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Exercise for introverts

Many people associate introversion with being huddled on a coach with a good book, but regardless of it you are introverted or an extrovert being able to move the body and be active is important. In today's blog I have asked one of my favourite people Rose to reflect on how she stays active whilst also embracing her inner introversion.

Being an introvert

I’m an introvert in all the classical senses of the word, I am happy (possibly happiest?) in my own company and can spend 2 or 3 days on my own without any problems. I have friends who I love but I don’t see them every day, or every week; in fact, most of my best friends are long distance and I see them 2 or 3 times a year at the most.
This doesn’t mean I can’t talk the hind leg off a donkey in small intimate groups or that I avoid people like the plague. I need some form of social contact to keep me grounded and mentally healthy, I just have to do it my way and in small bits.

Exercise for my mental and physical health

Exercise is a ‘two birds with one stone’ kind of thing for me, I love exercising and have been going to the gym since I was 15 and my mum first took me - another expert introvert sharing the knowledge!

Gyms are great when I’m really not feeling like actual interaction but need to be around people, which counts as socialising for me. No words pass my lips but I’ve been around people, listened to their conversations, people watched to the max and that can often be enough for me. But you can also have a brief chat with someone in the changing room, on a weights machine or in the gym class next to you, pass a few meaningless comments and have that momentary social contact with someone else. The classes are usually more social with banter with the trainer running the class and the other attendees which is fine every now and then.

Don’t get me wrong I will happily chat away to someone as long as I know the risk of any form of friendship developing is minimal, I currently have PT sessions once a week, 1 on 1 with a trainer, and we talk away about crap for the whole hour. When I’m in the gym for other things I say hi and maybe ask how he is but that’s it, it’s a professional relationship and I know will never go anywhere else so I’m all good with that!

Clubs are a different matter and the harder thing to do if you are an introvert as they try to help people socialise and make friends, they often have specific social events throughout the year which can be hard to keep avoiding without looking rude and anti-social. I have personally struggled with this a lot and only recently have managed to put 2 and 2 together to see why I never managed to stick to things I loved. I used to train in martial arts and my club was quite small and they were more like an extended family to each other which made it pretty much impossible for me to stay, I tried for a coupe of years but never fully committed and eventually just faded away, a big regret of mine is that they probably think I hated the club or never really wanted to be there neither of which is true.

How I deal with exercise ‘relationships’

Gym classes can run the risk of being next to the same person each week, every one has their favourite spot in the studio, and so opening up more chances for conversations and that dreaded question ‘fancy a coffee after the class?’. I avoid this be being an irregular attendee and making sure my gym has multiple times for each class type so I can do Pilates on a Tues or Thursday and I will maybe only do one a month and mix up which day. I also tend to avoid the classes where you get paired up with someone else for the hour such as kick boxing.

My current running club has over 100 members, meets 5 times a week and has different coaches and different running ability group on different days. This keeps things mixed up and changing. I can go once a week for a month and barely see the same people to talk to. The club also has a lot of members who dip in and out, mostly due to injuries and other commitments, so me disappearing for a month to work on more gym-based stuff isn’t an issue if things get a bit too much.

I still have problems avoiding the social aspects of my running club even though I do want to be involved and to help out, just without having to talk to lots of people. I volunteer to be a marshal at running events standing at a pathway junction on my own cheering runners on is great fun. I have helped to set up events then left or turned up just to help clear up afterwards. It feels great to be involved and in ways that suit me. The fact I work shifts has helped me a lot to be able to have credible reasons for not being able to make a lot of the social events, although obviously I have often lied as well to get out of going which can be tricky with social media these days, luckily I’m not on there much.

I guess what I’m saying is that if you are an introvert and you want to start exercise or are having trouble maintaining a regime then take a look at the social side of it, it can be affecting you without you realising it. Pick things where you are on your own or gym’s/clubs with a lot of class options if that’s your thing. Or, if you can, be open and honest with the people running the clubs/activities about your limits early on, something I am trying to work on now I’m more aware of what affects me.

And those who run clubs and activities try to consider that although a lot of people join to make friends and be social there will be others who this will put off, always be clear it’s not compulsory and consider offering up those helpful things people can do without having to actually be at the social event.

My introvertedness has never stopped me from doing exercise but it has shaped the choices I’ve made, sometimes without me even realising it. In the past it has held me back from really getting into something I enjoyed because I didn’t understand the mechanics of it and how to work with it not against it. Don’t be afraid to try things to find what fits best and learn from those that don’t work, there is something out there for everyone.

What does that mean for MoodLifter and how can Moodlifter Help?

When I read what Rose had sent me for the blog it really got me thinking. I pride myself on making exercise accessible to all and I purposefully keep my groups small so that I can personalise the exercise that I offer. In some circumstances this small group might feel less anonymous than being in a larger class, know that it is OK for you to email me before any session to find out if the environment is right for you. Know that it is Ok to come for exercise and not have to socialise, that you can connect with other people on your terms. There are sessions that are pay as you go so that you can dip in and out of class and there are sessions that are block booked so that the group stays consistent. And if you would like to do personal training within the comfort of your own home within the West Midlands this is also something that I can offer.

Sarah is an Occupational Therapist and personal trainer who is passionate about helping people flourish @MoodLifterPT She is always happy to be contacted if you want to find out more.

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