People work out for different reasons. Some do it because they're training for a sport. Some do it for stress relief. Some do it for physical therapy. Some do it for status. Some do it for mood repair. Some do it for the social opportunities. I have my own reasons, and one of them is that my husband asked me to go to the gym with him. He's an Upholder and I'm a Questioner. I thought I'd explore our different takes on the gym and physical fitness in general.
He's been an athlete since before he can really remember. He thinks he started at age 4. He has a big box of medals, ribbons, and trophies that he keeps trying to throw away, because of course those things are just silly byproducts of something he does for its own sake. He's an Eagle Scout, naturally, and he has played on at least seven different sports teams that I know of, some as an adult. Upholder motivations include following through on your commitments, doing things because that's just what one does, believing something is the right thing to do and then doing it, finishing what you start, and never letting anyone down. Sports are just one area where he commits to excellence. Show up, work hard, do what you said you'd do, and win. Other options? What other options?
I can only wish that anything, at any time, had ever appeared to me with such perfect clarity.
We're total opposites in many ways. He's tall, I'm short. He has a big frame, I have a small frame. (My wrists are 5 1/4"). He has a high pain threshold, I have a low pain threshold. He's fascinated by sports, I find them confusing. He can learn any new motion or dance step after seeing it done for a few seconds. I had to have my own teacher in step aerobics, fell off the step, and almost blacked out from pure exhaustion. I accidentally slapped someone once during ballroom dancing, and I fell during the polka and my skirt flipped up to my waist. I once sent my bowling ball backward, where it bounced onto the ball rack. Proprioception exists, I've seen it, but I don't seem to have much of it.
To give myself some credit, part of the reason I do so many ridiculous things is that I'm always ready to try something new. Questioners are easily bored. I have no emotional problems with being a complete novice and making a spectacle out of myself. This is my way of controlling a situation. If I'm going to be the focus of attention whether I like it or not, I'm going to get some comedic value out of it, for my private amusement if not for others. "It's for my blog." One of the things I like about the gym is learning to use all the multifarious contraptions.
We were working in, and as I was waiting my turn I saw a guy pushing a big red sled with weights on it. He pushed it all the way across the gym, and then he pushed it back. I couldn't take my eyes off it. I knew it was inevitable that I would one day push this sled. I pointed it out to my husband, who grimaced. "That's hard." "I know, it looks hard!" Rational assessment on his part, foolish enchantment on mine. I like running uphill in the mud. What can I say? "What did Santa bring you?" "Heavy stuff."
I don't need accountability to exercise. I used to be fat, sedentary, and chronically ill. I accidentally cured myself of thyroid disease through exercise, bicycling to be precise, and the lightbulb went on. I have the power to control my body in ways that doctors tried to convince me I could not. I unlocked an access panel with a bunch of switches, levers, dials, lights, knobs, and ports, many of which I don't yet understand, because there's no instruction manual. Part of the attraction for me in going to the gym is in seeing other people at higher fitness levels, doing awesome things. I see people older than me who have more muscle definition, and I think "Aha." The more I learn about physiology, nutrition, and fitness, the more I realize how little I know, and the more interesting it gets. Action-oriented people are temperamentally very different from the more cerebral or artistic people with whom I usually associated, so the athletic mindset was yet another new thing to learn.
As a Questioner, I work out because it satisfies my curiosity, it involves lots of mysterious tools and buzzwords and classes forever just outside my skill set, and because it's proven to be a terrific outlet for my high energy level. I dig it. I tried it thinking I would hate it, I was wrong, and now it's sold itself to me. When I can't work out, I feel progressively more cruddy, and I long to get started again the minute I can.
The Upholder jam seems to be different. Upholders have a sort of checklist of things they do. If it's on the checklist, they will do it or they will show you the missing limb that prevented them from doing it (for a while). If it's not on the checklist, well, it doesn't count. For this reason I think Upholders are a bit more vulnerable to loopholes. If an Upholder's priority is career, exercise may not be on the checklist, along with sleep or regular meals. We'd like to suggest that the priority be 'rational self-care.' Caring for your body makes you more productive. But then that's Questioner logic...
We like different stuff. My Upholder husband likes the weight machines, because they're efficient and he can get in a full workout in 20 minutes. He has outsized stamina and he's physically fearless. I've known him to crank out a 90-minute workout that would have taken me a month. The intensity can be an obstacle, though, because he isn't as comfortable with a 'drop in the bucket' approach. He doesn't always want to be bothered if he doesn't have the time or the energy level to meet his own standards for a "real" workout. That's why I'm there, because if we have a gym date, we'll both go. I like lifting weights because TOYS, and I like yoga because there are a million postures, and I like running because I can catch up on podcasts. Sometimes lifting weights interferes with my desire to engage in my other exercise preferences. Right now, there's this fascinating feature of my dear hubby, teaching me how to use all the machines.
It could quickly fall apart. We've had memberships at the same gym during two other times in our lives. Each time, I quit, and then he quit going. The first time, I felt like I had reached my goal and I believed I wouldn't need to go to the gym anymore. (Pfft). The second time, I had just discovered trail running, and our gym kept playing "Teenage Dream," and it didn't make sense to me to pay for a membership when I would run in the rain and cold regardless. I "feel like working out" at various times of day, and I've done a workout every minute between 6 AM and midnight at one time or another. Following a routine in the same place, at the same time, doing the same workout, will eventually break me. Knowing this, I know I need to either do my own, separate workouts on my own recognizance, or I need to keep upping the ante and training for a specific goal on a deadline. I'm not at the gym for myself, I'm there for my mate. Solidarity.
My husband taught me everything I know about developing an athletic mindset and training like a champion. He made a parasomniac with chronic pain issues into a marathon runner. Without him as my coach, I'm not sure I ever would have freed myself from illness or become an athlete. Probably not. It was my desire to know his heart that helped me open myself to the idea. What would it be like to enjoy exercise? What would it be like to hone my body the way I always tried to hone my mind? Could I hold myself physically to the same standards of excellence that I esteemed in other areas? I found answers to all these questions. I owe him.
My mother-in-law was also an Upholder. There's a chain of at least three generations of them in that family, and I think Upholders train one another into that tendency. She taught me that exercise is just like any other chore. I understood that this advice came from a sincere wish to reach me in a way that would make sense to me, and I realized what a sweet gift that was. She got me. A motivational speech about fitness from her would probably have been different if I were anyone else. After all, she had coached weight loss for forty years and she knew what she was doing.
That's what it comes down to. We do what we do because it makes sense and because it works for us. Or at least we think it does. I was perfectly convinced that illness was something that just happened to me, and I believed my doctors when they said there were no lifestyle inputs. Others will be convinced that their personality is not compatible with this kind of activity, or that they somehow genetically lack willpower or motivation. What is needed is some compelling reason that feels convincing. Why would someone like me do something like this? Answer: Because.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.