The Workout Routine That’s Kept My Marriage Healthy for 30 Years

My wife and I have two grown kids and an exercise habit that keeps us connected. It helps us stay relaxed and balanced.

Ron Humes is a 51-year-old father of two kids, 24 and 19. He and his wife met in a YMCA in 1988 and have spent the past 30 years of their marriage working out together, five days a week. Fitness is how they connect, decompress, de-stress, and work on being good parents. Here, Ron talks about his exercise and what it means to have a wife who is a built-in workout buddy, co-parent, and wife, all in one package.

My wife and I actually met in a YMCA back in 1988, in our hometown, in Wisconsin. Fitness has been a foundation of our relationship — we even got certified as personal trainers at one point. They say, sometimes, that opposites attract — which can be true — but I would add that you have to share some interests. We do. We’re very serious about working out. I think that shows. I’m not trying to be arrogant or anything like that, but we’re serious about it. We take pride in the fact that we don’t look or act our age, physically.

We have always belonged to gyms throughout our lives, but when my wife was pregnant with our first child, we decided to get a fully equipped home gym. We kept that equipment and worked out at home for 15 years out of the 30 we’ve been working out together. But to do that, you have to have a lot of discipline. We do, and that was never a problem for us. Our commitment to our two small kids, and the problems with day care and children and gyms, made getting to a gym outside of the house more difficult. These days, we work out at a real fitness center, because our kids are older. Our workouts today are about two hours. We get up every morning, five days a week, at 5 a.m. We’re in the gym together by six, and we leave by eight.

There are a few things I do to unplug when I work out: I leave my phone in the locker room. There’s no reason why I can’t do that. You have to set yourself as a priority, just like you would a client. If you set a meeting with a client for an hour, you turn your phone off and give your attention to that client for an hour. I have to do that same thing with myself. I have to set that appointment, leave my phone in my locker, and allow myself that.

I just believe you need to give yourself that time and make yourself a priority. Throughout my life and our relationship, exercise has been an emotional and mental stabilizer.

The biochemistry of endorphins and serotonin has a real effect on your emotional states. It’s real. Runner’s high is real. It’s a biochemical response to physical activity that makes us feel better. I’m not saying it doesn’t hurt! I don’t mean it’s fun. People say, “It’s easy for you because it’s fun for you.”

But it’s not. Getting up at 5 a.m. and getting to the gym at 6 a.m and being 50 years old and my body is trying to wake up? That is not always fun. But I need it. I’ve jokingly said in the past, that with some of the most stressful jobs I’ve had in my life, if I didn’t have physical fitness and exercise there would be a trail of bodies behind me. It’s a joke, but the real mental benefits are legitimate.

Working out in the same space, having that shared hobby and passion — it’s great for me and my wife. My wife and I work out a little bit differently, but we have a program that works out well for both of us. The thing that I find that has always been something that has been cohesive for our relationship is that we understand our need to exercise together. When we go on vacation, we look for decent gyms and hotels.

We don’t even need to talk about it; we just look for the gym. We understand each other. We understand that makes us feel better and connected and makes us healthier. That is a bond that we share. That we know each other and we encourage each other. There’s no question of “Should we go to the gym on vacation?” We’re going. It’s not begrudgingly, either. One of us doesn’t say, “I’m so sick of you always needing to go to the gym.” My wife and I understand what we need from each other and what we need to do together.

We are still physical beings! We weren’t meant for sitting all day. I need to burn that energy. It’s amazing how much better it makes both me and my wife feel when we go to the gym.

We both feel the benefits of just feeling better about ourselves, together. It’s amazing. The last time I took a summer off from exercise, I was 17. It was so strange for me to feel as out of control and out of touch with my body as I was. I never took a break that long again. It’s important for me to feel in control. I do not like the way I feel without exercising. I feel way more in tune with myself and my body and my system.

A lot of people talk about the high they get from exercise. When I wake up in the morning, waking up is different. It takes longer for me to wake up, for my body to get going, for me to heal. But I find that when I get up in the morning at 5 a.m., I don’t like it. I don’t like seeing that. I don’t jump out of bed going, “Woo! I get to go to the gym!”

That’s just not my reality. I get up out of bed, I ache, I pop. I get into the gym and I go, “I’m not feeling it today.” But by the time I leave, I feel refreshed, and believe it or not, I actually feel rejuvenated. I go home, take a shower, and I just feel like I’m ready.

It was the same back in the olden days. When I used to work out after work, I’d come out of work with stress in my back and shoulders and I’d be worn out. But I’d feel mental stress more, and mental stress is tough. I’d go to the gym and feel the tension melt away. My mind would disappear, and wander. It’s like fly fishing, mowing a lawn, going for a run. Sometimes the mind just drifts.

It can melt away the stress from the day, I’m telling you. By the time you get home, you’re relaxed, rejuvenated. Tired? Yes. If you’re doing it right, you should be.