The Danger & Pain Of Ditching Your Family For A Workout

I recently came across the WSJ article “A Workout Ate My Marriage” (from 2011). Here’s a snip from it:

As the wife of an endurance athlete, Caren Waxman wakes up alone every morning, including holidays.

A recent Saturday afternoon, Ms. Waxman and, from left, Lily, 10, Jacob, 11, and Jonah, 8.

“Mother’s Day really upset me,” says the Rockleigh, N.J., mother of three, age 47, whose husband leaves before dawn each morning for hours of exercise. In May, he will wish her a happy Mother’s Day from Utah, where he will compete in a triathlon.
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“It’s selfish,” concedes her husband, Jordan Waxman, 46, a private-banking executive at Merrill Lynch and an Ironman triathlete. He says he leaves notes for his wife and children before leaving for morning workouts.

With exercise intruding ever-more frequently on intimacy, counselors are proposing a new wedding vow: For fitter or for fatter. “Exercise is getting more and more couples into my office,” says Karen Gail Lewis, a Cincinnati marriage and family therapist.

Newlyweds have long recognized the risks of potential sickness, infidelity and ill fortune. But few foresee themselves becoming an exercise widow. After all, the idea that one’s beloved will take the occasional jog sounds appealing—until two miles a day becomes 10 miles, not counting the 20-mile runs on weekends. “His dream of doing marathons happened just when I got pregnant with our third child,” Stephanie Beagley of Colorado Springs says of her husband, Michael, a purchaser for the U.S. Olympic Committee. “Now we don’t have tons of time with him.”

The exercise widow often wakes to an empty bed—a sure sign of a morning workout—and may find dinner plans spoiled by a sudden avoidance of anything heavy before a night run. Hoping for an hour of television or catching-up before bedtime? Forget it: All that early-morning exercise takes its toll. Mr. Waxman arrives home from the office after his children, ages 11, 10 and 8, have eaten dinner, and he hits the sack before they do. “I’m out of gas by nine o’clock,” Mr. Waxman says.

“A lot of wives in my position would have left,” Ms. Waxman says.

Commitment to a demanding training schedule cuts to the heart of the issues couples often find themselves fighting about—who does chores, who gets time for themselves and who decides where and how the family has fun.

I wrestle with this every time I go for a run or hit the gym. On one side, I hope that I am setting a proper example for my kids – letting them see that it’s good and important to exercise even at my age. (I’ll be fifty in four months.) But, on the other hand, I feel like the time spent working out is time that I could be with them – even if it’s just being in the house with them in case they wanted to show or tell me something for a second. (My kids are eight and ten.) And, if I try and get my workout done before the kids are up or after they go to sleep, then I am impacting my wife – maybe making the morning more hectic for her or leaving her alone in the evening watching TV instead of sharing some private time sans kids with her.

The whole thing is a double-edged sword. It’s good for you, and, in many ways, good for your family, to be healthy – and that means having to get your exercise done. But, it takes time to workout and that has to come from somewhere – and often means less time with your spouse and/or children.

In the end, all you can do is your best and try and balance it out to make sure that both sides of this equation equal out. But, it’s not easy. And, there’s guilt on each side of this as well – guilt if you miss a workout and guilt if you miss time with your family to get some exercise. For me, that’s what makes it so hard.

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