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Spouses and Exercise

Jack, my lovable goof, with cotton candy 'stache

In Run Like a Mother, in the Marriage chapter that’s excerpted in the just-out issue of Runner’s World, I wrote that my man, Jack, doesn’t exercise. I was convinced he was firmly entrenched in the sedentary camp. But as those perky kids on Glee remind us: Don’t stop believin’. After more than 12 years of sitting on the sidelines while I exercised, Jack has finally started moving. Two months ago, he joined a gym, and he’s been working out regularly ever since. (Sing it with me: “Don’t stop believin’/Hold on to that feelin’”)

And now that he’s discovered fitness, he has new interest in my workouts. Before this year, I could count on my toes the number of times Jack asked me how my run went. Now it’s almost any everyday occurrence. I’m entirely grateful for his burgeoning commitment to exercise and his interest in my active life, yet I can’t shake the feeling he doesn’t understand my passion for running. When he asks, I give Jack a brief synopsis of my run—sometimes just tossing out a “great!” or “it was tough going after about mile 8”—but I don’t chew it over with him.

I’d been mulling this over when I got an email from Shelly, who also blogs about running. She pretty much summed up what I’ve been feeling. “I have found so many inspiring people that seem to understand me in a way my many of my friends and family do not. Running and motherhood are a lifestyle, not a hobby or recreation. This drive within me is hard to explain to those who do not feel it.”

I know, though, I have to give Jack a chance to understand me and my running better. Case in point he has a ways to go: On Saturday, I was on what was supposed to be an 18-mile run. At about mile 14, I realized it was going to be more like 20 miles. Borrowed a cyclist's cell phone to call Jack, asking him to pick me up at mile 18. No-go. His response: "It's only two more miles. Just hurry up." Uh, yeah, like I said... I’m hoping our book will help him. 

Do you feel your spouse or partner “gets” your running?

34 responses to “Spouses and Exercise

  1. I don’t know that my husband gets it. I think when I’m going off a bout my running, he might only pretend to listen but spaces out into subject of his own in his head. He is however supportive of my running. At times he might get frustrated, for example race days when I’m practically dragging the whole family(2 and 4 yr old children) out of bed to drop me off at the starting line. He’s might not be very patient in this cases, but other than that he is a trooper. He volunteered for my Ragnar Relay Team last year, rain and all. He does not run or exercise a lot. He would be my dream running date, but then again, who would stay home and watch the kids at 4:30 am if we went running together. I guess him not running could be a good thing, ha!

  2. Sarah, Thank you SO much for checking out my blog. When I saw your comment, I was a little star struck! In some ways I am not surprised by the fact that both you and Dimity also are celebrating 10 year wedding anniversaries this year. Just add that to the list of so many things we have in common (running the 2007 Nike Women’s marathon – (oh,- a bad one for me, but I loved your article in Runner’s World about it) being moms, being tall, loving to run….etc etc etc). So, happy anniversary to you! And good luck your husband, who is now enjoying the gym as well. I have a lot of friends who have went from the couch to running recently (and I myself did it a few years ago), so you never know….

  3. My husband appreciates running and is active as a coach, but because of a persistent injury has been unable to run for quite a few years…unfortunately it manifests itself in jealousy towards me and the time I take for myself…..I’ve tried to encourage him to get back on his bike, do other things just to get active, but so far no luck, he is stuck in a rut…..Sarah, how did Jack get to a point where he was able to find the motivation to start? I won’t let him discourage me but it sure would be nice to get back to where we once were when we supported each other and were able to work out together…

  4. Hey guys – Thanks for being such an inspiration! I LOVE reading your posts and your articles. On the subject of spouses and running….against, possibly my better judgement (and Dimity’s advice in Runner’s World), my husband and I decided to train for and run the Missoula Marathon together to celebrate our 10 year anniversary this summer. I created a blog to track our progress and talk running. Check it out at

  5. My husband works out, but isn’t much of a runner. He did train for a 10k while I was about 15 months pregnant for my second child-THAT just drove me nuts!!!
    He’s been really supportive of my training, actually the whole fam has. He has taken our kids to both of my halfs and been in charge of them, so that they could all cheer me on (which is just about the best thing you can see during a race, am I right??). I have to say that the older the kids get, the less of a big deal it is to either of us if the other takes time for the gym/run/or in his case golf or hunting. His job is such that it takes him out of town a LOT, so that is the biggest obstacle I face-if he’s gone on the weekends, I’m outta luck for an outside run 🙁

    1. I feel VERY fortunate my husband, Jack, rarely travels for work. He might be asleep whole time I’m gone for a run, but at least he’s at home in case anything, God forbid, were to happen.

