Friday, July 31, 2015

Couples Compete for the Morning Workout - WSJ

A predawn swim; the weekend handoff; children are ‘firehouse ready’


Desanne Martin swims at 5:15 a.m. PHOTO: PETER EARL MCCOLLOUGH FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

"Staking out prime time for exercise is the land-grab of modern day parents. Once children come along, working out often seems more like a luxury than a basic need. Compared with a night out for cocktails, a request for an hour of PILATES would seem like something no one would want to deny a spouse. But that isn’t always the case."



After she had her second child, Michelle Jacobs was desperate to get fit. The 43-year-old baby gear retail executive joined a gym and went every morning at 5:30 a.m.—a big improvement over Jillian Michaelsexercise DVDs in the living room. All was great, until her husband caught the workout bug.

Initially he was content with one SoulCycle class on Tuesday mornings. But then he wanted Thursdays.

Staking out prime time for exercise is the land-grab of modern day parents. Once children come along, working out often seems more like a luxury than a basic need. Compared with a night out for cocktails, a request for an hour of Pilates would seem like something no one would want to deny a spouse. But that isn’t always the case.

Couples squeeze in athletic windows at odd hours, sometimes in the dark of night, to avoid disrupting quality family time. Some spouses push for priority, but promise the workout means a smile and a day of devoted caretaking in return.

With two children to prep for school, and both Ms. Jacobs and her husband commuting from the suburbs into New York City for work, there wasn’t time for both to claim the mornings. Evenings were their only chance to be with the children. Now Ms. Jacobs spins, lifts weights or runs every other morning, plus Sunday, when she tag teams with her husband, tossing the car keys to him as they pass on the front walk.



Eric Roza, 47, a vice president at Oracle Corp.and self-declared fitness nut in Boulder, Colo., admits that tension around workout turf “has been bubbling up.” He does CrossFit weekdays at 5:30 a.m., returning to help get four children through the morning scramble at 6:50 a.m., which means his wife Melissa can never go to a 6:30 a.m. strength class she loves. Until recently, he never considered whether this was fair. “I’ve always had this presumption that my workout comes first. I’m like, ‘Come on, Honey, it’s my self-medication. It’s my therapy,’” he says.

Her less obsessive approach compounded the problem. Her job managing the CrossFit gym the pair own is more flexible, so his work schedule dominated. She was always too busy to exercise midday.

After some “tough conversations”, Mr. Roza says he is prepared to make changes. “I realize now I can’t just keep my head in the sand,” he says.



Who gets priority, and how time is apportioned, can reveal deeper relationship dynamics, therapists say. One partner demanding his or her workout matters more “can be heard by the other as, ‘I’m just a little more important than you are in this partnership,’” says Washington, D.C. psychotherapist Karen Osterle. She adds that gender roles can play a part in the power struggle. “The negotiation is becoming more complex as more women become the chief breadwinners,” says Ms. Osterle.



Swiss trainlike schedules help. “I tell couples to sit down on Sunday night with a glass of wine or cup of tea and the calendar,” says Samantha Ettus,a Los Angeles-based life coach and author of a book on efficient living. “Exercise has to go on the to-do list just like business meetings.”
A rigid routine has allowed Martina Jones and her husband Chris to keep competing, even as parents—she does marathons, biathlons and triathlons, and he is an open-water swimmer. The San Francisco couple both have demanding product management jobs, so “making it explicit is the only way to make it work,” says Ms Jones.

The new emphasis on prevention and wellness is emphasized by the Affordable Care Act. There are also managed care and Medicare Advantage plans that offer complementary memberships in sports clubs. "Silver Sneakers' is one of those programs offered here in California by 'SCAN'. Seniors do not have the same time constraints of parenthood or work.

It is a challenge for millenials and Gen-X adults. Studies have shown the benefits of aerobic exercise, and walking for those with diabetes, hypertension, elevated body-mass index. It has been shown to delay or reverse osteoporosis, reduce the liklihood of colon and breast cancer.

Joanna Strober, who runs a Palo Alto, Calif., weight-loss startup and her entrepreneur husband race for the same treadmill. If he beats her downstairs, she doesn’t get to exercise that day. “I do not complain, but, yes, I’m mad.” A second treadmill wouldn’t work. “We wouldn’t agree on the TV show,” she says.

Couples Compete for the Morning Workout - WSJ
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