Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Health

These Tampa Bay 'swolemates' work hard at fitness and love

You know the couple. The one posting those sweaty gym pics with the #fitcouple and #mealprep and #coupleswholift tags, with expressions of absolute bliss.

They're swolemates, soul mates who like to get "swole" together, and they're making it look fun.

And why not?

A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that after participating in a physical challenge or activity, couples reported feeling more satisfied and in love with their partner. Various studies also have shown that working out with a partner can increase frequency of workouts and boost performance during those sessions.

We asked some local swolemates about their routines and what working out together has done for them and their #relationshipgoals.

Chris Werner and Kaeli Ellis, both 34, St. Petersburg 

Three years ago, Ellis was working a desk job, smoking two packs a day and had never set foot in a gym. She had never really even exercised, aside from an occasional yoga class or living room aerobics via YouTube.

When she quit smoking, her boss recommended a fitness class to help. She ended up at Anytime Fitness in downtown St. Petersburg. Werner was managing then, and offered her guidance and encouragement.

"I knew this was a place that I could feel free to not know what I was doing — to experiment and to struggle," she said. "It was in these moments, of challenge and creativity, that a deep love grew between us."

Werner is now an owner at the gym. Ellis, a creative director at a local design firm, used those skills to help form the gym's identity by designing their fliers, T-shirts and signs.

"I like to brag about how much I taught her, but now she is teaching me things. She even teaches a group fitness class," Werner said.

What kind of fitness activities do you do together?

Ellis: Every Saturday, we take a yoga class together. The rest of our weekend consists of lots of movement. Swimming, hiking, playing disc golf, kayaking or just taking long walks. Every Sunday morning, we make time for an epic workout that has no rules or time constraints. We always close those workouts with partnered exercises and experiments. We have so much fun making up new exercises and challenging ourselves and each other.

What are the advantages of having a swolemate?

Werner: Being fit and taking good care of our bodies helps us do all the things we love to do. We expect to use these bodies for a long time and retire to spend out our lives exploring and adventuring, so we train for longevity.

Ellis: Partnered fitness also means you have more quality time together, time in which your adrenaline, endorphins and serotonin are peaked and your need for encouragement and support is heightened. That has been proven to deepen emotional bonds. Not to mention, those who work out together enjoy better, more satisfying lives in the bedroom.

Is it ever annoying having someone else who's into fitness?

Werner: I don't think so. Even if we are annoyed with each other a hard workout usually reels us back in. I'm attracted to her discipline in the gym.

What effect do you think the fitness aspect has on the rest of the relationship?

Ellis: It has taught me so much about myself, my partner and our strengths and weaknesses. Now, when we are challenged together, we learn to problem solve together, no matter what the problem is.

Favorite cheat meal?

Ellis: We try our best to eat clean throughout the week, but when we cheat, we cheat big. Sometimes it's an abundant array of cured meats, cheeses, fruits and breads. Other times it's a wild assortment of cereal — Cinnamon Toast Crunch is one of Chris' favorites — or licorice, my favorite.

 

Jessica and Jason Sallman, both 28, Tampa

@fitpower_couple on Instagram

Kaeli Ellis and Chris Werner working out at Anytime Fitness in St. Petersburg.

They were high school athletes, and sweethearts, but it wasn't until after college, a couple of kids and some extra pounds that they seriously started working out together.

After their son was born two years ago, "We decided it was time to start taking care of ourselves," Jessica said. "We not only started going to the gym every day together, we completely changed our lifestyle."

Jason and Jessica credit much of their success to a nutrition program, losing 53 and 35 pounds respectively, and eventually becoming coaches with Herbalife and starting the Instagram account @FitPower_Couple.

Jason said it lets them "spend our days helping out clients with their goals all while being able to be present parents and work with each other 24/7."

What kind of fitness activities do you do together?

Jason: No matter what type of workouts you are doing, the most important advice I can give on that is to just do something that you enjoy. So if you like to play basketball, dance, hike, surf or work out in a gym, the point is just to make sure you are moving. We also try to make it a family affair and even host free fit camps in the New Tampa area where our two little ones work out right beside us.

What are the advantages of having a swolemate?

