Healthy Lifestyles Rule the Day
On any given day, Lebanon residents Kristen & Paul Coats can be found paddling a canoe on a local lake or river, playing tennis, bicycling, running, skiing to a remote cabin, or climbing one of New England’s glorious mountain peaks. Add to that a strong faith-based community service ethic and professions that help improve the quality of life for hundreds of Upper Valley residents, and you get a couple who excels at creating a healthy lifestyle for themselves and setting an example for others. As friends and life partners, Kristen and Paul have shared a lot of fun adventures together in the 12 years they’ve been married, much to their mutual benefit.
The story of how Paul and Kristen met begins with the sport of tennis. They both grew up playing tennis competitively on opposite ends of the country. Paul was in a league in Atlanta with roughly 80,000 players, and Kristen played in tournaments all around Washington State. One of Paul’s best friends in Atlanta, also his tennis partner, joined Paul in envisioning the kind of woman they would consider to be a good catch. “We always dreamed of how amazing it would be to find a girlfriend who was a good tennis player,” says Paul. After a time, the dream dimmed and Paul moved to New Hampshire to work for the Lebanon Recreation & Parks Department. In the meantime, Kristen moved to Atlanta and joined the same league that Paul had played in, and who should become her mixed doubles partner but Baker, Paul’s Atlanta bestie. “We were introduced during one of my visits back home through a different friend and quickly figured out our Baker connection. A short 2 years later we were married, Kristen relocated to Lebanon, we have taken on all sorts of new activities together.”
Workout and life partners Paul and Kristen Coats hiking in Swaziland
In his role as the Director of Parks & Recreation for the City of Lebanon, Paul is well-suited to design adventures for the couple to enjoy, and Kristen works at the Upper Valley Haven as the Coordinator of Food and Wellness, so healthy eating is emphasized in their lifestyle practices. Fortunately, there are multiple benefits to exercising as a couple or with a workout partner. According to behavioral medicine researchers at Michigan State University, playing and exercising with your spouse can double your health benefits. The close relationship serves to motivate couples to keep that commitment to hitting the gym at the end of a long work day.
Paul and Kristen firmly believe that a couple who plays and prays together, stays together. Paul explains, “Hiking is where we get to talk about our life together, inspired by incredible vistas and hard earned peaks. Biking is where we get to enjoy similar paces while both getting in a solid workout. Running is our shared community of people, where even though one of us is faster than the other, we get to enjoy shared time at a race with other friends.”
Another activity Paul and Kristen share is Christian ministry, serving as Deacons at Valley Bible Church. Paul previously served as the youth ministry coordinator for middle school and high school youth. Together they work with young adults in community service activities related to the church, and their deep love for the outdoors helps them connect people to nature and physical activity. They are also members of the Upper Valley Running Club, which hosts running races and fun runs for all ages and abilities.
While Paul and Kristen enjoy doing a number of physical, spiritual, and community service activities together, they appreciate their alone time too. “We love being together, and at the same time, our relationship is built on encouraging each other to pursue our individual dreams and goals,” says Kristen. Paul sees it this way too. “We can appreciate one another’s need for a solid long run on our own, to clear our heads and burn off some stress.”
Extensive research has been done on the benefits of exercise in releasing stress and helping us get a better night’s sleep. These benefits alone would seem to be motivation enough to maintain a regular schedule of physical activity, but it’s not so easy if you’re flying solo in your exercise routine. Having a workout partner increases the likelihood that you’ll continue to exercise for the long term. Researchers at the Department of Kinesiology at Indiana University found that couples who worked out separately had a 43% dropout rate, while those who went to the gym together had only a 6.3% dropout rate. On the psychological and emotional side, studies show that exercise can also boost brainpower, self-confidence, productivity at work, memory, and creativity.
Paul credits Kristen with helping the couple stay balanced in maintaining their busy, active lifestyle. “Kristen is such an encourager, and pushes us towards a better work/play balance in life. We need that for our physical and emotional health, and to be the best we can be for one another. Kristen has also inspired us to focus on fueling our bodies well with good nutrition for the many activities we enjoy, and to help keep our minds sharp.”
Speaking of keeping the mind sharp – if you’re an early morning workout fan, it’s better for your health to resist the temptation to hit the snooze button – there is growing evidence that going back to sleep for short stints actually decreases the benefits gained during a good night’s sleep. Get up when the alarm goes off and you’ll be that much more alert for those early morning workouts and throughout the rest of the day, especially in the winter months.
“We both like to begin our days early,” says Kristen. “A couple of years ago we decided to do the ‘Insanity’ workouts together (a 60 day home workout program on DVD). It was the hardest workout we ever did, but we both got stronger and extremely fit. It reinforced the value of committing to an exercise routine.” The Insanity workouts are promoted as a strength, conditioning, and weight loss program based on “max interval training”, which involves long bursts of intense exercise, followed by short periods of rest. It includes cardio, sports drills, resistance training, and core exercises. Exercise physiologists have verified that this style of exercise works for weight loss, and dramatically improves strength and conditioning, but emphasize that it is not for everyone. Paul acknowledges, “We really had to support each other over the course of 60 days, but it was worth it in the end, and we learned how much physical exertion our bodies can handle.”
So when you’re out and about in Lebanon or participating in a local running race or outdoor adventure activity, look around. Chances are you’ll come across Paul and Kristen, continuing their quest to live a healthy lifestyle and inspiring others to do the same.