Physical training ruins our love life


My boyfriend is training for a marathon. He trains a lot – long races – and with work and our young children, he is completely exhausted. As a result, he simply never wants to have sex. I thought exercise was meant to boost libido, not the other way around.

Exercise is great for sex. It makes your heart beat faster and increases blood flow. It triggers the release of endorphins, which give you a runner’s high. It boosts your mood and your self-esteem. People who exercise generally have a more positive body image, so they tend to feel more confident when undressed. Being in better shape means you have more sexual stamina, which has obvious benefits in the bedroom. In men, being fit decreases the likelihood of erectile difficulties; in women, it is associated with increased sexual desire, arousal, and satisfaction. When psychologist Cindy Meston was studying the impact of exercise on female sexual arousal, she discovered that immediately after a workout, blood flow restores working muscles; 15-30 minutes after a workout, blood volume in the genitals increases, creating an optimal window for sex.

But when researchers like Meston talk about “exercise,” they’re talking about 20 minutes of fairly intense cycling on a stationary bike. Marathon training is a little different. It’s a test of stamina and endurance that requires three to five runs per week for four to five months. It’s physically and mentally demanding, and it’s a huge undertaking – so it’s no surprise that it keeps a man from wanting to have sex. Research has shown that the harder and longer men train, the less interested they are in sex, regardless of age.

It’s frustrating that something that’s so good for humans in moderation can have such a negative effect at higher intensities, but there are ways around it. First of all, it’s (obviously) pointless to make sexual demands of your boyfriend when he’s just been out for a run. However, it’s important that you get what you need because training your boyfriend also puts a lot of pressure on you. Any activity that regularly separates a couple has the potential to put a strain on their relationship and when you feel a little lonely or abandoned because their attention is elsewhere, minor irritations can build up and cause significant dissatisfaction. Remind him that running a marathon is something he does for himself, all by himself. It gives him a great sense of accomplishment – but you, however, are left alone every other night while he trains. It’s given you plenty of time to wonder why, when you sacrifice so much to support him, he can’t find the energy or the enthusiasm to do something to make you happy.

On days when he’s not running, you can start having sex in the morning when he’s more rested and less likely to feel stressed. Even if he doesn’t feel ready to have sex, being naked and having skin-to-skin contact will help restore intimacy. Opt for less strenuous positions, such as spooning. Oral sex is less physically demanding – so even if he’s not in the mood, he can still make sure you’re satisfied. Sex toys are also a great shortcut for both of you. It is worth remembering that the sexual difficulties you are currently experiencing have at least one finish line. If you can keep your cool and hold your own until the race, hopefully things will get back to normal. Unless, of course, he signs up for another.

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