  6. My husband made a commitment to “get fit” last year and I love that he now enjoys running! He’s not really into long distance, but it is great to have his company the first 3-5 miles during my longer runs.

  7. My hubby doesn’t get it and he only works out when he has to at work and even then only the things he likes or feels good at. BUT he is so generous and supportive. Its me that feels the guilt if there’s not enough time to out the dinner I planned in a timely manor. Its me who gives up running time or runs in the Dreadmill so he can invest time in his hobbies. He may not get it but he makes up for it.

  8. The whole reason I run is because of my supportive husband! He doesn’t run himself but he encouraged me when I told him of my desire to run (I was in my early 20’s). Now he cheers me on at my races and keeps the kids (we have four) when I go on my early morning runs.

    We meet at the door when I return from my run he heads out on his walk.

    Just happened upon your blog via another blog I was just reading. I am new to the world of running blogs although I have been running for a while myself. I was inspired by other blogs that I started one myself.

    Happy running!

  9. My hubby sort of gets it. i first started running for therapy…there was alot going on in my life that involved my husband and i was working full time and had to manage work, home and my two girls ages 8 & 4 and I needed an outlet and running was cheaper than paying a therapist! before kids we were both very active, but as i’m sure you all know that once you have kids everything changes and so does the time you have….Running has turned into a passion for me and I try to run everyday because of how it makes me feel….I have to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to run before anyone is up and i don’t have to feel guilty – its bad enough that I work full time and i’m gone all day, so i need to squeeze it in whenever i can…I love to sleep, but make the sacrifice to do what I enjoy….my hubby is supportive in the sense that if i don’t run then he knows i’ll be a grouch all day and he will get the brunt of it…LOL…so he always tells me to go running… I’m grateful for that! and my girls know already..if mommy doesn’t run, then mommy is not happy!

  10. I am very lucky in this department, I think. Before kids, my husband and I used to do lots of tris together. We knew when we had kids that training was still going to be a priority to us, so we worked out a schedule that works for both of us. He’s not so much of a runner or triathlete anymore, but he does love to play basketball, so I make sure he gets the time to do that. He knows how much I love my running, so he is very supportive of that, even on the weekends. Case in point: He made me a very happy girl on Sunday–I ran a 1/2 marathon and he took the kids skiing for the day. I got a bonus nap after racing, which was much appreciated. Yahoo!

  11. Since it’s not about being a running mama I am delurking… My boyfriend is a sometime cyclist who freely admits it’s a work out for him, not a passion the way running is for me. Given that we are a two career, two household couple in a city with challenging traffic (witness date night last week – 90 minutes to go 30 miles) that steals more of our limited time together, I count myself as a lucky woman. He gets that I love it and it makes me happy. In the past, I have volunteered for a charity running program, which sometimes meant run my 12 miles and wait for beginning marathoners to run 18 miles, break down fluid stops and come home smelly, tired and hungry 8 hours after I left… That I have put on the back burner for now – can’t push my luck!

    I love the excerpt – was so excited to see RW in my mailbox last Wednesday night, hours after reading Dimity’s plea to the postman. 🙂

  12. Oh silly me, I thought your hubby had a nosebleed!
    My spouse (Modern Caveman) is a muscle head, not a runner. Our courtship ritual involved a benchpress contest but that’s a story for another day.
    Does he ‘get’ my running? Um no. But he’s smart enough to know that ‘when mama’s not happy, nobody is. And running makes me very happy!

    1. I love the phrase, “When mom’s not happy, nobody is.” I think that’s T-shirt-worthy! Dim and I heard it from a number of moms we surveyed for our book. We think husbands who at least understand that premise deserve a backrub, at the very least.

  13. when i first meet hubby he was training for his second nyc marathon which he ran in 3.13. so he totally gets my running and training. thank god. we love to exercise and challenge ourselves, i just wish we had more time to do it together even though he is sooo much faster than me.

  14. I my husband sorta understands. He use to be the athletic one in the house and when he decided to train for the New York City Marathon 11 years ago it got me to start running. Now we have switched, and he had stopped working out due to back issues. But watching me go for my long runs on the weekends he is craving working out and tries to go swimming, skiing and soon mountain biking when he can. Though he does think I am crazy on my long run days but he hangs out with the girls while I go run and get me time and then we switch and he gets quite time at home while I take the girls out and do something with them (even though I really want to take a nice nap!)

