Sex and the Running Girl

12.22.09: Can they really co-exist?


In one of my favorite recent pieces on running, Tara Parker-Pope explore the idea that running is the best time for R-rated conversations.


I have told running partners things I would not feel comfortable sharing with my own sister. We have talked about marital issues, sexual fantasies and everything in between. But a few days ago we had our first conversation about how our activity level affects our favorite topic of conversation—our sex lives.

It is easy to say it doesn’t. And maybe for the single runners for whom sex is not always within reach, this is true. But for married runners and parents especially, there are two energy-sapping activities we want to engage in everyday and the two do not always live in harmony with one another.

I never want to have sex before I run because, let’s face it, the calm serenity of post-coital bliss, while cozy and nice, is not conducive to sweating out a good six-miler later. And after a good, intense run? Well, all I want is a long, hot, steamy…. Shower. And bed. Thank you very much.

I am often sore and tired and not feeling particularly acrobatic (I am sorry, honey). And while I rarely turn down the opportunity, I am not always as into the idea as I once was. Alas. I blame the babies. But Rob blames running.

The fact is, he is probably betting on the right factor.

Naptime is finite, after all. On a good day, my children nap for three hours simultaneously and in that limited timeline, I am usually trying to squeeze in a run, some down time and (very often) time alone with my husband as well.

It is hard enough to find time to boogie with one baby and no vigorous workout schedule. Add another baby and an intense few runs and you are looking at three 15-minute slots left to shuffle in a week and filling those with snacks, a quick hulu video or an email is sometimes more appealing than more carnal opportunities (did I mention I was sorry, honey?)

Despite my feigned apology, this notion is not lost on the hubby. For the first few years we were together, he was on a competitive basketball team and he would abstain from (non) marital-relations for 24 hours before the game. This was when my only love affair was with him (I had not yet felt the enticing embrace of a long run), so I was not supportive.

This forced abstinence was a habit he picked up from high school and college where the coaches always told the players to refrain from sex on night before big meets, lest their fire be dimmed. And though I one pooh-poohed the idea as hogwash, I have discovered some truth to the theory.

The times I have run after a good romp have been less than stellar. My time is worse, my limbs more sluggish and even just summoning the energy to lace my shoes seems daunting.

The funny thing is, some studies suggest that sex before races actually improves times. Consider this from Running Times:

“Israeli scientist Alexander Oishanietzky was a vocal proponent of the benefits of sex, saying before the Barcelona Olympics, "Women compete better after orgasm, especially high-jumpers and runners." In an interview after her 1993 U.S. 10K title, Lynn Jennings attributed her win in part to having had sex the night before with her husband.”

Clearly they are crazy. Or, they are not living with two toddlers.

It must be the latter. After all, maybe all this is just the cumulative factor of having very young (and spirited) children, plus being a runner, plus having a husband who is not a runner and therefore not depleting his energy stores. Whatever the reason, sex and running are often at odds in my life.

Sex is an important part of the relationship I have with my spouse and running is an important part of the relationship I have with myself. And while I always manage to do both, one inevitably suffers from a lack of passion. And as someone who hates to deny anything my full effort, this is often vexing.

I suppose it is a bit like budgeting (another little something I have never been particularly good at). There is only so much to go around, people. I am not made of mojo (even though I like to pretend otherwise). Something has to give.

The truth is all moms (and probably all women) have to juggle these kinds of decisions. Sometimes one wins and sometimes the other does. And sometimes (well, most of the time these days), the only thing I really skip is sleep.

Sasha Brown-Worsham is a writer, a mother and an unabashed, unashamed runaholic. Check her progress each week as she trains to qualify for the Boston Marathon.