How to Get Your Non-Running Spouse Involved in Your Runs

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Even though your spouse doesn't run, you can still enjoy the sport together thanks to bikes, music and a little mutual understanding How to Get Your Non-Running Spouse Involved in Your Runs

I am a runner. My husband is decidedly not.

I knew this about him when I married him. In fact, it was one of the things that attracted me to him. I was training for my first marathon when we wed, and quite honestly, there wasn’t enough room in the washing machine in our first tiny duplex to fit two sets of sweaty running gear.

I was glad for other reasons, too. I don’t need to talk about running all the time, and I knew if we shared that hobby, we’d be breaking down our mile repeat times in the same way most couples talk about fun things … like anything else besides mile repeats.

Besides, I thought it was healthy to have separate hobbies. You don’t want to be together 24/7. You both need time apart in order to appreciate your time together.

So maybe I was a little naïve. Being 25 will do that to you.

Soon after we married, and as I began hitting my peak mileage of marathon training, I realized that maybe we didn’t both need to be runners, but if I actually wanted to see my husband (who worked nights back then, while I worked days), we would have to find a way to work him into my running routine.

And so we did. It didn’t happen quickly, and we hit a few stops and starts. But overall, I think we’re both happier for having made the effort, rather than just writing off training time as non-couple time. Here’s what worked for us and what could work for you, too.

  1. Invest in a Bike

This is, by far, the tip I would most recommend to other couples in a running/non-running marriage. When I trained for my second marathon, my husband accompanied me on a number of long runs on his bike. This was beneficial for many reasons, including:

  • I had someone to talk to: Let’s face it, long runs can get dull. Having my husband there to converse (or, at times, provide a running monologue while I grunted) made the pain fade and the run seem faster.
  • He brought along my water: If a fairy stopped me on a long run and I was given the choice between not carrying my water for 20 miles and winning $1 million, I would choose the water thing. Yes, I know you can place water along your route but I’m not very organized and even the ones I put in my yard got stolen twice. Having my husband hold my water and give it to me for a chug every 10 minutes was divine.
  • We spent several hours together when we would have otherwise been apart: This is probably the biggest benefit to the bike approach. Marathon training eats up huge chunks of your time. This was pre-kids for us, so we had the luxury of being out on the road for hours without a care. But even if you have children, even squeezing a half-hour together instead of what would ordinarily be zilch is a major accomplishment.
  1. Start From Scratch

After I had my first baby, I was eager to return to running. I started with some walks with the baby jogger, which my husband accompanied me on. Soon I started running—and, to my surprise and delight, so did he. We only made it a block or two the first time, but we slowly worked our way up to half a mile, then a mile, then two.

My husband had never tried to run with me before because he knew I could go longer, and so it seemed pointless to stay with me for a mile of a five-mile run. But when we started from the same beginning point, suddenly we were equals with the same goal (though he still teases me that, in every single run, he slowed to a walk first and I made sure I went 10 feet longer than him before I stopped; this is true).

We ran a 5K with our son in the jogging stroller that year. It remains my husband’s only race, and one of my all-time favorites. While he stopped running shortly after that race, we still talk about doing that again some day.

  1. Get Their Advice (on Music)

You can enlist your spouse to help you make a great playlist for a fast 5K. Luckily my husband and I have similar musical tastes, but even if you don’t, it might be fun to see what your spouse comes up with. Be sure to return the favor to them with a playlist dedicated to their favorite hobby.

  1. Make Them Keeper of the Data

I haven’t actually tried this—neither my husband nor I are techy, and I find it challenging enough to push the buttons on my GPS watch at the appropriate start and stop time. But if you are married to someone who geeks out over numbers, have them help you track your runs.

Whether you use a program like Daily Mile or you do it by hand, there’s a wealth of information you can share about each run, and it’s fun to get immersed in all that numbers minutiae. Plus, your spouse may notice running patterns you hadn’t picked up on, such as how you tend to run slower after days at the gym or lack motivation after a long weekend.

  1. Partake in Their Hobby, Too

Streets go two ways, as runners well know. Well, so do personal pursuits.

You may complain that your spouse isn’t interested in your running, but do you show any interest in their hobbies? If not, it’s hardly fair to expect them to do it when you don’t reciprocate.

Whether your spouse’s passion is pinochle or patchworking, show the same sort of appreciation for and interest in it that you’d like them to show your hobby. Everyone loves sharing about their hobbies.

For us, that means I talk to my husband about his fantasy football league or his golf game (although I don’t accompany him to the driving range; let’s just say the ball wasn’t the only thing that took flight when I took a swing).

I like seeing him light up, and I love that, 15 years into our marriage, we’re still connected even though we may not love the same things.