If I haven’t already made it abundantly clear, I am an introvert. I thrive on alone time. Small talk is useless, talking on the phone drains me, and I’d rather stay in than have to socialize with large groups of people. When I was younger, I used to cancel plans all the time. I’d agree to do something, then the time would come and I would be filled with dread. Now, I don’t cancel plans, I just straight up say no to doing things I don’t want to do.
For me, running and my introversion go hand-in-hand. My job requires a ton of interaction with other people. At the end of the day, I am more than ready for some quiet and alone time. I often drive home in complete silence, just to kick-off that rejuvenation. Typically, I run alone and I prefer that. While I love races and the camaraderie of being with other runners, 99% of the time I complete my training alone.
I recently read the book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,” by Susan Cain. I loved it upon just reading the title, and it only got better from there. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Cain references research completed by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi regarding “Flow.” Csikszentmihalyi states:
“Flow is an optimal state in which you feel totally engaged in an activity. In a state of flow, you’re neither bored nor anxious, and you don’t question your own adequacy. Hours pass without your noticing.”
[Insert heart eyes emoji] For me, nothing characterizes running better than that description of flow. It is complete meditation; it is my chance to connect with nature, myself, and my thoughts. It is my therapy.
As an introvert, I am often described as mellow. A former supervisor told me that I was the most “even keeled millennial” she had ever met. I can’t help but believe that being an introvert makes me a good therapist. In my work, I am threatened, screamed at, and occasionally dodging physical attacks. I like to think that I take this all in stride. I do not take such behavior personally and I am proud of that ability. However, due to the intensity of my job, I have to take self-care very seriously. For me, there is no better self-care than running. It is an instant mood boost and reset.
As an introvert, it is important for me to capitalize on my strengths. I am thoughtful, quiet, a good listener, and am excellent at reading people. I do not try to be extroverted – it doesn’t work well for me and it comes off as unauthentic. I do not speak louder than I f eel comfortable doing and I do not seek attention.
I once quit a gym because its vibe did not fit my introvert ideal. I was lifting weights in front of a mirror, and a male employee walked by me and said, “You should smile while you are doing that.” I was furious. This goes beyond wanting to workout quietly/alone. This is a male employee telling a female customer ways to look physically more attractive while exercising. When I quit the gym, the manager said, “That’s ok. You kept to yourself anyways.” I kid you not, he actually said that. I am biting my tongue (errr, restraining my fingers?) from stating which Traverse City gym this was. I’m being kind, but part of me thinks their extreme level of douchiness deserves to be called out. Oh fuck it, it was Fit for You. Sure, a lot of people see working out and running as social activities. That’s great. I do not and that should be respected.
Society tends to favor the extrovert and I used to wish I was able to be comfortable with being more extroverted. Now, I am so happy to be an introvert. I am extremely comfortable with who I am and all the parts that make up my personality. I can’t help but think running is a huge part of what makes me so comfortable being me. So as always, thank you, running. You’re a life saver.