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A limiting factor to training: Partners who don’t support your goal to get faster

posted by Greg Wieczorek
A limiting factor to training: Partners who don’t support your goal to get faster

You’ve recovered from your spring goal race and are highly motivated to begin another season of training towards the next big event this fall.  You’re fit, healthy, and know you can dedicate the time necessary to train a little bit harder, but there’s one big obstacle in your way…

“You’re running again today? But you ran yesterday!”

“Why do you think you need to run so much? You’re already in good shape”.

“You’d rather go running than spend time with me?”

…you have to defend yourself from these types of questions on a regular basis.  When you make it out the door you’re often accompanied by a sense of guilt and feel a pressure to get home as fast as possible in order to appease your significant other.  It’s one of those taboo topics that you won’t find in most running literature, and not something you’re comfortable discussing amongst your training group.  Although it may not seem like it, you are not the only runner faced with this situation.  Thousands of miles are lost each year due to unsupportive partners.  This article discusses strategies for obtaining buy-in from your significant other in an effort to turn running into a healthy component of your relationship, rather than a source of contention.

There can be any number of reasons that your partner is resistant to you putting in more miles.  Some of the primary ones might be:

  • they are reluctant to change;
  • they feel that they’re having to take on a disproportionate share of the partnership responsibilities; or
  • an underlying insecurity exists which is preventing them from sharing in the happiness that running has brought you.

Every situation is unique.  Regardless of the source of friction, some approaches that I have observed members of the running community successfully employ include:

Invite your partner to join you

While your partner may not initially be able to run alongside you, suggesting that they bike, inline skate, or elliptigo beside you can turn an aerobic run into a date.  The gym can also be an opportunity to get a run in while enjoying your partner’s company.  My wife and I sometimes have “treadmill dates”; I’ll be on one machine going at my speed, and she will be on the machine next to me going at her speed.  This is a great way to make an 8 minute mile seem like a 6 minute mile.

Suggested Reading: How To Preserve Your Relationship When Training With A Member of the Opposite Sex

Your heart rate doesn’t always have to be in the fat or carb-burning zone for you to include your partner in your running activities.  Your social circle has likely expanded thanks to running, so be sure to invite your partner to the next post-run brunch or get-together.  Runners are generally a very inclusive group and your better half will likely meet some people that they’ll look forward to seeing again in the future.

Don’t shirk other important responsibilities

If you can successfully balance work and family commitments on top of your weekly mileage targets, it is difficult to argue that running has become a problem in your relationship.  Striking a balance may require a little extra planning or getting creative.  Suggestions include:

  • If possible, take the “forefoot express” to or from work or get out on your lunch break so that your evenings aren’t consumed by running.
  • Take your little one for a cruise in the baby jogger.  Friends of mine have commented that it’s a nice break for their spouse to have an hour of quiet while their infant or toddler is getting a tour of the neighbourhood.
  • Once you’ve shuttled your young one to their practice or activity, fill the time by getting a run in rather than waiting on the sidelines for the session to end.
  • Champion ultra-marathoner Michael Wardian has a treadmill set up in his basement which allows him to run and simultaneously watch his two young children while they are playing.

A willingness to be flexible demonstrates to your partner that you’re a team player and that running doesn’t trump the other competing priorities in your busy day.  Plan your day out ahead of time so that you’re both on the same page with respect to what block of time you’ll set aside for running.

When all else fails, it’s time for “The Talk”

If you’ve made a good faith effort to integrate running into your lifestyle in a healthy and selfless manner, and your partner still feels aggrieved, then it’s time for a frank discussion.  Their attitude is unlikely to change if the subject is not addressed, and resentment will fester over time.   Constructive questions to ask might be:

  • “How is my running negatively impacting you?”  This can help you to understand their point of view.
  • If you’re met with attitude when time spent running would have otherwise been put towards a non-value-added activity, ask “Would you rather we spend quantity time or quality time together?”  Remind them that you’re much more fun to be with after you’ve gotten your run in.

Have the discussion now and attempt to resolve the issue while the season is still early.  Consider forwarding this article to your significant other in order to open up the lines of communication.

Final Words

I’ve had friends who have temporarily avoided confrontation by likening running to a “mistress” – they’ll sneak in a run and keep it a secret from their partner.  There is no reason your next run shouldn’t be done with a clear conscience; if running is causing a rift between you and your partner, I hope this article can effect a positive change and help turn the person you care about into your #1 fan.

About the Author: Greg Wieczorek is a Chartered Accountant and 2:25 marathoner residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has coached his wife Maura from a 4:17 marathon debut to a personal best of 2:58 and helps others maximize their road race potential through his online coaching service Project PB.

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