Whether you’re on your second date or celebrating your 22nd anniversary, one thing is true: Relationships require work. But not necessarily the kind you might expect. As it turns out, couples that exercise together strengthen more than their muscles; they also strengthen their connection.“Your endorphin and pheromone levels are at their highest after a session at the gym,” says Belisa Vranich, a clinical psychologist and author of Get a Grip: Your Two-Week Mental Makeover. These are the feel-good hormones linked to arousal and attraction—and they can have a powerful effect on you and your partner.
As a celebrity chef and a former professional wrestler, respectively, Robert Irvine and Gail Kim-Irvine are busy people. But they always take time to work out together whenever they can. In fact, they had just gotten back from the gym when they jumped on the phone to talk to us. While Irvine takes control in most facets of his life, he leaves the gym plan to Kim.
The sharing works out great for both of them “Before him, I never liked to workout with guys,” Kim says. “Robert is the first person I’ve enjoyed working out with. I find him motivating, not just in the gym but in life. That’s one of the reasons that I love him so much. I was already ambitious, but he gives me that extra push. You always need that in the gym.”
We’ve designed three love-enhancing workouts for each chapter of your relationship. Whether you’re a new couple just beginning to get to know each other or a pair of Valentine’s veterans looking to reignite the flame, we’ve got the solution for you.
The Getting-To-Know-You Workout
Early in relationships, “too much face-to-face time or forced communication can be a bit awkward,” Vranich says. So she encourages new couples to stretch and cool down together, and to spend the bulk of the time in group-exercise classes.
“Class is something that you can experience together — and talk about afterward — without too much eye-to-eye contact or having to deal with potentially awkward spotting scenarios,” she explains.
Do these pre-workout stretches alongside your partner.
Cat and cow (5 reps)
Get down on all fours, arms directly under your shoulders and fingertips pointing away from you. Pull abs in and slowly arch your back up toward the ceiling—pause. Now reverse the motion, arching chest and hips upward so your belly sinks toward the ground—pause.
Stay down on all fours and place your forearms on the floor, fingertips pointing away from you; cross right leg under your torso so the side of it rests on the floor. Extend your left leg behind you, knee on the ground; hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat.
Kneel on the floor with your knees hip-width apart. Place your right foot several feet in front of you, and rest your hands on your right knee for balance. Lean your upper body forward slightly and press your hips forward (you should feel a stretch down the front of your right thigh). Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat.
Cooldown (Partner-assisted stretch)
Lie on your back, and lift one leg as far as you comfortably can on your own. Your partner then places his or her hand against your calf and applies gentle pressure, as if to push your leg back a bit farther. You resist the pressure by pressing your leg against your partner’s hand. Hold for 30 seconds.
THE JUST-SAID-I-LOVE-YOU WORKOUT
For couples who can’t seem to keep their hands off each other, “endurance workouts that get the sweat running and blood pumping usually turn up the heat in more ways than one,” says Corry Matthews, a certified personal trainer. Trainer Adam Friedman notes that competitive activities provide that friendly-flirty spark. To rev up the heat in your relationship, turn the following moves into a sexy game. The winner is the one who can go the longest.
Choose side-by-side cardio machines—bike, treadmill or elliptical— and playfully race to the finish for 10 to 15 minutes.
Dumbbell bicep curls (3 sets of 15 reps)
Hold free weights with palms facing out and elbows next to the body. Bend your elbows and curl the weights toward your shoulders without moving your elbows. Return to the starting position
Pull-up and bent-arm hang
For him: Hang on the pull-up bar with hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing away from you, elbows straight but not locked. Slowly pull yourself up until your chin passes the bar, then lower to the starting position. Do three sets of 10–12 reps.
For her: Have your date lift you so that your chin is level with the pull-up bar. Grip the bar with hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing away from you, elbows bent. When your date releases you, hold yourself in this position for as long as possible, keeping your chin level with the bar.
Weighted walking lunges (3 sets of 15–20 lunges, with a 30-second burst of cardio between sets)
Stand holding dumbbells at your sides. Step forward with the first leg. Land on your heel, then forefoot. Lower the body until the knee of your rear leg is almost in contact with the floor, then stand on the forward leg with the assistance of the rear leg. Lunge forward with the opposite leg.
THE MARRIED-WITH-KIDS WORKOUT
One word: yoga. “It’s relaxing, enjoyable and intimate,” Matthews says. There are plenty of partner postures you can practice as a couple, and the body awareness — and touching — that couples yoga brings to the table adds to the romance. In addition to the positions below, any Gold’s Gym yoga instructor will be able to suggest moves you can do at home or in a class.
Sit facing your partner, with about three feet between you. Hold hands along the outside of your legs. Raise both legs and place the soles of your feet on your partner’s. Work on finding your balance and, when you’re ready, try straightening your legs. As you hold the pose, work on drawing in your lower back (don’t round your spine) and engaging your abs while gazing at each other.
Double standing forward bend
Stand back to back with six to 12 inches between your heels. Both partners bend forward at the waist. Reach behind you and grab your partner’s hands. Depending on your flexibility, you can walk your hands closer, so that you are holding each other’s forearms, elbows or shoulders. The backs of your legs and buttocks should be touching. Keep your legs straight and lower the top of your head toward the ground. Hold for five deep breaths, then let go of your partner and slowly come to stand.
Sit facing your partner with your legs crossed. Make sure your knees are touching your partner’s. Both of you hold your right arm around your lower back, with the back of your hand touching just above your hip.
Reach your left hand out diagonally and grab your partner’s left hand. Turn your hand so your thumb is pointing down. If you can’t reach that hand, the two of you can hold each end of a towel, bringing your hands as close as you can. If you can hold hands, reach farther and hold each other’s wrists. Now each of you look over your right shoulder and pull against the other as much as you can to feel the deepest twist. Hold this stretch for five or more deep breaths and gently release. Then do the other side, twisting to the left.