Training, Racing & Romance
Many of Adam and Meghan Russo’s first dates were spent building up a sweat at the gym, taking part in group classes, or lifting weights. As their love grew, so did their commitment to staying fit together.
“We’ve shared many great moments, like making it into the two-hour club for the (Amway) River Bank Run 25K in 2021, starting to swim together during training for the Ironman Lake Placid, and seeing each other during the bike and run course of the Ironman Louisville and Ironman Maryland triathlons,” said Meghan, adding that she also appreciates seeing Adam waiting for her at the finish line.
Research shows that couples who work out together tend to stay together. One reason is because exercise induces the same symptoms of physiological arousal – sweaty hands, racing pulse and shortness of breath – which mirror the thrill of romantic attraction, reports Psychology Today.
When they met, Meghan was a personal trainer, and both liked running. Adam had taken up the sport to support his mental health and to spend more time outdoors, while Meghan had been running since her cross-country days in high school. Before long, their casual runs turned into training for races. By 2013 -– two years after they started dating – they ran their first half-marathon together. Five years later – and two years after tying the knot – they completed their first marathon.
Sharing support, accountability
That’s when a friend challenged the Grand Rapids couple to complete an Ironman with him in 2019. Working toward an Ironman – consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon 26.2-mile run – meant training upwards of 17 hours a week. Doing it as a couple added an extra layer of moral support.
“The body gets tired, muscles are sore, and it’s mentally fatiguing, but having someone in the trenches makes all the difference,” Adam said.
“The best part of training together is having an accountability buddy,” he said. “There are often days when one of us doesn’t feel like getting out the door for a run. It may be too cold, too hot, too snowy, or too rainy. It’s nice to have someone to give you a nudge.”
After they transitioned to triathlons, they faced steep learning curves for biking and swimming, especially in open water. Being there to support each other kept the couple motivated.
Workouts are planned, yet flexible
The biggest challenge can be working out their schedules. Meghan prefers to get her workouts done early when possible, while Adam prefers later in the day. Those preferences also reflect the demands of work schedules. Meghan is a physical therapist assistant with Spectrum Health, and Adam is the owner of the West Michigan public relations firm COM 616.
Their advice for other couples is to plan a training schedule weeks or months in advance. Having a training plan in place removes the daily guesswork of what activity or distance needs to be completed.
“Even with a well-thought-out plan, it is essential to be flexible and know that life happens and changes are inevitable. It’s important to give each other grace to modify the plan when necessary,” Adam said.
Since 2013, the couple has competed together in nine half-marathons, seven 25Ks, three marathons, four 70.3 half-Ironman distance triathlons and three full Ironman triathlons. These fitness challenges have taken them to New York, Kentucky and Maryland.
Blending fitness and travel
Traveling for races is an opportunity to take a mini-vacation.
“We are national park enthusiasts, so we make sure to stop at parks along the way and fun locations that we haven’t been to before,” Meghan said. “For 2022, we are intentionally planning more races outside of West Michigan – it’s a great way to share our love of sport and traveling.”
Adam’s advice for couples who want to add fitness to their time together is to begin and stay consistent.
“The key is to push yourself,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re challenging yourself to finish your first 5K or an Ironman. The feeling of pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and committing to improve yourself is the same at any level, and it’s what’s most important.”
This year, Meghan will run in the Boston Marathon, and together they plan to compete in the Big Sur Marathon, the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon in Indianapolis, and the Chicago Marathon.
“We are also challenging ourselves to running a 50-mile race. Anything is possible!” Meghan said.
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Photo credit: Adam Russo