Get Your Reluctant Spouse Fit without Endangering Your Health

by Martha Hicks Leta

My mother had a saying, “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.” After 20 years of marriage, I’ve come up with my own version of that: “Never try to get your spouse to exercise. It wastes your time and might land you in prison.”

Convincing a spouse to change his or her unhealthy habits can be daunting; you’d sooner convince Kim Kardashian to show up at a red carpet event wearing dirty overalls and Crocs. People become overweight and unhealthy from a lifetime of bad habits that, to them at least, feels “normal” and anyone who advises change is suspect, including doctors and family members. Most people find change is scary, uncomfortable, or at the very least, inconvenient, and will do all in their power to make anyone suggesting it go away. And really, who listens to family members anyway?

I know my husband doesn’t. Despite the fact that he’s one of those rare people blessed with the metabolism of a caffeinated hummingbird, there came a point when poor diet and lack of exercise was starting to wear on him. He was carrying a lot of stress from working too hard and eating poorly on the road and he couldn’t sleep. He went to bed grumpy. He got up grumpy. He made me grumpy. He made the dog grumpy. Soon I remembered something from my childhood: Grumpy is my least favorite dwarf.

I tried everything. I’d buy him gym passes and watch them expire with one or two uses. (That’s, like, $250 per session!) I bought him a punch card and finally ended up using it myself. Then there was the week he promised to come to the gym after I got the kids off to school, but I had to get him out of bed. On the fourth day he threw holy water at me and grumbled something like “Be gone, Succubus” and so I figured that for the sake of our marriage, I should try another tactic. And so I Googled.

The US Department of Health and Human Services has lots of useful hints for encouraging spouses to exercise. They have a list of “Suggested activities you can do together” like taking a nice walk after dinner or doing sit-ups together while watching CSPAN. They say that squealing encouragement and praise is a good idea, like “You did awesome today, honey! Who is my big man? Who’s my BIG MAN?!?” (Yeah, not going to happen.) I thought about leaving him on a deserted stretch of road with no cell phone or credit cards–you know, for the exercise–but since I wasn’t up for sleeping with a loaded Glock under my pillow, I pretty much gave up.

And then a miracle happened. My husband makes TV commercials for a living and a personal training business called and wanted to do a series of ads. The campaign featured testimonials from clients who, like my husband, had not previously been successful at exercising regularly. They found that Fitness Together worked for them, largely because of the accountability factor. You schedule an appointment with a trainer and you actually have to show up for it. The trainers customize your program for your level of fitness and they keep changing it as your fitness level improves. My husband signed up for his first appointment four years ago and he’s been going ever since. At his last physical the doctor looked at his blood work and said, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.” (High praise, indeed, but Doc, you should really be looking at my bloodwork, which is largely absent of the triglycerides and pharmaceuticals that would otherwise be packed in there chunky-style had we not exorcised Mr. Grumpy four years ago.)

Whether you use Fitness Together or another personal trainer, (See my article for the Hingham Patch “Your Workout Isn’t Working? It’s Time to Get Personal“) this is the way to go if you’re serious about helping your spouse get fit. Fitness Together has recently added a new program called, PACK Training, which sounds really intimidating, but it’s actually just personal training in small groups of two to four people. It’s about half the cost of 1-to-1 training, but with the same level of personal attention and best of all there’s the social aspect, so Guess Who has a new group of friends? My husband! Now guess who gets to be married to a cheerful guy with a flat stomach and rippling biceps. I’ll give you a hint: It’s not Kim Kardashian.

For the holidays, Fitness Together is running some great specials on PACK training, 1-to-1 and those great gift cards for your Spouse, or your other special someones. So be sure to give them a call for more details. In Cohasset call 781-383-8004. In Norwell call 781-659-0034. In Hingham call 781-749-2511.

For links and contact information to all our Northern New England FT Studios go to


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Filed under Exercise, Fitness, Fitness Tips, Weight Gain, Weight Loss, Workout

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