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If you met your true love at the CrossFit box or through a running group, breaking a sweat together may be second nature. But for many couples, exercise and romance might not go together quite so easily.

February 13, 2015

If you met your true love at the CrossFit box or through your local running group, breaking a sweat together may be second nature. But for many couples, exercise and romance might not go together quite so easily.

Chances are, you and your partner have different workout styles, are at different fitness levels, and have different goals. Regardless of those differences, though, working out together can be a great way to grow closer, learn from each other, and see each other in a new light. (After all, sweaty is sexy!)

No one knows that better than Tina and Terry Shorter: After discovering a joint love for group exercise classes—and for each other—the super-fit couple got hitched, became fitness instructors, and created the R.I.P.P.E.D. fitness program (taught at gyms nationwide) and the R.I.P.P.E.D. Total-Body Challenge DVD ($17, amazon.com).

Here are 6 things that worked for them, and plenty of their clients over the years.

Recognize your differences

"One of our passions as a dating couple was to work out together," Tina says, "but I knew that Terry was at a higher level of fitness than me and that I wouldn't be able to match him in the weight room. Women can have a tendency to try to be 'one of the guys' and push themselves harder than they should, but it's important that you take it at whatever pace is safe for you."

Instead of trying to compete with each other or follow the same training plan, decide on your individual goals first: Maybe you want to lose weight or run a 10K, while your partner wants to build muscle and get stronger. Once you've got your own goals in mind, decide which workouts you can pair up on—like a warm-up and cool-down jog around the track—and which are best done on your own.

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Beware of "coaching"

If one half of a couple is more experienced or at a higher fitness level than the other, he or she may feel inclined to provide advice and encouragement during a joint workout. The problem is, the other half may not find it so helpful or encouraging—especially if he or she is feeling tired, frustrated, or insecure.

"Make sure before you set foot into a workout environment that you're clear on what you both want to achieve, what you want to avoid, and whether one of you is going to take a coaching role," Terry says. Talk openly about what kinds of guidance you're open to—maybe you don't mind him correcting your form, for example, but you're not okay with him going all Drill Sergeant on you the way he does with his other workout buddies. Â

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Know your limitations

With some workouts—like cardio or yoga classes—it doesn't matter so much how strong you are or how much you weigh. But if you and your partner head to the weight room together, take note: A 140-pound woman spotting a guy who's benching nearly twice her weight probably isn't the safest scenario. (Rule of thumb: A spotter should always be able to support the full weight of whatever's being lifted.)

"I'm able to spot Terry on certain exercises, but if it's something bigger that I can't safely help with, he knows to call over someone else who's stronger," says Tina. Terry agrees: "It's all about knowing what you and what your workout partner are capable of, and putting your egos aside."

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Slow down, speedy!

Couples who want to run together often face the challenge of matching up their paces. But there's at least one good reason you shouldn't give up: According to a survey by Brooks Running, 41% of respondents say that going for a run makes them feel frisky.

When one person is the stronger runner, Tina says, he or she needs to decide what's more important: getting in the best possible workout, or spending some quality time together as a pair. "It becomes a more selfless activity for the stronger runner—and it will probably be more enjoyable, as well."

Of course, if you've both got different goals or are training for races, asking one person to run a little slower all the time isn't the best idea. Instead, try planning one person's fast runs to match up with the other's recovery days, run side-by-side on treadmills at the gym, or head to the park together but do your own thing for 45 minutes then join up again at the end.

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Find a class you both love

If working out one-on-one seems a little too close for comfort, consider taking a group fitness class together. That's what worked for Terry and Tina: "I found a kickboxing class that I thought he'd enjoy, and when we walked into this room full of people, it didn't matter what level we were at or what our strengths and weaknesses were," says Tina.

He may not dig your female-dominated yoga classes, though, just as you may not love his macho weightlifting studio. To help you both feel comfortable, look for an activity that attracts a mix of men and women and that each of you will actually enjoy.

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Make it a date

Fitness doesn't have to take place in the gym or on the running trail. In fact, some of the best workouts don't feel like traditional exercise—like going skiing or hiking together, playing volleyball on the beach, dancing the night away, or cycling around town. Take turns suggesting active dates that will get your heart pumping, and you may find your attraction to each other growing, as well.

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