Introverts, Extroverts, and Exercise

As one who habitually works out, I am constantly asked.
“Isn’t it boring?”
“Where do you get the willpower from?”
I try to explain that I enjoy it for its own sake.  But the response is usually a sort of patronizing amazement, as if I were a specimen of some rare and curious species.

Extroverts working out on their own are easily spotted:
-Their hearts are never in it.  When jogging they plod along leaning sloppily forward into their sluggish steps.  The person in question might very well be young and athletic, but their mental self-defeat is complete.
-Their face has a sour, bored, “I’d rather be doing anything else” kind of look.
-Their head is plastered with all the latest electronic devices to provide some form of distraction.  Without the sound of the human voice at all times, they would simply go insane.
-At least one wire coming from the head flops awkwardly around slowing them down more still and screwing up their form.

How do I explain to such a person:
-How on a long run I get lost in the corresponding rythyms of my breath and heartbeat?
-The sheer joy of being in the outdoors?
-How I become completely absorbed in the rush I get while doing a max clean and press or squat?
-That it’s a socially sanctioned means of spending time alone, even when the sun is still up?

I sometimes say truthfully it’s just a part of my routine I wouldn’t want to do without, that it makes me feel fantastic, that it untangles my thoughts.
“Wo-ow, you’re so dedicated.” an extrovert glibly responds.
In that moment the wide gap in understanding becomes obvious:

-For the extrovert, exercise is merely penance for that cheesecake last night.Working out is just one of many unenjoyable activities required to maintain Surface social appearances.

-For the introvert exercise is an enjoyable activity of recharge and renewal on a spiritual level.  Working out is a celebration of the individual’s mastery over the bodily domain.  It is about getting away from social expectations.

When extroverts exercise seriously, it is for the sake of competition and social status.  There are some very fit extroverts in high school and college, but their physical activity comes abruptly to an end when it loses its usefulness as a social tool in adult life.

The introvert often lives their young life in hiding and only emerges to discover their own physical potential well into their twenties or even later. Exercise is internally motivated, a personal exploration, a spiritual self realization.
Because motivation comes from within, introverts who exercise tend to exercise through all of life, decades after the extrovert has given it up with the exception of an occasional painful weekend jog or a short-lived new years resolution gym membership.

Zygmunt blogs on matters of introversion at Kingdom of Introversion.

Introverts, Extroverts, and Exercise appears here by permission.

[image via Flickr/Creative Commons]

on 02/7/11 in featured, Society | 2 Comments | Read More

Comments (2)


  1. I am neither introvert nor extrovert I simply do not recognise the categories any more than they can be said to recognise me.

    They ultimately derive from Jung do they not,? now fine thinker and synchronistic inkler he may have been, but you know everyone makes a mistake once in a while.

  2. Mark Stairwalt says:

    :-) No intention to box you in, Larry. I think the overlap between the conceptual silos of introvert and autistic is fascinating and instructive, but that’s not to say they are identical.

    Props in any case for “fine thinker and synchronistic inkler.”

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