July 6, 2016

Sporting love

Training together sets hearts racing

— Discover Squamish
Squamish athletes Rob and Sheena Harris pose by a wall covered in race bibs in the Challenge By Choice training gym. — David Buzzard

Couples who sweat together may stay together longer, so some Squamish people suggest it’s time to hit the gym instead of indulging in Valentine’s chocolates and flowers this weekend.

Training together has all the benefits of exercising separately – including less stress, better sleep and a sharper brain – as well as many added extras, such as increased motivation, improved cooperation and the enjoyment of a shared passion, according to studies. It’s also a great opportunity to shake off the stress of day-to-day responsibilities and has been shown to enhance performance in more ways than one.

Trainer Jen Segger of Challenge by Choice says she frequently sees couples working out together. Sometimes the workout even becomes a date. “We have some people who make it a night. We know that on Wednesday nights they come to class together and then go for dinner after.” 

If you’re single, working out can also lead you to the perfect partner, she adds. “If you’re doing what you love, you’re going to meet people doing that too… it’s going to be an easy click.”

One couple who met this way are Kelly Franz and Katy Holm, who have been climbing partners for more than 10 years after meeting through the sport. “We were both into climbing already, so it was easy. It was natural,” says Franz.

They now have a daughter, Ruby, and although life is busy, they still make a point of trying to climb together. “Climbing is our passion, so the more we can do that, the better. If it’s together it’s even better,” says Franz.

Achieving this was easier when Ruby was an infant. “We would carry her in a backpack to the base of the crag and then set her down in a little baby tent and hang out with her. When she was happy, we’d get in a pitch or two, and when she needed us, we’d just take a break.”

Now that she’s two years old, it’s sometimes easier to go bouldering or climb with other families, explains Holm. While one adult watches the children run around, the others climb. “They’re having fun because they’re playing, and we’re having fun because we’re playing,” she says.

As well as being fun, climbing can be emotionally intense due to challenges couples have to overcome together. “There can be high stress… intensity and fear, which can make communication between couples challenging,” she says. “It’s also relationship-building, though, because you need to somehow figure out how to work together in a situation that’s emotional and stressful.”

There’s also a great deal of trust within the relationship and an understanding of each other’s need to climb. “Having the common interest is beneficial in that way, because we both want to do the activity to the same degree,” says Franz. “Our common goal is to support and enable each other to climb as much as we want, in whatever form that may be.”

Another couple juggling childcare and training is Julie Miller and Ryan Letchford. Miller is a world champion triathlete who trains between 25 and 30 hours a week and runs a successful business.

With everything going on, finding quality time together isn’t always easy. Last year they ensured some time together by signing up as a husband and wife team in a grueling, seven-day mountain bike race. It felt like a honeymoon, Miller recalls. Letchford took the lead for the training, showing her trails she’d never ridden before. 

“He’s more the mountain biker and I needed to train with him to see a lot of the routes. He was able to show me all the places we were going and was able to give me some tips and hints.” 

That wasn’t always easy, Miller admits, because they both have stubborn streaks.

Outside of training together, Letchford is a huge support in every way, she explains, and she finds his belief in her inspirational. “I don’t think I could do the things I do without his support.”

There’s occasionally some friendly competition, though, especially when they both race the Test of Metal. “It’s like this little rivalry. I’ve only beaten him once, but it’s always there, and other people egg that on a little because they know.”

It’s a busy lifestyle but one they have chosen deliberately. “It brings us together – it’s how we spend our spare time. If we can find time to go skiing together or biking, that’s what we prefer to do,” she says, adding that they’d both rather forego a late night than a day of activity. “We both want to get up in the morning and go do things. That’s the lifestyle we want to live. That’s what makes us so compatible… It’s what brought us together and what keeps us strong.”

Sheena and Rob Harris were also brought together through sport. They met while Sheena was enjoying a coffee in Starbucks right after cycling to Whistler and back.

“When we first got together, we knew she was signing up for Ironman,” says Rob, “so my commitment was to support her and stick with her as long as I could. For me the training part was all about her as she was the one competing. I just got the benefits of doing the training with her.”

Rob is no couch potato, though, and plans to do a “couple of Xterras” some half-Ironmans and the Squamish triathlon.

They both train five or six times a week, and there are few activities they don’t do together, including rising at 5:30 a.m. for an early morning swim. “We’re spending good quality time together, so we get to know each other better,” says Rob. “As always with training, we have good days and bad days so we get to support each other through that too.”

Sheena is training for another Ironman this year and admits that, having trained solo before, she much prefers having a partner. “I couldn’t have done it last year without Rob’s support... it’s nice to have someone to get out there with.” Sheena’s goals also help keep them motivated, Rob explains.

Getting out to train together isn’t always easy, but you can make it work, says Segger. “Parents often do the tag thing in a lot of our back-to-back classes… so you get dad in first, tagging the mom who comes in next.”

If a shared love of the same sport doesn’t come naturally, though, don’t sweat it, she says. Just keep an open mind and embrace the journey of discovering something you both love. “Whatever it is you’re doing for training, you have to enjoy it, or else it becomes a slog and what’s the point in that? Life is too short. If the gym isn’t working for you, don’t do it. Find something that you do like to do and then, even better, do it with your partner.”

Squamish climber Kelly Franz spots partner Katy Holm on a climbing wall they built in the garage of their Squamish home. - David Buzzard

© Copyright 2018 Discover Squamish

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