It was the first time I'd ever spooned someone in front of other people.
We were lying on our sides, him behind me. His foot was torqued around mine. As we raised our top legs, he applied resistance, making me push hard to lift. As we lowered our legs, I returned the favour.
Of course, it wasn't exactly lovey-dovey: My workout partner and I were exercising our inner and outer thighs, having already exhausted our larger muscle groups to the point of jelly limbs. We were far past the point of feeling sexy. And watching our every move were Toronto trainers Peter and Edna Pereira.
So at least it was just the four of us – kind of like a double date, minus the dinner and movie. They brought the yoga mats; I offered up my apartment. We broke the ice while warming up with arm circles. What happened after was not nearly as X-rated as you might expect. More like PG-13.
The Pereiras' fitness program, Fit2Touch, is for couples who want to share more time together, while enjoying the benefits of exercise. With a few exceptions, there are no outside aids except you and your partner.
My workout partner and I know each other well, but that did not preclude awkward moments. Even deciding where to look fired up my inner dialogue. (Deep into his eyes? Into the distance? At his … pants?) Also, people who look sexy when they exercise have probably mastered their technique. The rest of us just look rigid or clumsy.
Just like a relationship, Fit2Touch is not easy. It requires trust, communication and perseverance. If we didn't balance against each other properly, one of us would fall. If he kept mum about needing more resistance, he wouldn't get maximum benefit. If we didn't get through five more repetitions, we both felt like wimps.
But having each other was also motivating. I tested my limits to make his workouts harder. In between grunts, he would encourage me through sets. There was something faintly pleasurable about experiencing the pain together.
One exercise, for instance, consisted of us standing back to back, bums touching, with our legs at 90 degrees to the floor. Getting ourselves lined up was tricky enough, let alone completing a series of squats. Adding weights increased the challenge even more.
The highlight: When he was lying on his back and I held a plank position across his body. From there, he raised opposite leg and arm toward each other as a variation on a crunch. Peter suggested that this would be a prime opportunity for a little spank. Then we switched roles. One of us had a bit more fun with this than the other.
The hell: When I was told to lie on my stomach with my feet and lower legs in the air. Sitting with his legs outstretched, he gripped my ankles and pulled them downward to do a seated row while I applied resistance through my legs. This was a total assault on the hamstrings. He hated the standing row (guess who played the weight).
How did they develop so many creative positions? "Oh, we were just fooling around," Peter said, realizing the double entendre only afterward.
They came up with the idea as friends while working as personal trainers at the same gym. They launched Fit2Touch as a class, then filmed a DVD, appeared on Dragon's Den and somewhere along the way, fell in love and had a baby.
Peter explained that manual resistance is nothing new; they're just taking it to another level. "The touch training is a huge component for couples to get close," he said. "We want couples to support each other and take control of their health," Edna added.
If you can surrender to the novelty, there's little to dislike about the program. Some people enjoy working out alone – a necessary space from their partner – but in that case, Fit2Touch can still serve as a fun adjunct.
As for whether a couple at different fitness levels can get a solid workout together, the answer is a qualified yes, as Edna and Peter offer constant modifications during the session. But as my workout partner said to me afterward, "I was surprised by the about amount you can fudge it if you're not both trying; you have to really want to do it." Price is another consideration: to train with both of them starts at $120 a session and increases if more travel time is involved.
For some couples, I imagine the endorphin rush from the combination of exercise and connectedness makes quite an impact. Fit2Touch, you could say, is strength-building on many levels. Don't forget, the heart is a muscle, too.