Jason: Having an incredible accountability partner like Jessica allows me to lean on her a little when I might not be feeling up to it, and vice versa. We also push each other to not get complacent in anything that we are doing and always strive to get 1 percent better each day.

Jessica: Having someone to get gym pictures and videos of you. More seriously, though, we are able to push each other to be our best and become our best.

Is it ever annoying having someone else who's into fitness?

Jason: Sure, when I am taking 20 pics in the gym just trying to get the perfect angle.

Jessica: Sure, when he can't get the right angle on my gym pictures.

What effect do you think the fitness aspect has on the rest of the relationship?

Jason: It just improved who we are as people. Before we made this lifestyle change we were kind of unhappy with who we were. We were overweight, tired and just down. We have developed into much happier, more energetic people. Plus kids can really take it out of you, so living this healthy and active lifestyle has helped us keep up.

 

Patrick Sully, 36, and Brittany Speary, 27, St. Petersburg

Courtesy of Brittany Speary

Patrick Sully and Brittany Speary.

Sully, a chef at Oyster Bar in St. Petersburg, and Speary, a hairstylist at Whole Salon in Oldsmar, connected outside Anytime Fitness at the beginning of Speary's fitness journey. She had met him previously through mutual friends while getting drinks downtown, and knew he was a member there, which was "part of the reason I got the membership," Speary recalls.

Once Speary got used to the gym, she asked Sully for help with her form. Before long they were planning their workouts together.

"As with most new to the gym, all she needed was a little direction and coaching," Sully said. "As per her suggestion, I wrote her a program of body weight resistance, isometric holds and active stretching in the form of yoga poses. She ran with it."

What kind of fitness activities do you do together?

Sully: We both have busy and demanding jobs, which doesn't leave us with as much time for other activities as we would like, but we do make a point for long walks for active recovery and conversation.

What are the advantages of having a swolemate?

Speary: Motivation and accountability.

Sully: Having someone to share the same lifestyle as you as far as having the same respect for rest, recovery and nutrition.

What effect do you think the fitness aspect has on the rest of the relationship?

Speary: Because of the time we put into our bodies at the gym, it opens up our options for activities outside of the gym, such as active date days.

Favorite cheat meal?

Speary: Having a health-conscious chef as a swolemate has made the nutrition aspect of this journey so enjoyable. We do love to binge on tacos and gelato from time to time.

Sully: More like crushing an entire pint of gelato.

 

Parker Lennon and Christina Martin, both 31, Temple Terrace

@xtina_m_martin on Instagram

Christina Martin and Parker Lennon.

First they met digitally on Facebook, because of their mutual friends in the fitness community. He asked her to go surfing. She blew him off a few times. Then they met in person during an outing for a friend's birthday.

Naturally, they lifted weights together the next day. Lennon, a fitness instructor, and Martin, a doctoral student and instructor at the University of South Florida, have been "pretty much inseparable" ever since, Martin said.

What kind of fitness activities do you do together?

Martin: We probably spend more time together than most couples. We work out together, or at least at the same time, almost every day. We surf, we run half-marathons and obstacle course races. We have been ziplining, paddleboarding, fishing and hiking together.

Lennon: We're planning to compete in physique and bikini competitions together in spring of 2018.

What are the advantages of having a swolemate?

Lennon: Less stress and resistance about getting to the gym. Healthy mind, healthy body, better naked, better relationship.

Martin: Anything I want to do, he is game for, and vice versa. Having someone who I can ask, "Hey, want to hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim with me?" and "How about when I graduate we hike the entire Appalachian Trail?," and knowing they will say yes, is comforting.

Is it ever annoying having someone else who's into fitness?

Lennon: On leg day when I'm trying to avoid doing a hundred booty exercises ... yes. Other than that, no. I think it would be annoying to be in a relationship where someone doesn't understand or respect why you work out.

Martin: It is only annoying when Parker doesn't want to do leg day with me because I do "too many girly hamstring exercises."

Favorite cheat meal?

Lennon: Mission BBQ in Temple Terrace. I usually get a chicken barbecue sandwich, fries, mac and cheese and a sweet tea. We prep meals every week together so it's nice to break away from the chicken, broccoli and rice.

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