I know Charis to be deeply interested in fitness for its own sake. She also appears to take a holistic view of this passion, ensuring she’s all-round healthy. Married for the last 1.5 years, to a man just as interested and capable, perhaps more, when it comes to personal fitness, Dennis, both appear to be having the time of their lives what with living in the “Big Apple”, finding interesting restaurants, exploring each other’s preferences and thoughts and partnering with each other to achieve their individual health and fitness goals. They spoke to me recently, and shared their thoughts on fitness being a couple activity.
Sid: I know you’ve been a fitness enthusiast since forever. Was an interest in fitness a quality you felt necessary in your prospective partner?
Charis: When I first started taking my health seriously, I joined kickboxing classes. These were intense sessions, but also so much fun that I ended up making some very good friends from the class. Once regular classes became a habit, I knew this was something I wanted to continue and obviously having a partner who was interested in health and fitness, someone I could share the pain and joy of workouts with, was always a priority. I must add though, that “lover of food” was also a priority!
Dennis: I always was an athlete through high school, but somewhere along the road college happened and then work came along, and I completely stopped trying to stay fit. A day came when I realized how over weight I was and how out of shape. I was out of breath while just climbing up a flight of stairs, and that is when I decided I need to start making time for the gym. It took time but I slowly got back into shape with regular exercise accompanied by a better diet. I don’t think when I was looking for a partner I was looking for someone who was completely into fitness, but more for someone who understood the necessity of fitness and having a good well-rounded diet. I was lucky to have found someone who not only understood the importance of fitness but also loves Crossfit as much as I do.
Are both your focus areas in terms of general health and fitness, the same or do you both have different aims?
Charis: I thinking largely we have similar goals: being healthy and strong. My goals have never been becoming skinny. Crossfit changed my perspective and goals from trying lose weight, to aiming to be strong. I do have some specific goals of learning and mastering certain movements and skills like the double under or toes-to-bar, but those keep changing. The focus has always been on being holistically healthy, and not being caught up with how the body looks.
Dennis: I think over time I have realized that weight has nothing to do with health. My goal is to be strong and fast. My goal is to run as fast as I used to when I was in high school. I might never be able to get there, but I sure will give it my all. I have gotten pretty close over time. I want to be able to lift double my weight and do a ring muscle up. I had always wanted to be a part of a Crossfit competition and in 2014 I was a participant- it was amazing rush. But even though we have different goals on what we want to achieve, all in all our main goal is the same which is to be fit and healthy.
Is it easier or more difficult to exercise together, considering both of you are established practitioners, rather than just exploring the basics together?
Charis: The kind of work-out we do, is meant to be done together, or rather in a group. We go to a Crossfit box in our neighborhood 3-4 times a week. It’s usually a very intense one hour session with about 10 other people that includes some form of cardio/gymnastics and strength training. We’ve been doing this together for about a year now, and even longer separately. I’d say it’s so much easier to work out together – it’s amazing to have a partner who motivates you to be stronger and better.
Dennis: For me it’s always more fun working out together, but because of our busy jobs, coordinating days when we will work out together becomes the tricky part. Somedays work can be brutal and one of us may not want to work out and just relax or do something else. I think if I didn’t have Charis it would be more difficult to convince myself to go to the gym after a rough day at work. But at times we skip the work out, and do something lighter like going for a long walk or for a run. All these things are better enjoyed when there is someone to share it with.
So much sweaty laundry you won’t even believe. – Charis
What’s the best thing about working out together?
Charis: When one person is feeling down, the other becomes the motivator and vice-versa. Also experiencing the post-workout high together is pretty awesome!
Dennis: I think for me it is being able to share something I love with Charis. Also I tend to be lazy and she makes sure that I go to the gym.
What’s the worst thing about working out together?
Charis: So much sweaty laundry you won’t even believe.
Dennis: I can be critical about the way she might have handled the workout, which she doesn’t like me telling her.
