Q: How do I motivate my [wife/husband/partner] to workout with me?
[*This is a very real risk you will run. This question was posed in “Pat Flynn’s Secret Group” on Facebook (which you can join via The Inner Circle). The asker had reason to believe he should tread lightly, as “homicidal thoughts” were the suspected reason for failure regarding his previous attempt. All advisors confirmed that he was entering a Danger Zone.]
A: You don’t.
Don’t worry–that’s not all I have to offer as far as advice on this subject.
However, it’s a good place to start. Let’s start with acceptance of the fact that it’s very unlikely that you will directly motivate this person and even more unlikely that this person will actually workout with you.
So let’s not try to make that our aim.
I’m sure we all have very romantic visions of spotting our sweetheart on the bench press, high-fiving after PRing our KB front squat, laying in sweat puddles together, smiling and exhausted after the 100-snatch challenge.
It’s only natural to want to share a fun and significant part of your life with those you love. You want them to understand when you hit a new goal. You want them to “get it” when, one day, you don’t feel like dying after your 300 swings.
But alas, we do not live in the utopia in which the rest of FB Land seems to live.
Rather, we live in a world where your partner doesn’t give a *#$@ that you just cleaned double-32s.
(Which is why “Pat Flynn’s Secret Group” exists, by the way. Because we all do give *#$@s over there.)
SO, let’s recap.
Step 1: Give up your idealistic intention of having your significant other workout with you.
Instead, redefine your goal as “getting your partner to lead a healthier lifestyle.”
Inherently, we know that we cannot motivate someone to do something they do not want to do. They HAVE to want it for themselves. Further, whatever path they choose for their “healthier lifestyle” has to be their own. And it’s quite possible that they won’t want a fiance-coach, or a hubby-personal trainer, as much as that appeals to you, Mr. Fitness Guru.
Now, let’s look at a few approaches.
[Henceforth, I will be writing to the male population in regard to their desire to get their womenfolk to workout. I’m sure it can be applied more broadly, but I just want to be clear about my angle here.]
Compare your “ultimate goal” for your wife with what you think she would consider her own “ultimate goal.”
Do you want her to lose weight?
Do you want her to have a more muscular physique?
Do you want her to live a long, high-quality life?
[Do you just want her to share a hobby with you? <–Find a friend for this. Nurture natural hobbies to share with your wife.]
Does she actually want any of these things for herself yet?
If not, your best bet might just be to ask her to make one healthy lifestyle change for you. Because you don’t want to be her care-taker; you want to be her partner–for many, many more years. It’s honestly a personal favor.
APPROACH 1: The Healthy Lifestyle Change
Ask her to do something super-simple, like…
Joining you in eating a salad for dinner one night per week;
Going for a 20-minute walk twice per week;
Aiming for ____ steps per day;
Replacing one soda per week with water or seltzer water.
Healthy lifestyle changes often have a snowballing effect, so you just have to be involved in creating the pea-sized snowball and nudging it down the hill.
I’m willing to go out on a limb with this next bit of advice. (Feel free to give me a piece of your mind if you disagree. I readily admit I may deserve your criticism.)
Here it goes: No matter your actual goal for your wife, you MUST make it about health rather than aesthetics. It’s got to be up to her to place other, aesthetic value on it. As illogical as it seems, trying and failing at getting “more attractive” is significantly worse than trying and failing at getting healthier bio-indicators from a blood test. In other words, I’d rather my husband let me die of heart disease than suggest that my butt was saggy.
That’s right. I’d rather fail at being healthy than fail at being fit. The risk of pride is just too great when it comes to chasing vanity goals. “Being healthy” is this nice, subjective, low-key, low-risk, very welcoming type of goal. It allows room for trying this and dabbling in that. It allows for mistakes and hiccups. …Which makes it a great place to start. (Obviously, objective goals with hard deadlines will most likely become necessary down the road–but you just need to get your wife on the road for now. She can discover this goal-setting force majeure on her own later.)
APPROACH 2: Adopt her goal, with your focus on her health
If the goal is weightloss, she’s probably going to want to see some substantial changes right away. Encourage her to do something drastic that will deliver a huge boost of motivation.
Some ideas here include…
Both of you undergoing a significant diet change (embracing a “fad diet” or other short-term challenge is, actually, reasonable here;
Adding high-density workouts, like sprints, or kettlebell complexes. Lots of reps, lots of exertion, short duration.
If the goal is weightloss but there are major obstacles for the previous suggestions, here are some other methods to start slower and build momentum through other means than dropping lbs. right away…
Shift attention from loss to gain.
