experience.

3. Be Equals

Don’t fall into a habit of nothing-compliments. For example, if  the person you're riding your bike with is slower than you and clearly can't keep up, maintaining your speed and saying something like, "You're doing awesome! Go you!" may not be received as well as you might think. The slower person knows he or she is slower and in fact probably can't keep up with you. Slow down a bit and don't say anything unless it's true. Compliments should be used to point out good things that are actually good. Both parties are smart enough to know if a compliment is well placed or not, and if not it can come off as condescending and do more harm than good. Which brings me to my most important tip:

4. Practice Honesty


As with most things in any relationship, honesty rules all. It’s ok to be better at something than someone else, and it’s ok to talk about it. When I ski with my girlfriend, something she is better at than me, it’s ok to point it out, and even point out that she will not ski as much great stuff as she would if on her own. The gap in utility is made up for by the company you each provide the other. Once we were able to mutually understand that it makes complete sense that I am a stronger cyclist (it being my job and all), riding together became easier to do. Just like my girlfriend would tell me that skiing together, albeit a bit “less-than”, is one of her favorite things to do, I feel the same way about biking with her. Which brings me to the last tip:

5. Embrace Your Company

enjoy yourselves

Always keep in mind that being active with someone is an altogether different experience than being active alone. When you are alone, you only have yourself to think about – you can go as fast or as slow as you want -- but when you have company (i.e. your significant other), you may need to take out your headphones and adjust your speed. Remember to be courteous when running, hiking or riding with another will remove lots of anxiety and provide a positive environment for both of you to enjoy.

Have any other tips you'd like to add to this list? Let me know in the comments!

Have an active and happy Valentine's Day!
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Jim Stemper
Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 at 6:50PM
Great to hear! I'm glad you liked my post!
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