The Rebel Tendency in Health and Fitness

rebel tendency

Are you someone who’d play by your own rules when it comes to health and fitness…except you’re not much for rules? Chances are, you fall into the rebel tendency!

The rebel tendency is the rarest of the four personality types described in Gretchen Rubin’s book, the Four Tendencies. What sets rebels apart from the other three personality types (“tendencies”) is their resistance to all inner and outer expectations. Yep, rebels are reluctant even to set priorities because they don’t want to be bogged down by their own expectations.

the rebel tendency in health and fitness

Not sure if you’re a rebel? I’d tell you to take this quick 3-minute quiz, but I doubt you’d do it. I’ve suggested that my husband take it several times over the past few years, and no dice. I’m reasonably certain he’s a rebel.

(Not a rebel? Click the links to learn more about the upholder, obliger, and questioner tendencies)

Because they shun both inner and outer expectations, rebels often struggle with making healthy lifestyle changes. This post will provide some tips for improving health and fitness if you’re in the rebel tendency.

Variations on the Rebel Tendency

Before we get into those helpful tips, I have just a couple of quick but essential points.

First of all, it’s easy for other tendencies to read about rebels and assume that they’re irresponsible or inconsiderate (looking at you, my fellow upholders).

In reality, some of the friendliest and most considerate people I know are rebels. Your tendency represents just one portion of your overall personality, and you can’t even control it because it’s inherent to your being. I know rebels who get frustrated by their own inability to meet expectations until they learn to make their tendency work for them.

And just as there are variations on the other three tendencies, there are a couple of variations on the rebel tendency:

The rebel-questioner is less likely than other rebels to revolt against inner expectations. This variation is more focused on personal wants and desires than on pushing back against outer expectations. These rebels can do quite well at reaching their goals as long as big brother isn’t watching over them.

The rebel-obliger has a strong distaste for feeling like he’s being controlled, so much so that he’ll sometimes not do something he wants to do simply because someone else wants or expects him to do it. Even something as simple and well-meaning as a high five or a congratulatory text can set a rebel-obliger on the path to defiance. They do things for their gratification—not to please others.

So now that we’ve discussed different types of rebels, we’ll shift gears and talk a bit about how to make positive and lasting health changes if you’re a rebel!

The Rebel Tendency in Health and Fitness

The first and most important thing to know if you’re a rebel is that you have to WANT to make changes. The tips I’ll share with you are best for rebels who find themselves frustrated by their inability to change. They simply will not work for rebels who are just fine with the status quo.

That said, rebels can ABSOLUTELY make changes that are meaningful to them. As Rubin says (in perhaps my favorite quote in the whole book), “A rebel on a mission is a force of nature.” The rebels that I know of in the gym have been some of my most committed athletes since lockdown, perhaps because they lost something they enjoy and value (working out in the gym) for three months.

Since we’re DEFINITELY not hoping for another shutdown, let’s talk about other ways to take action.

Focus on Fun

“Must work out” doesn’t work with rebels—they have to want to work out. One way to do that is to focus on fun and variety.

I know rebels who don’t love working out but who come to the gym every day because they love seeing their gym friends. Other rebels at the gym gravitate toward CrossFit because its very definition includes the words “constantly varied.” Rebels hate just going through the motions on the same workout day in and day out.

Is CrossFit-style training not fun for you? No biggie! You might enjoy a dance fitness class if you miss going out to the clubs or a martial arts class if you binged Cobra Kai. Another option would be to try out a health club with a wide variety of class types, so you can choose the one that appeals to you most each day.

Consider Going it Alone

Are you more of a lone wolf when it comes to staying active? Many rebels are, or at least, they don’t prefer any exercise program where someone decides what they can do or orders them around.

If this describes you, is there another way of staying active that allows you to do what you love? My rebel husband is hit or miss on weightlifting (my passion), but he loves long trail runs, mountain bike rides, and paddles. It’s much easier for him to stay active when he’s outside in dynamic scenery (no running the same path every day for that guy).

Challenge Yourself

“Must do” is not very motivational for a rebel, but “can’t do” is another story.

Some rebels do not like being told that a task is too difficult for them, adopting a “watch me” mentality out of spite.

This challenge doesn’t necessarily have to be an external one, especially for rebel-questioners. “I wonder if I could ______…” is another way of framing it. I know rebels who’ve stayed accountable to highly regimented diet and exercise plans to prove that they can squat 300 pounds/compete in a bodybuilding contest/run a marathon.

Whether your challenge comes from within or from another person, a word of caution. Don’t make foolish choices, like lifting weights that are way too heavy or cutting your calories too drastically. Nothing kills momentum like a trip to the hospital.

Connect Your Goals to Your Values

While rebels resist expectations in general, they often choose to meet ones that mean something to them.

I’ve met rebels who’ve been vegans for decades, despite not loving to be told they can’t eat something because they are passionate about animal rights.

I’ve worked with training clients who are super committed to their workouts because they’re at high risk of heart disease and want to be around for their kids, and nutrition clients who want to feel confident while rocking a bikini.

And I know several rebel grannies who hit the gym because the idea of having their freedom, mobility, and independence taken away really pisses them off.

So, one way for a rebel to frame goals that stick is to think about how it can help you fulfill your wildest dreams or about how your current level of health and fitness might be holding you back.

Remember—You’re in Charge

When it comes to health and fitness, action comes down to you. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.

If you start a Couch to 5K and decide that you hate it, don’t do it. Look for something that’s more fun or meaningful for you.

But sometimes, just remembering that you’re in control is all a rebel needs to take action.

Do Rebels Need Coaches?

The rebel-coach relationship is problematic for some rebels, simply because rebels generally don’t like being told what to do.

However, a loophole could allow a rebel to take direction from a health and fitness coach. The key for rebels working with coaches is to remember that the coach is doing what you’re paying them to do (by choice) so that you can get what you want. The relationship is voluntary, and it’s a means to an end.

Rebels can also improve their odds of success when working with a coach by communicating their preferences and what the coach can do to help them stay on track. Do you know that you’ll never give up your nightly glass of wine? Tell your coach that. Would you enjoy your training sessions more if your trainer moved your workouts outside? Great! Let her know.

Little tweaks like these can go a long way in helping you take action on healthy lifestyle changes.

Want to learn more about your rebel ways? I’m hosting free Resolution Remix virtual lunch and learn on December 29th at noon, and I’d love to see you there! It’s going to be lots of fun. I know you hate commitment, but you’ve gotta click here to reserve your spot (remember, do what you must to get what you want).

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