Fitness and This Introvert

It can be hard to wake up at 6 a.m. on a cold, snowy morning. I will confess, it was sometimes hard on sunny, almost-but-not-quite too warm Jamaican mornings too. However, I recently had an epiphany while staring down my Olympic-length barbell at 6:15 in the morning: this is perhaps one of the best ways I could ever start my day.

It has been about a year since I began consciously acknowledging and catering to my introversion. Prior to reading the books Quiet — the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain and Introvert Power by Laurie Helgoe, I had known I was introverted but I hadn’t known that this was something about myself I needed to acknowledge and nurture. Having a job that requires constant daily contact with the public, after a career path that had seen me steadily move away from such jobs, now requires that I do something very different to cope with the challenges to my nature. Building more time into my schedule that allowed me to decompress and recharge was part of the solution, and on that snowy morning last week, staring at my barbell, I realized that my workout, done at that time, could/did form part of that nurturing.

My household is quiet that early in the morning, as the dogs and the husband aren’t usually up and needing attention before 7:30 a.m. When I get dressed in the semi-darkness and put my headphones on for whatever music compilation or narrated book will keep me company, I am calm and centred. There is no rush about my actions; everything is considered and carefully done. When I face my weights or step on the treadmill (I am not up for running outdoors in the cold and dark of northern Ontario just yet!), the only expectations I have to deal with are my own.

As I work my way through the various movements of whatever sets of exercises my workout app calls for, or as I stride along on the treadmill, I settle into my body and my mind gives itself over to the company of the silence and the iron. Taking this hour to compose myself lately has meant that I can face the increased traffic at work with equanimity and provide the efficient, friendly service that my employer promises to our customers. Though the days can feel long and exhausting by the time they are over, I feel less drained at the end now than when I reserved my workouts for after work.

Viewing a workout as more “me time” has also enhanced my appreciation for this new addition to my daily activities. I have been exercising regularly for about a year now, and I find that this new perception of the time has made my attitude about it even better. Instead of “atoning” for whatever I ate, feeling that this period of effort and exertion is connecting my mind and body while calming and preparing my energies for the challenges of the day ahead means that I don’t end up feeling overwhelmed by the demands of daily life — I’m not left feeling like I do nothing for myself and don’t care for myself.

The more that I feel the introverted me is acknowledged, nurtured and respected, the better I feel overall about my life and how it is unfolding on a daily basis. Incorporating my physical fitness regimen into efforts to care for my mental/emotional aspects has resulted in feeling whole, completely there and available to the people I love and give to every day. What Shakespeare said about being true to yourself so you can’t be false to someone else has found an unlikely explanation in my efforts to lift progressively heavier weights, and build my endurance to run for 5 km.

Nurture yourself, regardless of where you fall on the introvert/extrovert continuum. Physical activity can be a part of that. It is for me; how about you?