Introversion is not the same thing as being shy. The two are sometimes correlated because participating in large groups of people can often be tiring or unfulfilling for introverts, whereas extroverts are stimulated by getting involved with lots of people. Introverts are more focused on observation and internal reflection than external interaction, which means that we enjoy our alone time. Many fun ways to exercise are highly extroverted activities: Zumba classes, IM sports or even just being in the weight room with lots of strangers. But if you're introverted or even just self-conscious about exercising in front of other people, there are still plenty of fun ways to stay in shape without taking on too much mental stress.
Introversion is a concept that has just recently begun to appear in popular media, so you may not have heard the term very much while growing up. However, there are still plenty of introverts out there, which means there are plenty of introverts who have found fun ways to exercise and are willing to share their stories. When I asked two undergraduate students if being introverted had a generally positive or negative effect on their exercise routines, they both responded that the effects were neutral.
"I would call it neutral. I guess I don't really like going to the gym because I have some amount of anxiety about being judged so often I'll exercise alone somewhere where no one can see me or I'll just go for a run by myself or with one or two close friends." – Vishnu S, UT Austin '20
". . . It's had a mostly neutral effect on my exercising, unless being an extrovert would make me less likely to go on walks." – John R, UT Dallas '18
They both value a solitary walk or a casual job with a few friends. When prompted if there were other ways they recommended exercising, John elaborated:
"A) Exercise personally by going on runs/walks or using your own stuff for equipment. B) If you do go to a gym then you can tune people out with headphones. C) Go to the gym at night or any time that's less crowded."
I, too, am an introvert. I enjoy playing sports with my friends, but at the same time, it's tiring to hang around large groups of people for too long, which makes it difficult to look forward to intramurals or joint workout sessions. Not only that, but I'm also bored very easily by things like jogging and weight-lifting. Below I've taken the above suggestions and, along with my own experience, compiled a list of ways to exercise if you're introverted and/or shy.
This one seems to be very popular for everyone on the introvert-extrovert spectrum: you can run at any time of day (meaning any amount of people in the streets) and with any sized group of people you want. You can go alone at the break of dawn when no one else is around, at sunset with a group of friends or anything in between.
I prefer biking to jogging because it's easier to ignore other people on the streets. If you think that anyone is giving you an odd look, you'll have zoomed by on your bike a moment later. This is also great if you don't have much time to exercise — by definition, riding your bike gets you places faster and you're exercising while doing it.
Swimming is slightly more limited than jogging and biking because it normally only happens in a swimming pool. If you don't want anyone else around, you may have to go at an earlier or later time in the day (or around lunch/dinner time when fewer people are there).
Racquetball is what I currently do to exercise. My school offers free gym membership to all students, which includes access to the racquetball courts and equipment. During lunch when no one's around, I'll check out a single racket and a ball and go at it for 15 to 20 minutes. It's interesting and versatile enough that I don't get bored, but mellow enough that I can still be alone with my thoughts.
5. Blogilates And Other YouTube Workout Channels
Why go to a public gym when you can work out in your empty dorm room? There are plenty of YouTubers like blogilates who can serve as personal trainers and motivators whom you don't actually need to interact with. Many of them also have creative ways to boost your muscle mass without needing a set of weights!
6. Walking/Playing With Dogs
Dogs don't generally count as people. They're also generally a lot more fun. Grab your dog or borrow a friend's and take it for a stroll to a nearby park or down a street. Run with the dog occasionally or play with it using balls or other toys.
7. Dancing/Martial Arts
Dancing and kicking butt may seem like unrelated things, but they all require the same muscle control and self-discipline. Whenever a new person joined my Taekwondo class, we could always tell if they had previously been a dancer — they moved the exact same way without needing to be taught. Also, you can do both of these alone (mostly). You'll still need a good teacher or online tutorial to make sure you don't hurt yourself. Simply find a close friend or search for a beginner's tutorial online, clear a space in your dorm room, maybe buy a clapper target or two and you're on your way! It doesn't take long to get a lot of exercise and you'll be so focused on the way you're moving your arms and legs that you'll hardly feel anything.
So I don't personally find this fun, but both of the boys I interviewed seem to enjoy this. A set of hand-weights doesn't cost much to buy online, easily fits in your dorm and can exercise pretty much any part of your body. If you're not sure how to exercise certain parts of your body, you can look up online tutorials on how to use leg weights and hand weights to their full potential.
Being shy or easily overstimulated doesn't have to be a barrier to your health. Just take it from me and many of the other introverts that still find enjoyable ways to exercise without being around crowds. Go out there and try something new, get in shape and most importantly, enjoy your alone time.
Lead Image Credit: Pexels