In most relationships, it’s easy to identify which individual is the dominant athlete. CrossFit, by nature, incorporates a clock, gender-specific weights and the same workout for all, so it’s a constant competition. If you WOD with your lover, it’s unavoidable that somebody goes home the victor each day. I am a perfect example of a second-string spouse. My husband is a Regional athlete with the strength of a small army and a motor that never dies. He learns new skills the first try and can push through painful workouts without a problem. I, on the other hand, lack what I believe to be the mental capacity and natural physical gifts required to be a total badass. I like to think I’m a half or even three-quarter badass, and I work hard to continuously progress, but day after day, I face the fact that I cannot athletically compare to my spouse. I’m competitive, so the constant gym beatdowns can be unbearable.
But I recognize that CrossFit isn’t about couples going against each other, so over the years, my mentality has matured. Given my experiences, I feel compelled to share some tips to maintaining sanity and motivation as a second-string spouse.
1. Take pride in knowing that you contribute to your varsity-victors success.
When it comes to training, competitions and nutrition, the schedule and dinner menu can be overwhelming. And most athletes don’t manage it all on their own. I serve as the right-hand man (woman, really) to my athletically inclined partner. I watch the kids while he’s away, I make meaty meals to feast on, and I keep a close eye on any injuries he complains about. And because I can’t be like him and realistically wouldn’t want to be, I embrace my supportive stature as a pricelessly important one.
2. Offer support, and ask for it back.
Most advanced athletes get a great deal of support from their community. So it’s easy for a spouse to neglect vocalizing his or her own support. In addition, it’s important to request reciprocation of those kind words. Regardless of skill level, CrossFitters across the board have moments when a little pep talk is prudent.
3. Find a workout spouse … kinda like a work spouse.
The term “work wife” or “work husband” is common. Apply the same idea to your CrossFit classes. Rather than cling to your real-life love, find somebody closer to your skill level and make it your mission to keep up. I have a couple of workout husbands I’m able to share victories with. Win some and lose some. Feels much better than losing them all but keeps you on your toes.
4. Remember that it’s you against you, not you against your spouse.
The whiteboard and the “winning” can distract us from what our real goals are. Personal progress is always a better measure of success than unrealistic comparisons to spouses at a higher skill level. When frustration begins to brew, bring the focus back to you because that’s what matters most.
5. Find a few (or even one) things you’re better at. And remind him or her.
My husband is not good at hand walking. In fact, he’s bad at it. Turns out, I’m a rock star in that department. So anytime I’m feeling down on myself, I challenge him to some hand walking … and dominate. Then I proceed to remind him of my victory for several days following. This may be deemed a distasteful tactic, but sometimes it’s necessary.
Being a second-string spouse poses unique mental and emotional challenges. But put it into perspective and recognize that what goes on at the gym doesn’t define your role in your relationship. I may be second-string in the box but sure as hell rule the roost beyond that.
Co-Owner/Trainer, CrossFit 8035