As a competitor with a career and a family, it can be very difficult to balance your training life with your family life. It seems that most of the athletes that I coach, receive the majority of their stress about training time from their significant other. Either they are spending too much time away from home, or just feel like they aren’t spending enough time together. I have experienced this myself, and it leads to an unsupportive and resentful environment at home. I hate having lifters show up to a meet knowing their spouse is at home, instead of there to support them.
What is the solution here? Making your training something you can do together. With the surge of women coming into strength sports recently, there is no better time than now to get your lady involved. There are more women in the gym lifting heavy weights now than ever before. With that, means there are more women already in the sport that can bring in their significant other as well. Get them involved in your gym family, the lifting community, and let them experience why you’re so passionate about it.
Coaching your spouse, sounds great right? Think about it, she/he won’t be left at home alone while you are training. You will be able to spend more time together and share a hobby. Best of all, you will finally get to boss her around for once. Now, before you get too excited let’s make sure this is really for you and your’s. This new endeavor has its ups and downs, and pros and cons. It is not always glamour, roses, and excitement and can really put stress on a relationship at times. But it is definitely not without its rewards. Just like your everyday relationship together, this new relationship will take hard work as well, but is worth it.
First, a brief background about the Bethunes. I have been lifting weights since I was 12 years old, I was hooked early on in life. After a bad back injury that left me unable to play football anymore, I began bodybuilding and powerlifting at 18 years old. Starting with bench only competitions for the first few years. I have been competing in Powerlifting for over 10 years now. My wife Toni Lynn, is the most athletic woman I have ever met. She played softball all of her life and passed up on a college scholarship because of certain circumstances. She has been racing Motocross for 19 years now. A brief stint with the Atlanta Steam football team. Recently competed in her first NPC Bikini competition and has done a hand full of powerlifting meets over the past 2 years. She keeps me busy and is always challenging me as a coach as she’s never training for just one thing at a time.
Everyone always wants the bad news first right? Let’s go ahead and get the downsides and struggles out of the way. You are not always going to agree on things, let’s get that very clear, but it’s ok. As I’m sure you already know, your partner does not always take instruction well from you. Male or Female, it is always hard being told what to do by your partner. Not all of your feedback is going to be positive, especially in the beginning. At the beginning of the process, you’re going to be telling them more what they are doing wrong and not as much praising about what they are doing correct. This is going to be stressful, but at this stage, form is the most important thing and you have to grind through this phase.
Sometimes they will just say, “NO!”
“What exercise do I have next?”
“I hate those, I am not doing them…”
Arguments, they are going to happen, and when they do, expect to deal with it on the ride home. Be careful here, if you make a scene, you won’t hear the end of it. Other people are going to offer them advice, and most of the time, it will contradict your views. If you are a competitor getting ready for a competition, and they are not on the same training schedule, they will still expect you to spot every set. If you decide to compete in the same meet; good luck. If you’re doing her diet for her; good luck.
Now that I have scared you away from the idea, let me offer up some simple solutions to these small problems. You know you’re not always going to agree. But that’s the case with everything in a relationship. How do you choose where to eat dinner together? Compromise. None of us want to be bossed around by our partner. Coach, remember who you are talking to, be patient, this is not a client. It is your best friend, and you still have to share a bed with this person. Athlete, Remember where you are and who has the knowledge. Try to look at them more as a coach while in the gym.
When dealing with negative feedback, be as positive as possible while critiquing and ALWAYS praise them when they do it right, positive reinforcement.
Do not be afraid of the word “NO”. This is where I compare training your spouse to raising a child. Make them feel like they have a choice, when they really don’t.
“Put on your Blue shirt”
“Daddy, I want the yellow shirt”
The yellow shirt is dirty, and you know she hates the red shirt.
“How about you pick either the red shirt or the blue shirt?”
She thinks she had a choice and is happy about that, and you got your way without a fight. Same thing when your partner says they don’t want to do a certain exercise. (Sarcasm completely intended here).
“You have GHRs.”
“I hate those I want to do leg extensions.”
Knowing that she hates lunges even more…
“Them you can pick between Lunges and GHRs”
“Ugh, okay GHRs…”
See what I did there?
Arguments will happen, but let’s call them disagreements. If you keep calm (which is hard during training) and don’t make a scene or embarrass her, you’ll be fine. If you make a scene, it’s your fault and be prepared to pay the price, because you deserve it. I learned my lesson the hard way.
When other people offer them advice, acknowledge that it’s not necessarily bad advice but it just does not fit in with your program or work in conjunction with how you are currently training. Especially if this advice is coming from a friend of their’s.
Taking care of them, while still training yourself is a difficult task. The best solution for us has been for us to find her 2 training partners, they follow her routine and I slightly tailor it for their specific needs. I have their workout written out ahead of time for them and they all train together. This way not only do I only have to spot and monitor on her top sets, she also has 2 more athletes closer to her level to help push and motivate her even more.
Do not try to compete on the same day. Just don’t do it. We tried it and it was too much for me to handle. Helping wrap, hand off, monitor her warm ups, and call her numbers while competing myself hurt both of our performances. That day should be focused solely on one of you.
Lastly, her diet. I would not recommend doing your wife’s diet for her, especially if it is for any sort of show. Do you really want to be what is standing between your wife and her Reese’s cup? My solution here was to outsource her diet plan. Let someone else be the bad guy, you don’t want that role. I let the owner of the gym we train at handle that for us, Nathan King of the Grithouse, his wife Dawniel is an IFBB pro and they both know their stuff. So I knew she was in good hands either way.
With all of that being said, the good, the bad, the ugly, and how to deal with each, let’s talk about the most important thing, how rewarding this journey can be. I
can tell you from experience having a wife that shares my passion and supports my lifestyle 100% has turned into the best and the most rewarding relationship I have ever had in my life. This life brought us together, it is the only reason we met as we lived over 100 miles away from each other, and it has built a base and foundation for a marriage with my best friend. She is my biggest fan, my biggest supporter, my biggest inspiration, my cheerleader, my hand off man and my best
friend. I also feel just as much joy and pride when I get to watch her compete, race, or step on stage.
We do it all together and make every event a family event.
If I had to do it all over again, I promise I wouldn’t change a thing. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. If this is something that you are passionate about, and something you love, then why not share that experience with the person you love the most? The majority of our friends are other athletes that share our lifestyle and passion, as well as other couples that train together. We have developed our friendships together and built our own little network together. It is not, “her friends” and “my friends”, they are all our friends and as we actually call them, our “gym family”. I could not be happier with our situation and the love and passion that we share, not everyone understands this life, but having a spouse that shares that passion is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
Justin Bethune is a Raw Powerlifter in the 220/242lb weight classes. Coming from a throwing background, he is a Strength and Conditioning coach as well as an Online Powerlifting Coach and the owner of BA Strength and Conditioning.