Health and Fitness

Should You Stay in Shape When You're Married?

Only if you'd like your partner to still have sex with you.
IMAGE Universal Pictures

Making your way through this cruel, confounding, ever-changing world is difficult. Something make you anxious this week, or any week? Lay it on me at [email protected]. I'm here to help you minimize the damage you will necessarily inflict on the world just by being alive.

So, what's your problem?

Dear Dave,

So here's my problem. I'm trying to decide how good of shape to get in. I recently turned 30 and also got engaged a few months back. It's getting harder to stay in shape, and since I've already found someone who accepts me for who I am, I'm struggling to see the point of almost dying at Barry's Boot Camp. I'll admit I'm sometimes satisfied with turning the temperature down in my apartment (so everything shrinks) or attempting to use my sense of humor instead of hitting the gym. How do I find some fitness middle ground and motivation so I don't let myself go while still enjoying the occasional steak and IPA?


Congratulations for finding someone who accepts you for who you are! What a relief that must be. But consider this: Your someone accepts you for who you are now, not for who you might become after a few years of slacking off and coasting on your charm. May I assume that you conversely accept your fiancé for who they are in their current condition? Or have you both just crossed an imaginary finish line, and now you can relax and gain 75 pounds? You owe it to the person you're marrying to attempt to stay your optimal (healthy) self. You've engaged in false advertising otherwise, and I think that's still illegal, but who even knows anymore.


I get it, though. As we age and start families and get serious about our careers, it gets harder to make the time to stay in shape. We can't just spring out of bed for that 6 a.m. run, or meet our friends for that after-work pickup game the way we used to. (Did I sound convincing just now? I've literally never done either of those things in my life.) As we get older, our social time often becomes less active and more centered around food, drink, or chasing children around. Cruelly, it gets harder and harder to prioritize fitness at the exact moment our metabolisms begin to slow down.

Your someone accepts you for who you are now, not for who you might become after a few years of slacking off and coasting on your charm. 

But you have to, and it's not just so your fiancé will still want to have sex with you. It's about staying energetic and limber and free from the eight million diseases extra belly fat can saddle you with. It is a thing you must do for you, and you must do it now, because you just turned 30, and you will be 45 in about a half-hour. Trust me on this.

As with so many things that are good for us, I think it's important to engage in self-deception. Trick yourself into staying active by making it social. Wherever you are, I am certain there is some kind of 5K or 10K fun run coming in the next few weeks. Check, find one, grab some friends, and sign up for it. It will get you in the habit of social exercise, and I can tell you with almost complete certainty that there will be beer and food trucks at the finish line. Get out there and live a Michelob Ultra ad.

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Once you have a couple runs behind you, step it up. Talk to your friends and some of the weirdos you've met at these things, and sign up for a half-marathon. A half-marathon is the perfect event because it requires a lengthy period of serious training, but that training won't ruin your knees and weekends for six months the way full marathon training will. (I speak from experience here; the summer before I did the New York City Marathon, I was such a furious, lumbering monster that hanging out with me qualified as an endurance event.) Train with a group. Not only will it give you an excuse to stay active, you can actually have some really good conversations once the endorphins start pumping. You can vent about work and marriage and life in a healthy way, and you are far more likely to remember what you said than if you had this conversation in a bar.

Train with a group. Not only will it give you an excuse to stay active, you can actually have some really good conversations once the endorphins start pumping.

If your knees won't allow a long run, try a 100-mile bike ride or a lake swim. Make it something you absolutely cannot do right now, and then slowly, patiently turn yourself into the kind of person who can. I think this is the most important reason why you ought to take on an endurance event: As we age, we often forget the unique joy of gradually getting better at things. School is behind us, we settle into a comfortable routine in our careers, and we neglect the simple act of learning something new. I do a couple of triathlons every year, and what I love about them is that in February, I physically cannot cross that finish line. But in June, if I have trained correctly, I can. It is a simple (by that I mean unbelievably hard) reminder that there are always opportunities to learn and challenge ourselves and grow. You might as well take them.


By the way, steak and IPA are things you are allowed to have, and they don't have to devastate your body. Go with spinach on the side of that New York strip, instead of a baked potato or fries. If you need a starch, bake a sweet potato. It'll raise your blood sugar gradually, rather than shooting it skyward and then sending it (and you) plummeting. You can also enjoy a couple of drinks a night; in fact, science says it's good for you, and science never lies.

You have found someone who accepts you for who you are. But that doesn't mean you can't keep getting better.

Send any and all questions (besides math questions) to [email protected].

This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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