The Best (And Worst) Workouts To Do As A Couple

The Best (And Worst) Workouts To Do As A Couple
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When I took a dance class with my husband years ago, the instructor told us that any couples in the class should split up and dance with others. “We have a tendency to say things to our partner that we wouldn’t to other people,” I remember her saying. “Like, ‘Honey, you’re doing it wrong.'”

It was true — we switched partners every few minutes, and whenever my husband came up in the rotation we would end up bickering about who was dancing wrong. (Honestly, we were new to this. It was both of us.)

There are some things you and your partner can do together to get some exercise, but you’ve got to be careful about choosing the right kind of workout. Big no-no’s:

  • Anything competitive (even a little bit)
  • Anything you’re both trying to learn (Honey, you’re doing it wrong)
  • Anything where you cover distance, like running or cycling

There’s a further pitfall, which can happen with any workout buddy you know well: instead of motivating each other to go to the gym, you can end up talking each other into staying home. (If it’s been a long day, you’re both tired.) If you’re convinced this could never happen to you, here are some ways to try working out with your sweetie.

How to Work Out Together

Don’t do the same thing. That’s the golden rule. If you try to just “go for a run together” and your partner is faster than you, they will resent having to slow down and you’ll tire yourself out trying to speed up. Even if you are exactly the same pace, this is still a no.

After a while, one of you will get faster, and then you have the above problems plus an added question of why are they getting faster and I’m not? (Maybe they have more time to run, maybe they’re biologically gifted, doesn’t matter. You’ll still be pissed off about it.)

Instead, go to the track together, and each run your own workout. You’re still in the same place, so you can meet up at water breaks and you can still go for beer or ice cream together afterwards. Make it a date, not a race.

Try this with any activity you can do in the same place, but not side-by-side. You can go to the pool and swim laps together — ideally in separate lanes. I can successfully go to the gym with my husband, and he’ll do his workout while I do mine.

We coordinate a brief stretch of time where we spot each other on the bench press, trying very hard to keep our mouths shut, and then we go our separate ways again.

Couples can also survive a class together if you’re in a situation where you only pay attention to the instructor and never to each other. For example, a group cycling class, with loud music, in the dark. Do not sit on adjacent bikes.

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I hear that it’s possible to coexist while doing partnered bodyweight moves or stretches, but I’m sceptical.

There is one exception to the rule about doing things together. You can go ahead if it’s an activity you’re both good at, and that is well under your capability. A leisurely stroll, for example. You’re not going to correct how your partner walks (I hope). Or a scenic bike ride that is not at all a race, not even when you get to a hill. (Perhaps it’s best to avoid hills.)

Oh, and if you’d like to take advantage of the phenomenon where we work a little harder in a group or with a stronger workout buddy, do yourself a favour: go find a friendly coaching group, or turn an acquaintance into a workout buddy. Leave your partner out of this.


  • Why wouldn’t you do a workout together on the same equipment? When my partner and I do weights (after a bike/cross-trainer cardio warmup), we just swap for each set. It’s a rest period that lasts as long as the other person’s set, which might not be ‘high intensity’, but it gets us fucked up sore, stronger, and sweaty anyway.

    We talk with each other during our partner’s sets; it might be responding to what’s on the TVs around the walls, or gossiping about the weird behaviour of others in the gym.

    We can keep an eye on each others’ technique to fix up any slips – I know I sure as hell want her pointing out if I’ve gotten distracted and am hyper-extending or my elbows are dipping a bit, or if I can take that back pinch a little further. That’s the kind of shit a PT would remind you as you lift, and you fucking PAY them to give you those reminders. Plus, rarer, but we can also check in on the weight when the other’s pretty much done for that weight (shitty technique probably means that weight’s too high or you’re too tired – we probably should’ve eaten better, earlier. Hell, we even try to cajole a couple extra ‘reps for Jesus!’ (BroScience reference) if the other’s visibly struggling, to make each other laugh, get some playful teasing in.

    Feels like if you gotta ‘try very hard to keep your mouth shut‘ when spotting each other, in case you rub each other the wrong way with unwanted advice or competitiveness, that might be a sign of some trust/communication/self-esteem issues that need working out.

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