For many people, sport is a strictly solo activity. Whether it’s a run, a swim or a yoga session, it's the alone time that holds as much value as the exercise benefits.
But between work, sport, children and hobbies, the one thing that often falls by the wayside in a tight schedule is time with your partner. And exercise may just be the perfect way of spending that quality time and reconnecting.
One benefit of working out together is motivation — it's much harder to quit if someone's spurring you on. And there's nothing like a bit of healthy competition.
It comes down to a bit of science too — exercise releases endorphins and gives you a healthier body, making you happier. Both of you. Plus it de-stresses, helps you both sleep better and look better. So do couples who sweat together stay together?
We spoke to six couples who swear the secret to a happy relationship and being a model couple is all down to sport.
Lydia Sasse (29) and Dominic Mullan (30), Walkinstown, Dublin
Lydia and Dominic both had yoga backgrounds, but by furthering their practice together and adapting their lifestyle, it has made for a healthy, solid and argument-free relationship.
I'm a yoga teacher so I do a lot of it during the day, but I also go to classes and practise at home — it has become part of my lifestyle. I also do Pilates and salsa, and next week I’m starting aerial acrobatic classes, which I'm really looking forward to.
I've been with Dom for six-and-a-half years. He introduced me to the Elbow Room yoga studios in Stoneybatter, and now we're both doing a teacher-training course through there. We take classes together and practise at home together as well.
Yoga's a wonderful thing for us to share. We help and support each other when it comes to working through problems with certain postures or extending our classes. Even the other day, we were having lunch and talking for ages about the philosophy of yoga — he said: ‘Isn't this amazing that we have this in common.’ We're even going on a yoga holiday to Mexico for a month.
Outside of yoga, we spend an awful lot of time outdoors. We have a dog, so go hiking a lot. I don't drink or smoke, but we like a night out, and tend to go dancing. Having so many shared interests is definitely good for us — and yoga itself helps a relationship, I think. We don't argue — and yoga gives you tools to deal with stress and problems, so they don't turn into rows. www.yogawith lydia.ie
I became interested in yoga when I was about 20. My dad got a notion to try it and organised a teacher to come over to the house every Saturday morning, so, slightly apprehensively, I joined in, and for the most part, I've been practising ever since.
I’m a musician and have been playing drums full-time for about eight years. The repetitive movements involved in drumming can create issues in the body and can bring strain to the spine. With yoga practice, you develop a good awareness for what’s going on with the body. This helps me to play drums in a relaxed and safe way.
It’s such a nice thing to be able to share yoga with Lydia. To wake up on a morning and be able to practise together really brings you closer and sets you up for the day on the same wavelength.
Definitely the best thing about having yoga as a shared interest is that we are both growing in the same direction. There are many benefits, but the big ones for me are that I'm calmer and happier. To be cultivating these positive attributes together makes for a strong bond.
Gina (35) and Eamonn Potts (48), Kilpedder, Co Wicklow
Gina and Eamonn met through diving — and it has remained a passion for them since.
I was always into swimming, and diving was a natural next step. I've always loved the sea and the notion of getting out on it in any weather felt like great freedom. I was also into taekwon-do as a teenager, but joined the diving club in DIT, Kevin Street, in my 20s.
Eamonn and I met on a club Easter diving trip in Baltimore, west Cork, and we fell in love with the place, and each other. Then we spent every Easter after that for six years in one or another fine diving spot on the west coast, meeting new friends and catching up with old.
Having a shared hobby has definitely strengthened us — I've seen some strain on other couples when the reluctant partner comes on a dive trip. I think it can be difficult to be as enthusiastic about each other's passions when you don't share them. You also get the chance to relax and enjoy each other in different situations (eg bouncing around on a rib in choppy sea in the rain) and you get to see other aspects of each other.
I wasn't sporty at all when I was younger; only in my late 20s or 30s. But I always liked swimming, and I began playing underwater hockey and met a group of divers there.