  15. Great article in Runner’s World by the way! 🙂

    I am pretty lucky because my husband values exercise just as much as I do. That is one thing that attracted us to each other. In college we would go on runs together and do a lot of hiking and back packing. In the last couple of years I caught the triathlon bug, and he caught the biking bug. He does century rides and even did the Triple Bypass (120 mile bike ride over 3 mountain passes). We both run, even though I’m faster then he is (ha ha), so it’s nice to be able to share our love of fitness together. What’s also nice about it is that our boys get to see both of us working out and taking care of our bodies, so it’s great to be positive role models for them in that sense too.

  16. My best marathon time came when I was running ahead of my (soon-to-be-ex-) husband, and I was determined there was absolutely no way under the broiling sun that he was going to beat me!

  17. My husband doesn’t get running specifically, but he does understand the need to exercise. He’s always willing to make time for my runs (we’ll see how that goes when I start training for a marathon!) and is usually game for a 5K fun run once every few months. He always asks how a run went, although I don’t think he hears anything but “good” or “bad” no matter what my response is. 😉 Lately he’s been asking for tips since his rec league soccer team is getting more competitive and I’ve been talking about triathalons (gotta plant that seed!) and he seems receptive to the idea.

  18. My hubby totally gets it. He encourages me to run and afterward always asks me how it went. Partially its because he is a former fitness nut, so he understands the high you get from vigorous exercise. In addition, he has seen so many positive changes in me since I started running and those positive changes are benefiting him. Especially the fact that I have lost about 15 lbs!

  19. I don’t know if my husband really gets my running, but he does get that it is important to me. He is great about helping me find time to get out and run, offers support by dropping water off or picking me up when I need it. Also he has recently started to work out 3-4 times a week in the gym – maybe I am rubbing off on him, though he shows no interest in running. To be honest, I don’t really want him to take up running. I think one of my favorite parts of my run is the time to myself and/or to catch up with my friends. Besides, we would never be able to run together – who would watch the kids!

    1. Julie–
      I hear you. When Jack started working out at the gym in January, I panicked. I complained to a friend that Jack’s gym-going would cut into my running. The friend talked me down off the ceiling, pointing out that Jack hadn’t asked me to modify my training schedule yet.

      I was guilty out of talking out of both sides of my, um, mouth: Wanting hubby to be active and “get” why exercise is important, yet not wanting it to compromise my schedule in any way. Guilty as charged. Irony.

  20. My husband also falls in the category of men who don’t exercise and don’t understand the whole “running thing” and why I do it. For the most part it’s fine since he’s supportive of my runs, but I do wish that he got it…just a little bit. 🙂

  21. The unasked issue that underlies your question, does your spouse “get” your running is does he “get” it enough to give you the time to go running without making you feel guilty? I ask because I am married to a very liberal and very accommodating man but he got jealous of my marathon training and accused me at one point of loving running more than him or our son. He realized as soon as it came out of his mouth that that comment was overblown, but still for me it showed how much he resented my hours logged!
    How do you or Dimity as a mother make SO MUCH TIME for running? That’s what mothers really want to know. And not just in the run up for an event, but week after week year after year.

    Do you just hire a sitter? Or is it that you just work less during the day (one perk of not having a boss sit within viewing distance?) Or does your husband really stay with the kids while you log 40+ miles a week?

    Do tell!!!

    1. hey catherine–
      dimity here, ready to spill what few secrets I have. I get up early, usually running or at the Y by 5:45, and home by 7 most mornings. my husband does the breakfast duty. then he leaves by 7:30, and I’m on again until 6 p.m. or so. I would *never* be able to be a runner if I had to run after work–no energy or motivation. and I hardly ever run during the day. I work about 18-25 hours while I have the house to myself, and then nights and weekends when my husband watches the kids. my body is used to getting up and being ready to go; I’ve always been a morning person and years of practice has made it habit.
      marathons (or ironmans or ultras) are another story. they require dedicated training and some definite support and flexibility from the siginificant other, and I think it helps to lay out what I want to do and how I’m going to support him (give him 4 hours on sunday, if I take it on saturday, for instance). like with most things parenting/working/exercising/balancing related, there’s no easy solution. my best advice is to get up and get it done so you can make the fewest ripples in the daily routine of your house.