I’d say it’s so much easier to work out together – it’s amazing to have a partner who motivates you to be stronger and better. – Charis
What’s the most irritating thing about a spouse who has as many opinions and probably as much experience as you do about health and fitness?
Charis: We’re argue sometimes about a type of workout or some kind of diet, but usually there isn’t one right answer, so no one “wins”.
Dennis: I don’t think there are things which annoy me; I like the difference in opinion. We usually talk it out and meet somewhere midway.
I think our meal planning is one of the most fun things in our marriage, especially since both of us love food so much. – Dennis
Apart from your exercise schedule, do you also work together on creating meals that support your health goals? What do you do?
Charis: We both cook, but Dennis is a much better cook so I’m usually quite spoiled with delicious, fresh meals. We try to meal-plan every two weeks or so because that’s the frequency of our grocery shopping. We love the Paleo diet, but often indulge in non-caveman treats and meals in restaurants outside. We both love food very much so we try to be conscious about portion control. Our Crossfit box often has Nutrition challenges – these are usually over a period of 6-8 weeks, where everyone at the gym makes a commitment to eating healthier and we all hold each other accountable. I’ve realized that denying ourselves things we love to eat will never help in the long run. Adding a few (unhealthy) treats into our diet once in a while, makes it more sustainable over the long fun and infinitely more fun!
Dennis: I think our meal planning is one of the most fun things in our marriage, especially since both of us love food so much. Even during the work day, we discuss what kind of things we can make, or what we should make sometime down the road. I try to plan meals which are healthy and incorporate a lot of veggies and meat so that there is a proper balance. Charis doesn’t like many veggies, and I try to make the meals more fun while also being balanced. I prefer eating as little processed food as possible. I even make chicken broth from scratch at times- so much tastier and healthier that the stuff in cartons!
Tell us about the last time both of you agreed to disagree about a health related topic.
Charis: I absolutely hate running and Dennis loves it. I realize it’s one of the best ways to kick-start weight-loss but I loathe it anyway. We have agreed though, to run more in the summer. UGH.
Dennis: I think for us it revolves around cooking on how and what to cook. She likes to eat her pork and chicken and steak, but I love to also eat brussel sprouts and cabbage and cauliflower. Therefore, incorporating both things into our diet every single day is the challenge we face.
Any dishes that you end up including in your daily diet?
Charis: We both are ardent meat-eaters so to consciously include more fruits and veggies in our diet we’ve started drinking a smoothie for breakfast every weekday morning. It’s made with whatever fruits/veggies we want, but always includes some spinach or kale, and protein powder. This is a great start to the day and keeps us going for a while. On weekends our breakfasts are more indulgent and usually involve eggs.
I don’t think there are things which annoy me; I like the difference in opinion. We usually talk it out and meet somewhere midway. – Dennis
Dennis: I try to include as much garlic and ginger possible in our diet, and try to cook a lot of fusion food -both Indian and non-Indian. There are no specific things I try to include everyday but we do try to make dishes we like healthier by substituting ingredients in the recipes.
We’re encouraging our members to work out together and to approach health as a couple and a family, where possible, rather than as individuals. What’s your take on this?
Charis: I think that’s really the only way to do it if you want to sustain a healthy lifestyle. When a couple approaches fitness together, they motivate each other, they eat healthier, they get fitter together and it makes the relationship stronger. There have been countless days when or the other one of us have been lazy, but the other gave the push that was needed to get off our bums and head to the gym. Also, when your significant other has seen you lying half-dead on floor post-workout, sweat dripping from every pore, and crazy hair and still tells you that you look beautiful, you know you married the right person!
Dennis: I think couples should always work out together. In some ways it’s like a team building exercise. When you work as a team to reach your health goals, you’re building a sustainable lifestyle choice, you get to spend more time with your significant other, and you tend to be happier! That’s a win-win-win situation!