My negative spiral around exercise goes something like this: I feel lethargic and I want to move, but the thought of doing “exercise” makes me feel self-critical, which makes me want to hide. I stay home. I grow more lethargic. I resolve to take action again, but the inner critic is even louder this time, and chases me back to the couch.
So I wish I could say that when the gyms and trails closed two months ago, I immediately switched over to home workouts. That did not happen. Instead, I read a lot of books, knitted a few hats, and did some very gentle stretching.
This is the story of how falling into leading and following roles in our relationship got me out of my spiral and created a new routine that is even more effective and fulfilling than our previous one was.
Last week Isaac had an idea: rowing machines! I was hesitant. They take up space. They are an unplanned expense. We don’t know if we’ll really use them. This is my inner critic throwing up its defenses. Undaunted, Isaac finds rowing machines and points out that even if gyms opened tomorrow, we would not want to go for quite some time. He reminds me that we didn’t really even LIKE the gym that much in the first place. He assures me he is VERY COMMITTED to this plan. He will find space to store the machines, set them up for us every day, and put them away. It will be like a date.
Classic Leadership Traits:
-Developing a Plan
In general, Isaac and I switch leading and following roles frequently. I plan and organize all of our travel, for example. In this case, though, he acts as leader because exercise is an area he’s comfortable with. His inner critic has no opinion on the subject. So he makes the decisions about purchasing and scheduling. And because we have a history of successful teamwork, I trust him and agree to the plan (mostly).
Classic Followership Traits:
-Supporting the Plan
-Trusting the Process
The rowing machines arrive and Isaac fulfills his promise – he shows me where he will store them and sets them up for us the next day. He even fills up my water bottle and brings me a towel. And here is where something delightful happens. When I see how he has made exercise so accessible for me, my inner critic goes to sleep and my inner follower wakes up. She thinks: MUSIC!
Isaac smiles as I choose a classic rock playlist and lace up my sneakers. We row for three songs and the endorphin rush is so satisfying that I suggest another round. Isaac is surprised but goes for it. We row for two more songs, and I feel so accomplished that I initiate a post-rowing dance party. Isaac laughs and bounces along with me in his seat. And now, I suddenly realize the obvious: that I am an accountability partner for Isaac as much as he is for me. That my showing up and participating makes the new routine easier and more enjoyable for him, too.
Bonus Leadership Traits:
-Creating a Safe Environment
-Seeing Potential in Others
Bonus Followership Traits:
-Focusing on the Present Moment
-Personalizing Your Approach
For almost two months, we were in a holding pattern, aware of the problem but not doing anything about it. It was only when we fell into leading and following roles together that we produced this creative solution.
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