Raising the bar

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Back in my early 20s (yes, in my 30s I’m already telling “back in the day” stories), I spent an entire summer going to the gym six-times-a-week. In that pre-selfie era, I sadly have not one photo from that time to jog my muscle’s memory, but I certainly get nostalgic for days when I had that much time to dedicate to lifting weights and could get away with skipping cardio then eating a hamburger.

In the years between then and meeting my wife, I started working, developed a taste for certain drinks, pursued my passion for desserts and… well suffice to say I got into prime beer-league softball shape.

Three years later I can say that thanks to her, I’ve never eaten more healthily. I’m eating more greens (salad she packs for lunch everyday) and have replaced granola bar snacks with fruit containers (that I pack while she packs the lunch).  We also try to go to spin classes at Quad Spin together once a week.

So I don’t think either of us suffers from that age old dilemma faced by married men and women everywhere: how to stay motivated to stay fit once you’ve got your partner committed. But undeniably I’ve been less consistent with my exercise until lately, despite accomplishing short-term goals like training and running in a 10K three years in a row (a little slower each year). But I don’t really enjoy running and certainly don’t like running in the heat or the winter. Cross Fit wasn’t really for me. And of course, secure that she’ll still love me if I gain a couple of pounds –  “I’m happy as long as you’re healthy and happy with yourself,” she said recently – coupled with what often feels like a lack of quality “us time,” it’s easier to decide to stay home and spend a Saturday morning chatting over a coffee rather than performing military presses.

What actually jumpstarted things was starting a job at a company that helps offset some of the cost of my gym membership, a GoodLife Fitness I can walk to right after work and the impending summer heat. To get things rolling I bought three sessions with a personal trainer. The first session was something GoodLife calls the “Life Changer,” which measures things like Body Fat, Heart Rate and Blood Pressure. By its calculations, my “health age” is 10 years ahead of my actual age. That was a wakeup call, but wakeup calls will only take you so far, especially with the goals I started with.

“How do you think you’re going to feel?” my enthusiastic trainer asked me in that first session, as we went through short and long term goals.

“Pretty good, I guess. I just don’t want to be struggling to walk up stairs in a few years.”

Undettered by my limp response, he powered on: “You mentioned you’re married. How do you think your wife is going to feel if you meet these goals?”

I thought about that for a moment… how she says she’s happy if I’m happy…

“I’m actually not sure if she cares.”

My trainer and I soon parted ways but soon after I also found out that my wife does care, just not in the snarky-comments-about-my-inactivity sort of way. After about a month had passed of me regularly lifting weights as I tried to build back my strength, she looked at me one day and said, “I think your shoulders are getting broader.”

You better believe my heart grew (after all, it’s a muscle too). I’m not vain but it’s nice when someone pays a compliment for your efforts. And at this stage in my life, let’s be honest, not many people besides her are going to notice.

Now I’m in a groove, back in my comfort zone of lifting weights, but challenging myself with moves I never thought to do in my “younger years” – those squats and dead lifts I used to avoid. I’m going to the gym often, consuming protein shakes, reading the fitness sites, taking my supplements and tracking my calories with My Fitness Pal app. There’s no guarantee I’ll maintain this pace or commitment, but I think I’ve finally figured out where my motivation can come from – wanting to enjoy as many years as possible with her.

If you have tips on how you stay motivated to get in the gym, please share them in the comments below. If your partner motivates you to go, I’d love to hear that story too.

Image courtesy of Marcolm/Freedigitalphotos.net