Gina and I both like walking and cycling as well as diving — we do have a lot in common like love of nature, the outdoors and art.
It was an easy decision to get married on a diving holiday — it was lovely to be among our friends in a similar situation that we met.
Having similar interests means we get time together to enjoy things, and we spend more time together doing things that we both enjoy. Our plans for the future? To get fitter and live a long and happy life together.
Rob Bannon and Natalia Kostrzewa, both 27, (right), Kimmage, Dublin
When Rob and Natalia found themselves both unemployed in their acting careers, they decided to embark on a fitness project together — and blog their results.
We both wanted to exercise but I thought it'd be good to set up the blog because it would make us both want to do it — our friends and other people we didn't know would be viewing it. And judging us. We wanted to get healthier — but vanity plays a big part. When you're on stage or on camera, you don't want to be thinking, ‘oh, my wobbly bits are on show'. I was quite an active child. Then I moved here and it kind of stopped. Life just took over. But I really missed that energy and fitness.
We started looking out for programmes that would suit us. I chose the Tracy Anderson Method. I also used to flick through pictures of celebrities to help motivate me. And Rob's goal was Brad Pitt in Fight Club.
The method definitely does work — but it can get boring. So I recently joined a gym that has loads of classes to keep me interested. I'm going to do aqua aerobics — just to make it fun. I get very bored very quickly. Also focussing on what we ate was important. We just decided to be sensible, eat well, eat organic as much as possible, cook at home. We had a lot of fish and chicken, wholegrain and sweet potatoes. And if we cheated, it had to go on the blog, so we didn't very often.
We'll definitely keep it up. I think it's a good message to people who are unemployed — don't sit around watching TV, this can be time to take care of yourself.
I used to play football — but with acting, you don't get as many opportunities to do it. I went to the Euros, watched Ireland, and drank my body weight in alcohol.
So when I came back, I didn't have much acting work on and thought, right, I'm going to give myself a programme — to try to get fit and healthy. The great thing about the blog was that it was great motivation — when you know someone's going to read it, it really pushes you.
When I was looking for a programme, I saw the Insanity workout with Sean T. The video's really impressive; you just see people sweating and nearly crying on it — at the start you think, why would anyone want to do that?
I thought it'd be perfect — it's a two-month programme and you can do it all at home, no weights, no going to the gym.
Because we were both unemployed and in the house at the same time, I'd take the bedroom and Natalia would take the sitting room. But although you're doing it on your own, you hear the other person in the other room doing theirs and it spurs you on.
After two months, I can’t believe the results. When I look at the before and after photos, I realise how much my body has changed. And that's just cutting down alcohol and a bit of discipline. Anybody can do it. It's just an hour out of your day and you feel really good for it. www.tryingtogetfittogether. blogspot.ie
Denise (34) and Mark Egan (35), (above) Ferbane, Co Offaly
Denise and Mark started running to train for this year's Dublin Marathon. They found that they had to juggle shift work, a young child — Jack (2) and some very time-intensive training.
After putting on weight with my pregnancy, I started to go to bootcamp. At the end of my first session, they had us run a mile and I thought, okay, I love this.
When I was seven years old I started running and I loved the buzz of winning. I was beating all the boys in my class, and went on to running clubs. I ran for Ireland twice when I was 13 and 14. In my teens . . . I got fed up. I suppose life got in the way. After bootcamp, I remembered how much I loved running and decided to give it another go. I dragged Mark out with me — and we became really healthy competition for each other. Now, he's addicted too.
It's tough enough, to be honest, with us both doing shift work, but there is a balance to it.
I've the treadmill plonked in front of the TV too — whatever works. The treadmill is so boring, but it's handy for when I can't get out, and I know it'll be worth it in the long run. I'm in the best shape of my life. My diet before this was brutal, but now I've lost weight, and I feel so healthy it's unbelievable.
Jack's watching what we do — he's hopping up and down on the treadmill, raring to go. And he's rooting for me over Mark — ‘Mammy's faster!' It's changed our lives for the better. It's lovely on the rare occasion when we can get out for a run together, and can just talk about our day.
