By Josie Rubio
Looking for a surefire way to get your—or your partner’s—pulse racing this Valentine’s Day? Forget flowers and candy. The heart is, after all, a muscle.
Whether you want to find a new way to connect with your significant other or take advantage of Valentine’s Day fitness specials, there are plenty of reasons to get moving a couple or solo. Below are just a few.
Find Motivation and Get a Better Workout. Research shows that having a workout partner is beneficial and that an exercise routine with a significant other can dramatically increase success. One recent study found that someone who makes healthy lifestyle changes—including implementing exercise and healthy eating plans—is three times more likely to succeed if his or her partner also strives for the same goals. Some research even indicates that a workout partner may even increase the speed and efficiency of your workout.
As in matters of the heart, be selective about a partner for workouts. “I think any time you have an accountability partner whether it’s your significant other or somebody else, it’s an advantage,” says C.J. Thomas, a certified personal trainer and nutritionist at St. Louis Fitness Boot Camp. “You just have to be careful about who you choose and make sure that it’s somebody who’s going to give you incentive and not somebody who’s going to give you an excuse on the days you’re not feeling it.”
In fact, in Love Me Slender: How Smart Couples Team Up to Lose Weight, Exercise More, and Stay Healthy Together, authors Thomas Bradbury, Ph.D., and Benjamin Karney, Ph.D. (also co-directors of The Relationship Institute at UCLA), focus on research-based approaches to changing your partner-in-crime and potential diet/exercise saboteur into a powerful health ally.
It’s possible to have a healthy and healthful relationship. Couples who attend CoreFitness classes in Philadelphia often work together as a team and keep each other motivated and accountable, says founder Gina Mancuso, a physical therapist and personal trainer. Plus, there’s a little friendly competition and the “chance for someone to earn bragging rights,” she says.
Improve Your Relationship. Couples in one study reported feeling more satisfied with their partners after undertaking physical challenges together. “The couple that sweats together builds stronger bonds with each other by getting to share some quality time that doesn’t involve vegging out in front of the TV,” says Thomas. He adds, “A lot of couples find it hard to make time for date nights, but a regular workout regimen can build in some quality time together as a part of your normal day. It builds up your energy stores and is clinically proven to improve your mood as well. So the next time someone forgets to take out the garbage, it doesn’t become World War III.”
In addition to blowing off steam, working out can also help steam things up. “Regular exercise is proven to increase libido,” notes Thomas.
Take Advantage of Valentine’s Day Fitness Specials. Gyms and fitness centers typically have a flurry of promotions at the beginning of the year for the New Year’s resolutions crowd, but plenty of places offer special classes and prices for Valentine’s Day. For example, Health magazine and Pure Barre locations throughout the nation have teamed up to offer free “Love Your Body” classes on February 14.
Be sure to check for local specials in your area. Many places offer deals if you bring along a friend or significant other, such as yoga classes for friends in studios from Memphis to Richardson, TX. At St. Louis Fitness Boot Camp, where Thomas is a trainer, there’s a Valentine special: $14 for 14 days of bootcamp for both people who buy and start the two-week package this month.
And of course there are themed classes that offer a fun twist on traditional workouts. Mancuso’s CoreFitness will have a CoreFit Candy Heart Fitness Boot Camp on the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps—perfect for anyone who wants to channel his or her inner Rocky Balboa, who was, after all quite the romantic when it came to Adrian. “The stairs are an awesome spot to workout, and we hold a majority of our classes in that location,” says Mancuso. She adds, “We love doing holiday/themed classes because it adds a little spark and brings participants together in a different way.” In the past, CoreFitness has had a Jingle Bell Boot Camp to raise donations for the Veterans Multi-Service Center in Philadelphia, as well as a “Bring Your Own Pumpkin” workout incorporated the pumpkins for resistance.
Catering to both ends of the Valentine’s Day spectrum, the Wall Cycling Studio, also in Philadelphia, is offering a Sweetheart Spin and a “%$#* Love” workout. There are even classes for singles looking to mingle, such as the Valentine’s Day Mixer at Swerve in New York City, with post-cycling pink smoothies and champagne.
Find True Love. Maybe you found that special someone, but he or she doesn’t share the same enthusiasm for your favorite fitness class. Or perhaps your partner is devoted to a certain type of workout—be it CrossFit, cycling or yoga—and you’re just not feeling the love. That’s OK. You can be passionate about each other without sharing the same fitness pursuits. Be supportive and find an exercise routine that works for you.
“It’s not uncommon for couples to have differing workout preferences,” says Thomas. “The key is to find what works for you. Try some different programs until you find something that fits. Some prefer to go it alone while others find that working out with a group makes it fun and energizing.”
Apply the same advice you’d give about relationships to your workouts: Don’t stay in a relationship (with fitness) that makes you unhappy. Trying to power through an exercise routine or class that you absolutely hate doesn’t work, says Thomas. “This is a common mistake that accounts for so many shying away from their sweat time,” he says. “Find something that vibes with each of you… and then commit!”
Rekindle Those Resolutions. By mid-February, you might need a little motivational boost as far as those New Year’s fitness resolutions go—especially if you’re in the parts of the country that have been experiencing the hibernation-inducing winter freeze.
“Resolutions can be a little disempowering because we make big plans at the beginning of the year, subconsciously knowing that most resolutions fail,” says Thomas. “We essentially set ourselves up for failure. You need to give yourself regular checkpoints every month—even every week—to keep checking in on your goals. And Valentine’s Day is just as good a wakeup call as any.”
Win Over Someone’s (Actual) Heart. “Since February is healthy heart month, couples can use Valentine's Day to not only show their love for each another, but also show some love to their health and wellness by committing to an exercise program,” says Mancuso. While blood pressure conversations about lowering risk of heart disease and stroke might not be the sexiest of topics, show your significant other that you really care about his or her heart by committing to fitness this Valentine’s Day.
Photos: Running couple: Syda Productions; heart hands: Pavel