    2. Catherine–
      Like Dim, I’m a morning-exerciser. But my mornings are usually: Home from run by 7:15, make lunches for kiddies, eat breakie, get kids up, and drive carpool. Oh, and a shower sometimes smashed in there. It’s hectic, but gets the job done.

      For my long weekend runs, Jack has to step up and take care of the kids. It caused more resentment from him when the twins were younger (sorry to say, but I don’t recall him giving me guff when it was just Phoebe. I did marathon #3 when she was 14 months old). But now he seems okay with it most weekends. Mainly because kids can entertain themselves before he gets up so he isn’t hit with double-whammy of getting up earlier than he wants and taking care of kids singlehandedly.

      My hat is truly off to moms who work full-time outside of the home like yourself or SAHM. Much harder to juggle it all, I think, than a work-from-home mom.

  22. man! it is so refreshing to read your article in rw and then this
    i thought i was all alone on all of this!
    My husband has been a cross country runner in his past
    but it is apparent to me that he has never had THE PASSION
    how- i don’t understand…
    he WILL go run with me
    short runs
    but he isn’t all excited about it and doesn’t have that high after he is done
    i just don’t get it
    and apparently he doesn’t either
    i DO appreciate his effort and his support in my training and races…
    so for that, i am grateful…
    i wish, however, he had the passion
    THAT would be COOL!

  23. Girl, don’t get me started 🙂 My husband doesn’t get my running at all. I love what Shelly said. That sums it up for me, too. As long as my running doesn’t interfere with anything (code for “don’t run on weekends), it’s fine. I do all my running while the kids are at school. My sweet daughter asks me regularly, “Did you run today, Mom? How far?” She’s really interested. Back to hubby…I LOVE to race. I would totally do the Antarctica Marathon if I could. I would run just about anywhere. I’ve whittled my racing down to just a few a year. I’m not sure when I’ll get to do another marathon…he just takes the fun out of it right at the crucial time I need his support the most. If the race is on a Sunday, “Why do they race on Sunday? Can you tell them to make the race on Saturday?” If the race is on Saturday, “Why do you have to wake me up so early on Saturday?” Blah, blah…as for me, I set my phone alarm on vibrate, Indian-sneak to get dressed & gone, but he always wakes up! I’m so grateful to have this site & others, blogs & so on, because y’all get me! I think I do a great job on my own, but I can’t help but wonder how/if my running would change if my husband was supportive…I ran NOLA with a heavy heart & did great, but I wonder what I could have done with a light heart…

    1. Mary–Sorry to hear your husband isn’t supportive of your running and racing. Dimity and I just got the chance to spend a day with Olympic bronze medal-winning marathoner Deena Kastor and her husband, Andrew. It was incredibly sweet and truly mind-blowing to see HOW incredibly supportive Andrew is of Deena. I know you and I are asking for that, but a bit more support and interest would be appreciated. Sigh.

      1. I knew your post was going to get a lot of comments! Wow! Spending time with Deena & her husband had to be so awesome! I’m such a fan. I hope we’ll see something about it in RW!!! I suppose I should have said in my comments that no amount of disinterest will deter me from running for sure! I just need to vent sometimes. In the end, I’ll still do what I want…perhaps a little more slowly than I would have liked!

  24. My husband took up triathalons about the same time I really started “running.” So we can talk training plans and long runs and whatnot, and he does “get” it. But it can get pretty challenging when both of you need to get a long run or bike or what have you in during the same weekend (especially with a six-year-old and a three-year-old and a new house that needs rehabbing!).

    However, despite the fact that my husband is active, he still doesn’t get the challenge of being a working mom (I work full-time PLUS I freelance two or three nights a week!) and also trying to stick to a training plan. It’s just different. I lace up my running shoes and the kids whine, “You’re going running AGAIN??” He laces up his running shoes, and it’s all “Bye, Daddy! Have a great run!” He doesn’t get the guilt of leaving for three hours on a Sunday morning when you’ve been at work all week….

    I love the “Running Like a Mother” concept. I was thinking about it on my blog the other day after I spent four hours at the gym watching my little ones “compete” in a gymnastics exhibition. The only way I could get in my five-miler for the day without feeling shorting some other household responsibility was to run home from the my kids’ gymnastics center, which I did. Sometimes you have to get creative with the juggling! But I think that gets easier the more the kids come to realize that running mommy = sane mommy. 🙂

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