It’s not as intimidating if it’s framed as setting out on a new goal “just to ____” rather than to tackle the huge mountain of weightloss.
Therefore, at first, don’t worry about losing weight. Instead, focus on gaining something positive.
Enjoyment feeds motivation.
Gain a new, active hobby–anything from rock-climbing to nature-walking.
Gain strength–set a goal to deadlift a certain amount of weight (everyone loves to deadlift).
Gain a skill–learning to use kettlebells is a skill, for instance, or maybe yoga.
Gain friendships–go for a walk with a friend in the neighborhood.
Gain energy–make it just about “feeling better,” moving more, fueling well.
Gain self-trust through success with consistency. <–This one can’t be overstated.
It’s all about accessibility. It can’t feel like too much–too complicated, too scary, too far away, too much time, even too much effort.
If she wants to walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes 3x a week, let her do that. In fact, be excited about her doing that! For now, that feels accessible to her. It feels easy and it builds confidence. (Research shows that she’ll be healthier even if she never progresses to any other type of exercise. Personal experience shows that she might just play around with the dumbbells one afternoon, or strike up a conversation with the jacked chick in the locker room, and before long…well, you know….)
If the goal is already performance-based, she’ll just need a solid plan that feels do-able. In this case…
Encourage her to find the simplest, most enticing program out there.
->Pat makes a mean minimalist strength program. Tactical Strength, anyone?
-> Plenty of “couch to 5k” programs are available.
->”Intro to ___” and “Learn to ___” programs abound.
Once she commences, celebrate each and every benchmark along the way!
Before you attempt to initiate someone else’s fitness journey, reflect on your journey. It might have started with novelty or accessibility, but then you found yourself just enjoying it, you got sucked in, you started setting goals, you realized that working out had become a priority for you. She’ll need to fall into her own version of these universal experiences.
If you’re looking for her have a long-term commitment, you need to let her blaze her own trail on her own time on her own terms. You can’t rush it, and you can’t force it.
Each time she hits a new phase in her journey, enjoy it with her. Pretend you didn’t see it coming. Allow her to have her revelations without any arrogant commentary.
Afraid you’ll make a misstep? Let me assure you that you will.
But maybe this will help summarize…
The “Short-List” of Dos and Don’ts
- DO make healthy meal choices yourself. DON’T make suggestions about what she should or shouldn’t eat. Especially at meal times.
- DO expect to spend money to support your wife’s goal. DON’T gawk at the monthly membership bill.
- DO allow her to be “off the hook” for some of her typical responsibilities, as she figures out how to manage an added daily task. DO NOT make her feel guilty for spending time on herself.
- DO compliment her aesthetic progress. Keep it honest, but notice even the littlest of improvements. DO NOT comment on any lack of aesthetic progress.
- DO encourage her to talk about her journey and her progress. DO NOT question her about it.
- DO invite her to join in on your workouts. DO NOT make her feel like your workouts are superior to hers.
- DO acknowledge her efforts. DO NOT chastise her for decisions that are not in line with her goals. (She knows those 4 slices of pizza were not part of her diet plan.)
- DO encourage her to try whatever sounds exciting to her. DON’T try to persuade her that she should do what you do–or even what you know to be “best.” READ: DO encourage her to try Zumba. DO NOT tell her it’s silly and insist that she squat.
- DO use the word “we” a lot. DON’T talk about it like you have it all figured out, and she needs to get it together. DON’T suggest that she make sacrifices that you won’t make right along with her.
- DO make it as easy as possible for her to have success, especially at the beginning. DON’T be a selfish shmuck.
- DO tell her she is beautiful now, always has been, and always will be, regardless of her body fat composition, 5k time, or deadlift max. DON’T, under any circumstances, not tell her these things.
Despite my best intentions to provide solid guidance, you must, I urge you, proceed with caution. The gentlest of efforts could still end up with you getting punched in the throat. Sorry. This is risky business. A minefield really. One innocuous remark, one misunderstanding, and BOOM. You’re calling for a comrade to drag you out of harm’s way.
Perhaps before you take on the challenge of motivating your significant other to workout, you should physically prepare, say, with this nimble-nipper:
In anticipation of a forthcoming review of the Crossrope Infinity Rope System, here’s a jump rope workout for ya:
20s standard jump rope;
10s speedy jump rope;
20s slow-skip recovery.
Complete 6 rounds.
P.S. Maybe get some super-dense workouts while simultaneously subscribing to Pat’s email list –which will provide you a bit of daily motivation and entertainment delivered straight to your inbox? DO IT!