About 9 months ago, I signed up for classes at a Crossfit box for the very first time.
As soon as I stepped into my first class, my heart rate spiked, I could feel my skin turning red, and I started sweating bullets. My workout hadn’t even started yet.
It felt as if my senses were being overloaded—people in the middle of the box were dropping bars loaded with 200 pounds worth of weightlifting plates; others were gathered around in groups, chatting and laughing loudly; more still were rushing in, hearts racing and bodies drenched in sweat from completing a run around the block.
I instantly felt out of place.
My instincts were to run and hide. Or more realistically, get back to my car and drive home.
But I didn’t.
I instinctively went to huddle in a corner with my ‘wall’ up, feeling uneasy. I fiddled with my cell phone, shoes, water bottle and towel to look busy.
My fiddling, emotional wall and general uneasiness stayed with me at every single class I attended for the first 4 months, until I slowly got to know the other students and my coaches, and started making new friends.
A little extreme, you say?
Maybe. But this was a pretty mild reaction compared to previous experiences I’d had—it took me a year to work up the courage to walk into my first BodyPump class. The first time I signed up for a kickboxing class (not the most peaceful environment either, as you can imagine), it took me a month to gather the nerve to go back.
The first time I signed up to try out a bootcamp, I asked the instructor: “Are the people there…nice?”
Hello. My name is Michele, and I’m an introvert.
But here’s the thing: I also love people, particularly people I get to build my strength, flexibility, body confidence and badass-ness with.
Baby steps. Image courtesy of Crossfit Vidatha.
It’s not always the easiest thing to do when you’re sensitive, partial to solitude and prefer quiet evenings at home, but consider this: The more confident you are about your fitness and body, the better you’ll be at navigating life, and the extrovert-friendly situations that are thrown your way.
So what does an introvert have to do to become a badass in amazing shape, inside and out?
Reach For Goals That Make You Go ‘Yes!”. Before you start any kind of fitness program or diet, ask yourself: “What do I really want?”. This is the perfect opportunity for you to spend time doing what you’re really great at—going within, reflecting and problem solving. Unplug, dig deep and explore.
For example, if fat loss is your goal, start by answering these questions:
- What do I want to accomplish with my fat loss?
- How will it make a difference to my life?
- If I woke up one day having my dream body, what would it look and feel like?”
Knowing the answers to these questions will get you crystal clear on which habits you’ll need to develop to pull you ahead towards your goal, instead of pull you down into the deep end with no way up.
Harness Your Natural Strengths If you’re an introvert, you don’t blindly follow the people around you or embrace ideas just because they’re popular (no fad diets and workouts for me either, thank you very much). Instead, you do your homework and research before taking action—learning, experimenting, being creative and applying what works for you.
The more work you put into getting to know how to get confident, fit and healthy, the more well-rounded and effective your habits will become.
Set Yourself Up for Quiet Success. Introverts can often end up feeling over-stimulated and anxious in large, crowded or noisy environments, and yours truly is no exception.
If you’re not comfortable working out right smack in the middle of a busy space, don’t.
Honor your nature.
My favorite thing to do when I walk into a gym or box is to find a quiet, cozy spot where I can set up my equipment—I’m not a fan of machines, so portable tools like kettlebells, medicine balls, resistance bands, jump ropes, and dumbbells are what I use the most—and focus on my workout with minimal disruption.
Find your sweet spot to give 110%. Image courtesy of CrossFit Vidatha.
This same ‘sweet spot’ strategy also applies when you’re attending a group exercise class—arrive early your first few sessions, give yourself time to settle in and acclimatize, and find a space where you feel comfortable. Even better, buddy up with a friend or two who’ll help you feel at ease so you can give your 110% during your classes.
Start Small. Not comfortable getting your sweat on in large groups? Go for smaller, cozier groups of not more than 4 to 6 people, which offer the added advantage of more personalized attention from your coach or instructor.
Alternatively, you can opt for one-on-one, personal training sessions or even solo workouts. I personally follow online yoga, strength and beginner gymnastics lessons at home, which allow me the comfort of learning in private, at my own pace.
However, I do find that the more group classes I attend and the better my skills become, the more comfortable I am in larger groups.
As with anything else, practice makes perfect and you, a more versatile introvert. <Click to Tweet this!>
Connect, Not Socialize. I don’t know about you, but the word ‘socialize’ almost makes me want to break out in a cold sweat. It brings to mind having to work an entire room full of strangers and having dozens of rushed, frivolous conversations, none leading to any kind of meaningful connection.
Like me, you probably thrive with deep, meaningful conversations but hate small talk, would rather hang out with a small group of friends over dinner than head to a party, and prefer to have a handful of close connections instead of juggle 50 acquaintances you hardly know.
So how do you translate these preferences into your workout environments?
I started giving myself a ‘connect’ quota every week. No pressure, I’d make it a point to have personal conversations with one or two people in my classes and try to establish a bond with them.
Over time, this strategy helped me build a community of like-minded people whom I could call up for a workout or coffee whenever we felt like it.
Look for kindred spirits who inspire your badass-ness.
Connect with the people who matter instead of forcing yourself to be the social butterfly you’re not. Oh, and it’s OK to leave early once your mission’s been accomplished.
Partner Up With An Extroverted Badass. While staying in your comfort zone can enhance your focus and encourage you to thrive, it won’t always help you reach your full potential.
And here’s a proven fact: When it comes to improving your fitness, getting out of your comfort zone every now and then is the best way to get the job done.
This is why every introverted exerciser needs the influence of an extroverted badass to help give them that crucial extra push.
When this outgoing, effervescent person is around, it’s difficult not to notice or like them—they’re usually the ones cracking jokes, making small talk sound so appealing, cheering people on, doing those extra reps with you despite having already finished theirs, and encouraging you to go faster and harder than you’ve even gone before. When that’s all done, they round everyone up for a group hug and post-workout drinks.
These high-energy personalities complement the introvert’s quiet drive, conscientious nature perfectly.
Are you an introvert who’s in the midst of building up your body confidence? I’d love to know what and how you’re doing it.
Feature image courtesy of AP Photographie.