Better Together: How Empty-Nesters can Grow Closer through Fitness

I had a revelation the other day which, in hindsight, it shouldn’t have been as big of a surprise as it was in the moment. Let me explain…

Our average Member at Thriveology is around 52-55 years old. We have Members who are older and younger than this. But that age range is where most of our Members tend to stick.

For the longest time, I tended to define our community as primarily “middle aged” (I know I’m going to get yelled at for that one, but it is what it is). And I still do for the most part. However, the other day I spent some time wondering why we have so many couples who join The Pack.

Sure, our training is the best in the NKY/Cincy area. And, of course, it’s partly because they might have friends who are Members as well. But I knew that, somewhere, there was another connection between all of these couples that I was overlooking.

And that’s when it hit me. Most, if not all, of the 10 or so couples who are part of our Pack are empty-nesters. If they do still have kids in the house, the kid is 17 or 18 and ready to graduate high school (or the kid is in their 20s and living off of Mommy and Daddy as long as possible…like I did).

So ,what does being an empty-nester have to do with fitness, exactly? That’s a great question. And to get us started, let’s first take a look at what happens when the birds leave the nest for good…

Life with Kids…

I’d like to begin this section by admitting that I’m am no empty nester myself. As a matter of fact, I don’t even have kids. Everything I’m suggesting in this article is through pure study and observation. So, take it as you will…

The average family nowadays has about 2.5 kids. For simple math’s sake, let’s round that up to 3 kids. Assuming that the kids were born 2 years apart, this hypothetical couple had children over the course of about 4 or 5 years.

Now, add on top of that the average 22 years that a child stays with its parents and you have about 26-27 years of living with children.

Think of all the time and effort that is taken up by raising these kids. Going to sporting event. Playing musical instruments. Taking gymnastics. Needless to say, there is not a lot of time for the parents to build their own relationship or, for that matter, to even learn how to properly deal with each other!

And then Reality Hits…

And suddenly, as the last kid is ready to leave the nest for good, reality begins to set in. And, on average, there are 3 general thoughts/fears that go through these parents minds when this time comes:

#1) I suddenly have no one to take care of, so where am I going to put my time?

#2) There’s no buffer between my spouse and myself, so we’re going to have to re-build our relationship.

#3) I’m fat and out of shape and have no energy, so there’s no way I’m going to be able to enjoy this new-found time for myself.

Okay, this may not be exactly how these fears are laid out. These are, however, thoughts and feelings that I hear regularly from potential Members.

So, going back to the question, what does this have to do with fitness? And how can fitness help strengthen the relationship of a newly empty-nested (if that’s a word) couple?

Better Together Through Fitness

I wish that I could say that any fitness endeavor attempted by a couple would lead to a stronger relationship. But, sadly, that’s not the case. 

Maybe you’ve tried joining the gym with your spouse in hopes of building a stronger relationship through a bonded workout, only to get to the gym and want to do completely different things for completely different reasons.

Which is natural, by the way. We all have our own reasons for wanting to get back in shape. Maybe you want to feel better about your body again while your spouse just wants to put on some muscle. Or maybe you’re hoping to gain more energy while your spouse is hoping to build a shredded six pack.

No matter what your individual goals are, any couple can benefit from improving their fitness together. But in order to be successful in your endeavor, there are 3 guidelines you must follow for the plan to work:

#1) You have to be in it for you FIRST

To start with, you have to want to get in better shape because…well…you want to get in shape. This may sound selfish, but let me explain…

Have you ever had a friend or family member who started a diet or exercise program because their spouse wanted them to? I’m sure you have. Maybe that’s even been you.

And what does this person usually say about this situation? Maybe things like “Sally has me on this stupid grapefruit diet to lose weight” or “Johnny’s trying to get me to go to the gym with him. It’s like he thinks I’m fat”.

Do either of these sentences sound like all-in, supportive statements? Absolutely not. Which is why you have to start your fitness journey when you’re ready. Not when your spouse is ready. But when you’re ready.

#2) Once you’re in, you have to decide to support each other’s goals no matter what

Like I’ve said before, everybody has their own reasons for wanting to get in shape. Some people just want to lose weight. Some want more energy. And others want to look good naked.

But, no matter the reason, you have to decide to support your spouse in their fitness journey no matter what their goal is. You cannot judge. You cannot criticize. 

If they want a six pack, it does not make them shallow. It just means a six pack is what will make them feel good about themselves (or maybe they want to try to shred some cheese on it…ha…stupid bodybuilder joke).

#3) Surround yourself with like-minded people like you

As important as the previous 2 guidelines are, this is where most couples fall short. You may have good intentions. And you may have the support built in. But if you put yourself in an unsupportive environment, you’re going to have an uphill battle on your hands.

There’s a reason why so many empty-nester couples flock to Thriveology (pun intended). It’s because our community is filled with like-minded people who have been through similar lives and have similar needs and wants.

In the right environment, you’ll find that it’s easier for you and your spouse to reach your goals and you’re much more likely to achieve things beyond what you even thought possible.

The ultimate example of this can be expressed in an event we did last year. In June of 2018, 30 of our Pack Members decided it was a good idea to do a 10 mile Tough Mudder together. For those that don’t know, a Tough Mudder is..well…a mud race filled with 20 obstacles including climbing, crawling, running, rolling and swinging in and around mud.

The reason this is so spectacular is because of the stories of each person in the group. I don’t have time to name all of them, but here are a few:

One of our Members was in the midst of receiving treatment for cancer during the Mudder. There was one particular obstacle that required a ton of team work to complete. When it was her turn to try, our community cheered and screamed and willed her to success. Her husband did the Mudder to support her (he enjoyed it, too. Although he would never admit it).

Another Member had gone through a long diagnosis of a thyroid issue the year before. She was losing her hair, had skin rashes, and went through a tough mental time. To celebrate her recovery, and her 60thbirthday, she did the mudder. Her husband did it as well.

While I could go on and on with stories, the point is this: your best chances for success are to surround yourself with people like you, who will support you no matter what and will be there for you when you fall.

As corny as that sounds, it is the ultimate truth.

 you in your 50s and ready to build a growth mindset about your fitness?

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