I never ran until nine months ago. One day Denise dragged me out of bed and said, come on, you're unfit. She took me around a two-mile track.
After that, I signed up for the Spartan Challenge, and started training properly. I had to look at my diet as well — before that, with shift work, I was used to grab something quick, without thinking about how nutritious it was. Now we're cooking at home every night.
With Jack, it's been hard to fit in all the running. I'm a garda and Denise works shifts, so we juggle our time to fit in runs. I've lost two-and-a-half stone. And I’m sleeping better. The only problem with it all is none of my clothes fit me.
We cut out alcohol, which is fine, but we went to a wedding recently, and it can be a really long day. Instead, we usually go to the cinema, or put Jack to bed early and watch a DVD. It's just so nice to sit down together, with all the training we're doing. We really cherish that time together now. I spend more time with Denise and Jack than I ever did before.
Andrew (42), Christina (35) Fay, Baileboro, Cavan
Andew and Christina started doing duathlons together after a recurring knee injury forced Andrew to give up football. They have three children: Sarah (16), Michaela (15) and Shauna (12).
I didn't kick a ball until I turned 33. The first day, I couldn't manage a lap around the field, and couldn't believe all these lads could do it. But I got better, and played until I was around 40, when my knee got injured. After I quit I bought a bike and I loved it.
I started doing duathlons, and my next challenge is a triathlon — I started taking swimming classes five or six weeks ago.
The kids are really sporty too. Because we live in the country, everything's outdoors for us. We get out kayaking as a family a lot. I even took part in a few triathlons with kayaks instead of swimming. I love the competitive side of the sport and try to stay in the top 10 of my group.
But it's great to exercise with Christina as well — we run together, but normally take different routes when cycling — I'll go the long way and try to catch her. We swim together as well. This year has been the best year of my life. I've met loads of people. It's a competitive group and you have to work hard to keep up, but it's great to meet people like you.
I was very unsporty when I was younger — but when I wanted to lose some baby weight, I joined a running club. It was great; I was in no way the best runner there, but our team won everything for years. I'd been watching Andy race and thought I'd give the duathlons a go. My first event was in Dundalk and I'd no training in the cycling at all. But I really enjoyed it. It's great that, having to organise three teenagers and all their activities, that we get our own activities too. It's brilliant to get out together on a Friday evening for a run — plus it's all free. It really is quality time together.
Calin (41) and Andrada (37) Brehaita, Citywest, Dublin
Calin works as a personal trainer with Titan Nutrition, and both he and Andrada take part in and train people for bodybuilding competitions. They have a 12-year-old daughter, Alexandra
I've been involved in all types of sports since very young, especially team sports like Olympic handball. I later picked up kickboxing, and during my service in the Army, I discovered my attraction to weighttraining. The first bodybuilding show I watched motivated me to take it up.
When I met Andrada, I was already involved in the fitness industry and encouraged her to be a part of this. She was working as a psychologist but began training with me and really enjoyed it. Now she's studying to be a nutritionist and personal trainer.
The training is hard work — but I suppose what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and the same goes for our relationship. We can't really train together because our training programmes are very different (Andrada follows more fitness/cardio programmes, while I'd be more strength-training orientated). But it's nice to have it in common.
As a child, I was part of a swimming team, competing at national and international level. At the age of 15, when I stopped swimming, I tried to keep fit just going to the gym. I was definitely inspired by the amazing results in Calin's female athlete competitors. I managed to completely change my body shape.
It's definitely motivating to have a partner with the same interests — it is great support and easier to keep on track with healthy eating and training. I always follow Calin's advice. He is an amazing trainer and a great motivator.
It hasn't always been easy though. Actually, Calin's bodybuilding competition preparation (very strict diet) created some tough times in our relationship, but we were always able to find a way to overcome any issues.
The biggest achievement of our lives is our daughter and we both enjoy spending time together as a family.
This article originally appeared in Fit magazine.