February 11, 2013

Couples exercise together to strengthen bodies, relationship

Couples who work out together strengthen their bodies — and their bonds

When Sarah Wilson was pregnant last year, she continued her CrossFit training, even doing pull-ups at seven months.

“I worked out through my entire pregnancy, up until the day I gave birth,” said Wilson, 32, of Miami Beach.

Today, she works out about four times a week after work, usually from 7 to 8 p.m. She brings her 4-month-old son, Ryder, to the gym, where her husband, David, 34, who works out from 6 to 7 p.m., takes him home in a tag-team handoff.

“With a new baby things don’t happen always like you want them to,” she said. “You have to be patient and flexible. No matter how tired I am, I go work out because I know I will feel better after.”

The Wilsons, like many couples, are discovering that running, walking, biking and lifting weights can lift their marriages as well as their energy levels. They’re squeezing in their workouts between babies, kids and demanding careers.

“Our enthusiasm for being in shape feeds off each other and motivates us both,” said Jeffrey Kolokoff, 33, an attorney who works out regularly with his wife Emily, 31, also an attorney. “Plus, we get to spend a little extra time with each other every day.”

The couple trains at Peak Physique and Performance gym in the Edgewater neighborhood off Biscayne Boulevard. They walk to the gym from their home.

About two years before getting married, Emily began working out there. She convinced Jeff to join her, about a year before their November 2011 wedding. She focused on her arms; he strengthened his core. She lost about 25 pounds, he, about 30.

“He looked just spectacular in his tuxedo on our wedding day,” she said.

Today, they go to the gym three times a week, an hour per session, usually after working 60- to 70-hour weeks.

“It’s just like anything else. Once you make the commitment to do it, it becomes a part of your routine and then you start to imagine how it was ever not part of your regular weekly routine,” said Emily.

The Kolokoffs don’t have children.

For families with children, fitting workouts into the schedule between homework, school drop-offs, pick-ups, after-school activities and family dinners can be a complex task.

Ask Lowell and Beverly Crawford. The couple used to work out together when they were first married. But they stopped when their son, Lance, was born 16 years ago.

Four years ago, they carved out time to resume their workouts.

“We realized that after our son went to school, there was one hour that we would drink coffee and do things that were not as useful to utilize our time,” said Lowell Crawford, 45, who owns a realty company in Hialeah.

They began jogging, going to LA Fitness and using the gym in their Davie condo complex.

“Sometimes working out by yourself gets boring and it’s a challenge,” said Lowell. “When you have your wife with you there to push you, it gets more encouraging.”

Today, they work out four times a week. Their son, who plays basketball for the Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, often joins them cycling or practicing basketball.

“When he’s down at the court, he goes through several shooting drills and I’ll act as his assistant and actually go through his defense,” said Beverly, 44, who owns an insurance agency in Miami Lakes. “I get to spend quality time with my son.”

Sarah and David Wilson also found a way to fit in exercise with their 4-month-old son’s schedule.

The two moved to Miami in 2006 because David’s job brought him here from Los Angeles. Sarah, who owns an apparel company, joined Team In Training, an organization that trains marathoners and triathletes and partners with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

She began training every weekend.

“I was still in party mode, but Sarah was at a completely different page,” said David, executive vice president for Engine Shop, an event marketing company in Miami Beach. “Either I was going to follow her in this passion and join or I would have just been on my own every Saturday and Sunday morning.”

One year later, they started running marathons, doing triathlons and got into CrossFit.

“Now we are both at the same page and we are both very passionate about it,” he said.

For Lori and Kevin Hart, their early morning runs began in 1990 when Lori, a personal trainer at Memorial Fitness Centers in Broward, convinced her husband to train with her.

“It was challenging, but when your wife is a personal trainer it makes it easier,” said Kevin, who is a civil engineering at South Broward Drainage District.

Today, the two have completed half marathons, full marathons and triathlons. They have been married 26 years.

“Marathons take commitment, dedication and training,” said Kevin. “We run the whole race together, and doing it with your wife is fun.”

They start their Sunday mornings running on Hollywood beach with the Memorial Milers, a training group they coach together. The Memorial Milers is comprised of about 250 people who train from September through February for the Fort Lauderdale A1A Half Marathon, which is Sunday.

Lori, 51, is the head coach and supervises the slower part of the group; Kevin, 53 , handles the faster ones.

“I can’t imagine being married with someone who is not doing this, sharing this with me,” she said. “It gives us a common treat in our lives.”

Sometimes, the couple workouts begin later in life.

Jesus Miguel “Chucho” Gomez, 67, started biking 12 years ago after he hurt his knee playing racquetball. He rode a stationary bike but got bored and switched to a tandem bike, which he rode with his wife.

She passed away, however, as did the husband of one of the couple’s longtime friends. He got together with the widow, Helin, and began riding the tandem bike with her.

Today, they’re married and often lead the weekly rides with the Everglades Bicycle Club, South Florida’ biggest cycling group.

“It’s always nice to ride the tandem because you are never riding alone,” said “Chucho,” who rides in the front, turning, steering and braking.

“Basically she just pedals,” he added. “She has a chance to answer the phone and things like that.”

The couple bikes an average of 140 miles per week. On Tuesdays and Thursdays they ride from their Schenley Park home to Key Biscayne, where they stop for coffee and then head home.

They have taken their collapsible bike on trips to Montreal and the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. They pack the bike in two suitcases.

“The best is that we’re spending the time together,” says Helin, 64, who is retired. “Otherwise I’d be home alone and he’d be out there alone.”

Miami Herald writer Margaux Herrera contributed to this report.

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