Some couples' idea of a romantic date is dining at an expensive restaurant followed by a trip to the theatre. But for husband and wife team, pilot Chris Wright and nurse Alison, working out together gives them a chance to work on their relationship. The couple use their time hiking Hong Kong's mountains or lifting weights in the gym to catch up on each other's busy lives. 'We've discussed and resolved many conflicts when exercising together,' says Alison. 'And we often save those all-important financial discussions for our hikes.' Working out with your partner means quality time together, plus the additional benefits of getting fit. Whether you head to the gym for an hour, tandem cycle, run or shape up at home with a Pilates DVD, working out with a significant other can turn an obligatory exercise session into something fun and rewarding. 'Every relationship has its issues but training together often helps overcome those,' says Adam Menhennett, director of Physical Harmony Personal Training. 'It's a great way for couples to re-connect. Seeing each other work hard and improve is a very positive thing, maybe she likes the changes she sees in him, and vice versa. It can help get over a relationship hurdle,' says Menhennett. Psychiatrist David Lau says common interests are vital in nurturing a good relationship. 'It's a good time to talk about any issues or problems within the relationship,' says Lau. 'Each person can concentrate on what's being said and on finding a resolution. 'Sharing the experience and feelings of exercise as a couple is a good thing which could spill over into all aspects of the relationship so that people get used to sharing and talking. There's no doubt that seeing your partner focus on getting healthy, watching their body change and noticing their self-confidence grow will enhance intimacy.' Emma Bruce, a teacher at Hong Kong's City University and her husband, Thorsten, general manager at a medical company, enjoy the time they spend together while exercising. 'We always work out together. We go hiking and to the gym, and run together.' The pair ran the Phuket International Marathon last month. Bruce says having similar fitness levels and the same approach to the half-marathon helped. 'We chatted all the way. Committing together to do something was a good idea as it meant we had to do it. I'd get us out the door, but Thorsten would make us run further.' Bruce says exercising together has made her realise they make a good team. 'I suppose our training times are opportunities for us to air any problems and resolve differences because it's just the two of us, with no distractions. It's a good chance to chat about issues at work or anything that might be bugging you. I know we managed to sort out quite a few things on our training runs together.' Personal trainer Louise Porter says the Bruces are successful because they ensure they have similar goals before starting an exercise programme. 'It's stating the obvious, but men and women are different,' she says. 'Physically, mentally, and how they approach exercise, too. Often women want to lose weight and work the lower body while men want to bulk up, concentrating on the upper body. 'Then there's the ego issue with the man often insisting on lifting too much weight to impress the partner, and then giving the wife a hard time if she can't complete a set. It's important to resolve all these issues before they start,' Porter says. 'Agreeing on the fitness goal is the first step, and if there's a physical limitation with one person, like hypertension or joint problems, the programme has to be modified to allow both parties to achieve that goal safely,' she says. 'In a place like Hong Kong training couples can be challenging,' says Menhennett. 'You often have very motivated, focused and competitive people here, which can mean a great training session.' The professionals follow their own advice, too. Trainers Stephen Choi and his wife, Cat, have worked out together for more than a decade. 'We love to be with each other. And we haven't experienced any problems with the set-up,' says Stephen. 'We work out for more than two hours every day and it keeps us close - we have so much more to talk about in our lives.' The couple devise programmes for each other, analyse, encourage and even criticise each other's form in the gym. Working out with a personal trainer is another good way for couples to exercise together, provided they've discussed their individual goals and decided what type of training they want to do together. The class structure also works well, says Menhennett. A spin, yoga or fitball class can provide the sort of non-competitive environment that's perfect for each partner to work at his or her own pace. 'With running and cycling you'll never have a perfectly matched couple so it becomes a juggle to make it hard enough, yet safe enough for both partners to get a good workout without feeling bored or injuring themselves.' Another husband and wife team, vet Justin Choo and editor Erin Bowland, decided to take up dragon boat racing four years ago because it was something they could share. 'If only one partner is into a sport it takes a lot of time away from each other with training and competitions,' says Bowland. 'We can sit and chat about training sessions, comment on each other's technique and generally share the excitement. It's good to share the same interests.' Trying something new together is also a great idea, says Porter, although it's important to make sure both partners want to do it to prevent feelings of resentment, and quitting. 'Writing a list of every activity you'd like to try is a good start. You may find you're both curious about tai chi, for example, or wouldn't mind giving salsa dance lessons a go or learning to play tennis together.' It's also important not to make comparisons. 'Men often lose weight and gain muscle quicker than women and that can be discouraging,' says Porter. 'Having individual improvement markers - like increased flexibility and speed - is preferable. It all requires compromise, but then what aspect of a relationship doesn't?'