On exercise, extroverts, and big words

I love big words an’ I cannot lie

I adore huge concepts and just cannot prevaricate!


This weekend I met sportsy person, who did not believe me when I told her I do not enjoy exercising. She said smugly “oh so that’s what you’ve decided to convince yourself to believe”. Erm. Yes, at ripe ole middle age I cannot possible know something like this about myself: it’s just a silly little notion I’ve decided to adopt to make my life more difficult. I asked if it would be acceptable for me to argue that everyone who does not love doing research is working under a false notion they’ve brainwashed themselves to believe – she said she had nothing to say to that.


‘tis no wonder, my dear.


Anyway, after sportsy person’s sportsy husband had pointed out that the audience at scientific conferences might find my papers more interesting if I had a fit arse, he also said something interesting: that when he’s done with his 20K run he always feels great that he’s done it and that he was able to actually do what he wanted. No mention of a mystic euphoria, just a recognition that he’d accomplished something he’d decided to do.


That, I can relate to. WELL, a revelation. I wonder if you saw this study? It essentially says that extroverted people like big, expressive words: they gravitate towards great instead of good; gorgeous instead of pretty, humongous instead of big. Introverts are the exact opposite. They seem to feel like they need to save the really big words for something actually big, you know, like the birth of their first born. That, for an introvert (statistically speaking) might be an awesome experience; for an extravert, their lunch was awesome because they got an extra bit of chicken. It’s not that our subjective experiences necessarily differ: it’s just that extraverts use bigger words to describe everything. (Again, statistically speaking and keeping in mind that in the real world you only meet individuals.)


Maybe part of the reason I simply cannot get sportsy people (and they cannot get me) is just the language they (and I) use? Are unbearably sporty people in fact more likely to be extroverts than introverts? (Hmm.) I come back from a jog (yes people, I exercise. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to do it.) and never, ever have I experienced anything I would call euphoria. If I’d stop to think about – which I don’t, since I prefer not to think about exercise – I would certainly find it agreeable that I, once again, engaged in exercise, which I’ve realised I need to do. If I was so inclined, I could pat myself in the back. I have, in fact, patted myself in the back a few times when I was trying to establish a jogging routine (it took three months, for those wondering) and tried every single thing I thought might be helpful. But I’m not a particularly pat-myself-in-the-back or value-sporty-accomplishments type of person to begin with, so the feelings are really more those of what I would call relief. But what if I was framing them from an enthusiastic, sportsy position? I might just frame them as happiness, joy, accomplishment – I might.


If you are a sportsy person and are now getting excited, calm your tits. This does not mean that I feel like I should change my views or adopt an enthusiastic position. It would be useless and false, given how much I fucking hate exercising. The only thing it has going for it is that it’s healthy and good for you, and that’s a rational reason, not an emotional one. I’m not going to delude myself: if it was entirely ok for me to never lift a finger, I would never lift a finger. But I do find it encouraging that the people larking on about the wonderfulness of exercise might be doing so from a point of view of general excitableness – that they might be talking about something pretty achievable after all. You bloody did it. You knew you had to exercise in order to have a nice life and not get out of breath when you climb the stairs to the second floor and you bloody did it! Yay you!


See: that kind of measured cheerfulness I can get aboard with. Briefly. I can briefly go: well, yes, good on me! Then, let’s stop. Save the super-excitement for those who can stomach it.


(Max Mann Riesling – citrus and green apples. Apples are good for you.)

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