When childhood sweethearts and Gold’s Gym members CJ Finley and Erin Kinnevy reconnected as adults, they realized right away that they still enjoy the active lifestyles they shared growing up in the Northeast — she as a competitive dancer turned marathoner, he as an athlete turned fitness competitor.
Unfortunately, they also share similar challenges.
CJ lives with Celiac disease and is beginning to show signs of Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disorder that runs in his family. Erin struggles with food allergies that at one point caused her weight to fall dangerously low. The sudden death of her father a few years ago was a blow to her emotional well-being, too.
“The frustrating thing about the [fitness] industry is that it tends to focus on the physical,” CJ says. “Overall health isn’t just about what’s on the outside. Mental health and nutrition are just as important.”
Thriving and inspiring
Now engaged and living in Austin, Texas, CJ is a health coach and Erin is pursuing an MBA at the University of Texas. Their blogs, Thrive on Life and Erinspiration, share their experiences and promote their philosophy of holistic wellness.
“We’re connecting with people with similar issues and struggles,” Erin says. “My dad was fit and healthy. It just shows you that you never know. It motivates me to spread positivity.”
“We want to build a community,” CJ says. “We know we can help more people if we tell our story.”
Motivating each other
Working out together is a priority for the couple. It’s quality time they say helps strengthen their relationship by physically bringing them together and mentally unplugging them from life’s other distractions.
“There are times Erin wants to work out and I’m doing something else, but I remind myself what it means to us,” CJ says.
“Spending that time together, improving our health, doing something positive for our well-being has helped the trajectory of what we’ve accomplished in the last couple of years,” Erin says.
They want to help you do the same thing. This workout features five exercises designed for couples to gain strength and improve their overall health.
Be sure to stretch beforehand. Perform each exercise for 1 minute, with 30 seconds of rest in between. Repeat twice.
Small medicine ball and large resistance band
- Forward squat band jumps
- Squat with rotational medicine ball pass
- Reach-and-touch plank with push-up
- Forward-backward lunges with medicine ball pass
- Sit-up with medicine ball pass
Always start your exercise programs with a general warmup to raise your body’s core temperature, loosen and prepare your muscles and engage your nervous system for the work to come. In your own workout, find a good combination of 5 to 10 movements that mix stretching with more dynamic moves to prepare for the day.
An oldie but a goodie, this move incorporates your upper and lower body so you can get your heart rate up, start to sweat and engage a large number of muscles.
Marching toe touches
While standing or walking forward, kick your leg up toward shoulder height and touch your toes with your opposite arm outstretched. This warms up your hamstrings and hip flexors, as well as engage several other muscles.
Bodyweight lunge with rotation
This is a great way to warm up the lower body and incorporate some rotational movement. Step forward into a lunge, and then turn your body toward your forward leg with arms outstretched to the side. Be sure to focus on turning your torso without moving your legs to compensate.
Forward squat band jumps
Why: After a good warmup, every workout should start out with an explosive movement to incorporate your fast-twitch muscle fibers and wake your body for the work to come. Squat jumps are a great full-body movement.
How: Begin with your partner standing in front of you but facing away. Loop the resistance band around your partner’s waist, as you hold one end in each hand. Your partner should step forward until there’s mild tension in the band. While you stand with your knees slightly bent and hips slightly back for stability, your partner should jump forward as far as possible. Jump by bending your knees, with your hips back and core engaged, and then extending and leaping forward. Land lightly on your toes, and then return to start position for more repetitions.
Pro tips: Get the most out of each jump. You will get greater benefit from this exercise by trying to jump farther with more power than by simply trying to move as fast as possible from rep to rep. Give it your all each time and you’ll be rewarded for the effort.
Squat with rotational medicine ball pass
Why: Because most everyday activities involve straight-ahead motion, it’s easy to lose our ability to rotate our trunk, especially when carrying a load. Think about what it’s like to pick up a child and move them to either side of your body.
How: Stand back-to-back and drop into a low squat so your thighs are parallel to floor. Hold this position throughout the exercise. Your partner should hold the medicine ball at chest height and, rotating from the upper torso, hand the ball to their right side. You will need to rotate left to receive the ball and then rotate to the opposite side, so your partner can accept the ball once again on their left side.
Pro tips: Avoid rotating from your hips or lower body. Rotate using only your trunk as you hold your lower body stable in the squat position. Challenge your partner to do the same.
Reach-and-touch plank with push-up
Why: When performed with attention to proper positioning, this exercise will engage your hips and core as you dynamically move and strengthen your chest, shoulders and triceps in the push-up. The reach will provide an even greater stimulus to your core as it works to stabilize your body with just three points of support on the floor as opposed to the usual four.
How: While facing one another with 1 foot between both of you, each partner holds a plank supported with arms fully extended and body in a straight line from head to toe. From this base, both partners will perform a push-up, return to the starting position, lift their right hand and reach toward the opposite shoulder of their partner. Put your right hand to the floor, complete another push-up and then repeat the reach, this time using your left side.
Pro tips: Depending on your or your partner’s fitness levels, this exercise can be modified for push-ups from the knees, or even with your feet elevated to make it a greater challenge. Keep a steady pace and control the reach to get the most out of the core challenge.
Forward-backward lunges with medicine ball pass
Why: Lunges are a foundational movement to strengthen the entire musculature of the legs, including some of the smaller muscles that assist in balancing and stabilizing your body. A good deal of this added benefit occurs as you move your legs through different positions and stabilize in a split stance to catch or throw a weighted medicine ball.
How: In this move, one partner lunges forward while the other lunges backward. Stand facing each other 1 to 2 feet apart, depending on how far you’d like to throw the ball. To begin, one partner will need to be holding the medicine ball at their chest. One partner will step forward with the right foot, as the other steps backward with the left foot. Both sink into a lunge by bending the front and back knees 90 degrees, keeping knees over ankles, back straight and core tight. At the bottom of the lunge, the partner with the ball passes it to the other before both push off and return to the start position. The dance is then reversed, with the partner now holding the ball taking a step forward with the left foot, as the other steps backward with the right foot. Both sink into a lunge and repeat the process for reps.
Pro tips: Focus on proper form here and give each other cues when something looks a little off with their ankles, knees, hips or core.
Sit-up with Medicine ball pass
Why: Although it’s gotten a bad rap from some experts, the sit-up is an important movement to ensure a strong core and hip complex. This movement is a must when combined with a good balanced program to address the complementary need for hip extension.
How: Both partners lie faceup, knees bent, feet flat on the floor with ankles overlapping. One partner will hold the ball with arms extended overhead to begin with. Each partner will then contract their abs to sit up, bringing up arms and medicine ball to face their partner. At this point, the medicine ball is tossed or handed over to the opposite partner. As both partners lower, the partner with the ball will extend it overhead to lightly tap it on the ground before returning up and repeating the transfer.
Pro tips: Keep your hips and low back flat on the ground to focus on the abs with this movement. If you feel your glutes or back coming off the ground (especially when lowering the ball overhead), slow down and focus on initiating the move with your midsection first.
Video created by: Thomas Garanzuay
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Damon and Hillary Ayon are Stronger Together