Two couples in Singapore share their experiences with personal training, and how getting healthier together has benefited their relationships.
Studies have shown that couples that sweat together are likely to stay together; working out as a twosome has been shown to benefit romantic relationships by increasing couples’ emotional bonds and creating some healthy competition. Even exercising separately but sharing the common goal of getting in shape and keeping healthy can be a plus for a couple’s connection. Here’s how.
Afshan and Dhanya Thakkar
Canadian expats Afshan and Dhanya started working out with Ultimate Performance (UP) Singapore as a couple two years ago, after realising they wanted more consistency with their workouts and diets. Though Dhanya was exercising a few times a week, he found himself getting injured quite frequently and not eating as healthily as possible due to his work travel schedule; meanwhile, Afshan’s fitness regime was too “on and off” and she craved more constancy.
After turning to UP for help with strength training without getting injured and managing their diets, the couple began seeing major results.
“We focus on weight training for most of the sessions and end with metabolic exercises like intervals on a spinning bike, pushing a sled loaded with weight on a track or using battle ropes,” says Afshan. “The goal is always to make sure our form and posture are correct and that we are working on all body parts to ensure the weaker parts, especially stabiliser muscles, are also strengthened in the process. The weight training has had many benefits – it has helped us get better at climbing mountains, and I just did a half marathon with almost no training!”
Getting fit together means they have constant cheerleaders in one another, say Afshan and Dhanya. In fact, Afshan credits her husband for inspiring her fitness journey long before they began training with professionals; she in turn inspires Dhanya to stay motivated and focused on his goals.
“I broke my back as a teenager and was bedridden for long time,” says Afshan. “After that incident, just walking again was a joy for me. Even after recovery, my back was always weak and I was told by doctors that I wouldn’t be able to do much. After our marriage, my husband encouraged me to start walking more and then to start jogging. It was very tough to start basic fitness in my thirties, especially with a back problem. Slowly, I started doing more and more and now, as I turn 50 this year, I’m the fittest I’ve ever been in my life.” She adds, “The tables have now turned and I inspire my husband. If he gets lazy or has food cravings, I jump in and remind him of his goals!”
When they’re not working out at UP throughout the week, Afshan and Dhanya enjoy hiking and running in Bukit Timah, and inspire one another to try new activities. Afshan has taken up the Japanese martial art Jo Staff, for instance, and has inspired Dhanya to learn as well.
A family affair
The couple has even inspired their own daughters (16 and 18 years old) to work out and get fit. Now, all four family members exercise with UP – each with their own goals.
“I wanted to get stronger, my husband wanted to achieve fat loss (and abs) and my daughters wanted to get faster for athletics. So, while our training plans are somewhat different, we support each other a lot, whether it’s counting how much fat, protein and carbs we are taking in at mealtime or just cheering the other person up when they are feeling down or patting them on the back when they reach a certain milestone,” says Afshan. “In a strange way, UP brings the entire family together and we all have something common to talk about whether it’s at the dinner table or on holidays. We can’t imagine it being any other way!”
“We try to train at the same times, as it’s good to smile at each other at the water cooler in between exercises to boost each other up! The water cooler at UP is where everyone during their one-minute break comes to give this encouraging glance that says, ‘Hang in there – we’re all suffering but it’s worth it!”
Eugenie Lam and Alexander Kleinberg
Upon turning 40, Alexander found that many of the things he had previously done to stay in shape were becoming less effective, and he wanted to nip “incipient Dad bod” in the bud, he says. Also, after the birth of his daughter, Alexander felt a sense of responsibility to take better care of his health and seriously commit to a regular training programme, particularly since heart disease and high cholesterol run in his family; he knew that a healthier lifestyle was a must. So, in 2017, Alexander followed through on his New Year’s resolution and started training with UP trainer, Sam Gallo.
“I started seeing benefits in terms of reduced inflammation and overall weight loss almost immediately, which were tracked with careful monitoring and measurements on a regular basis. Sam’s programme focuses on overall body composition, as well as extensive guidance on diet,” says Alexander. “I actually began looking forward to my gym sessions – the workouts are high intensity and high effort, but the results have made it worth it.”
After seeing how her partner’s health, fitness and physique had improved in just three months, Eugenie was inspired to start training with UP and began in April 2017, after much encouragement from Alexander.
“This was about 14 months after having my first child and I had been suffering from back pains, wrist issues and thyroid problems. It was time for me to take back control of my health and body,” Eugenie says.
Just three months into her fitness journey, she became pregnant with her second child and it became even more important for her to build up the strength she needed to support the pregnancy process and prevent the same issues from happening again after delivery. Eugenie embarked on a very specialised prenatal fitness programme with her trainer all the way up to her 34th week of pregnancy. After giving birth, she started training again at 14 weeks postpartum, with her trainer supervising every aspect of her prenatal and postnatal workout programmes, making sure the right muscles were being engaged during each exercise, and with the right form.
Now, Alexander and Eugenie each train with UP three times a week, though at different times due to their work schedules. While Alexander focuses on general strength training with the aim of building an aesthetically pleasing but overall healthy body composition, Eugenie concentrates on a range of upper body, back, glute and hamstring exercises with the goal of regaining core strength and back support.
“I set a goal of getting into the best shape of my life in my 40s, and once I got to that point I wanted to continue pushing to see what more I could accomplish. We periodically change the programme after certain milestones are reached, and I appreciate keeping things fresh. I love really knowing my way around a gym now, and Sam has been excellent at always emphasising proper posture and technique so that I can effectively and safely work out even when on business travel,” says Alexander.
“The programme changes from time to time, so it also helps keep things exciting,” says Eugenie. “I like trying out new exercises!”
“We both used to be active in a variety of sports from skiing and snowboarding to wakeboarding and dog agility. After having our first child, we realised that we didn’t have the luxury of time to take trips and do fun weekend activities as a couple,” says Eugenie. “Alexander was the first to sign up with UP and dedicate himself to a strict workout programme and now he’s in the best shape of his life. This inspired me to make fitness a priority through my prenatal and postnatal journey.”
A healthier lifestyle together
When they’re not exercising at UP, the couple is busy getting in some extra exercise by chasing around their two children. Alexander also plays in a softball league on weekends, and Eugenie does a combination of yoga and dog agility training. Having a partner who is equally committed to staying fit has helped keep one another accountable, and has inspired the couple to maintain a healthier lifestyle together.
“Fitness is now a priority in our lives and we share a common goal towards a healthy lifestyle,” says Alexander. “We acknowledge that fitness is a journey and not just something that happens overnight, so we encourage each other throughout the process, discussing our workout programmes and diet. We still love food, but we are now a lot more conscious about what we cook and where we eat.”
“Seeing the dedication in the other person helps keep each of us motivated,” they say. “Most importantly, we appreciate each other more and are happy with the results that we see in each other’s bodies!”
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