It took me many, many years to truly embrace my personality type. Though I am situationally outgoing—and don't get me wrong, I love connecting with people—I am the type of person who needs time and space to recharge after engaging in a social setting. I am energized and motivated by the teeming world of my mind (sometimes to a fault—fellow introverts know that overthinking is something we do very well). And for many different reasons, not least our culture's bias toward extroversion, I fought my most intrinsic needs for a long time.
Now I know better. I no longer take it as an insult when someone notes that I am acting quiet or reserved—it's simply an observation of who I am. I value my alone time; it's a form of self-care. And I also recognize that there are certain advantages to being introverted, just as there are certain advantages to being extroverted.
Consider fitness, for example: While extroverts might thrive and find themselves motivated by group settings and high-energy, competitive atmospheres, we introverts typically don't need anyone else to hold ourselves accountable. Because we're spurred by internal cues, we tend to be really good at setting our own goals—and sticking with them.
The fact that these two personality types are motivated in such fundamentally different ways means that they require fundamentally different strategies in order to best meet their fitness goals. (This isn't conjecture—it's science.) From setting long-term intentions to making sure you get to the gym tomorrow, keep reading to find out how to approach working out as an introvert.
Introverts set goals differently—and they might be more motivated to stay on track
"Introverts and extroverts get motivated in very different ways, so when it comes to habit change, their approach needs to be different," explains Candice Seti, PsyD, psychologist and nutrition coach. "This is especially true for weight loss and health and wellness goals."
Extroverts, for example, thrive when interacting with others—so they're more likely to be fueled by group classes or posting their goals on social media. (It helps keep them accountable.) Introverts, however, are happy to keep themselves accountable. "For introverts, their approach is more effective when it is based on personal tracking, goal-setting, and one-one-one interaction," says Seti.
"This can be a huge advantage since external motivation is something you can't control and is not very consistent," she continues. "If you are relying on social media to be your support, you may get a lot of it one day and none the next. However, if you are internally motivated, as an introvert you can provide yourself with consistent motivation by tracking and creating mini goals and milestones."
If you're introverted, you're probably also pretty in tune with your body
Research shows that because introverts are more focused on internal cues, they know when it's time to say "when"—whether it's before overeating or overdoing it at the gym. In a study published in 2013, researchers at Cornell monitored a group of introverted and extroverted children as they ate cereal. On average, the extroverted children served themselves and consumed 28.9% more cereal than their introverted peers. The takeaway: If you're introverted, you're probably pretty intuitive—especially when it comes to your own body. And since we know that mindfulness is a huge part of staying healthy, this is a great asset.
Keep yourself accountable by putting pen to paper. "Instead of broadcasting your goals to everyone on the internet, simply write them down for yourself," suggests Seti. "And while you are at it, create mini goals for each day, half week, or week—these are easier to work toward. And reward yourself for meeting them!" The idea is that your notebook is essentially a more concrete extension of your mind.
That being said, don't be too rigid about your routine, as this can ultimately prove counterproductive. Because introverts aren't always in the mood to be around other people, planning group workouts or classes ahead of time isn't always the best strategy. Instead, consider taking it one day at a time, suggests Seti. "Every morning, wake up and decide what you are going to do that day," she says. "Maybe it's a specific video, maybe it's a walk with a friend, or maybe a quick weight-lifting session. But deciding each morning helps create your accountability for the day."