I am an introvert.
In fact, I am the very definition of the word ‘introvert.’ I read somewhere that no one is 100% introvert or 100% extrovert. Not true. I am living proof that one person can be 100% introvert and 0% extrovert.
Introverts are people who recharge their internal batteries by being quiet and being alone. Social interactions and large groups can be exhausting to introverts.
Introversion is different from social anxiety or shyness. We are quite capable of being in a crowd or having conversations with strangers, we just find it mentally and psychically draining.
I’m currently writing a LinkedIn article titled I’m an Introvert, Not a Social Leper in response to a recent flurry of articles talking about how introverts can still attend networking functions. Articles filled with tips about overcoming shyness, fear, and anxiety.
While social fear and anxiety are very real things that need to be addressed by people who suffer from them, dealing with social anxiety and ‘dealing with’ introversion are two totally different things.
But I digress…
As you may expect from someone who is exhausted by groups, I prefer running alone.
Even for the longest of long runs, I’m perfectly happy keeping my own company. I have no trouble passing the time, catching up on podcasts or getting lost in my own thoughts and thinking about the things going on in my life.
Introvert (group) Running
Several years ago, a friend suggested I join up with her running club for some group runs.
I was skeptical.
She had met me, right?
Runs are exhausting.
I find groups of people exhausting.
Wouldn’t a run with a group be the worst of both worlds and doubly exhausting?
But I’m trying to do new things. Actually try things before I discount them as ‘not for me,’ so I gave it a shot.
You know what?
I kind of liked it.
I still love (and prefer) running alone, but I have added in an occasional group run into the running calendar.
Why Introverts Should (at least occasionally) Run With A Group
First of all, let me say right off the bat that I know every introvert is unique and is impacted differently by social interactions. I’m basing this post on my experience as a runner and as an introvert in the groups I have run with.
Your results may vary.
Conversations Aren’t As Exhausting When You Don’t Make Eye Contact
While introversion is not the same as social anxiety, and introverts are quite capable of eye contact, there is something in face-to-face nature of conversations that causes much of the emotional and psychic drain for many introverts (or at least it does for me).
Running in a group means running side-by-side. You talk with people, but chances are, you will rarely look them in the eye.
You avoid one of the major factors that can cause conversations to be so mentally draining.
Group Runs Aren’t Really Done In a Group
When you run with a group, you’ll often have a warm-up or maybe some announcements as a big group. But when you set out to run, you’ll be running with smaller groups of two or three (at most).
It’s just the logistics of running. Any more than that and you’ll clog up the sidewalk or trail you are running on.
You’ll only be interacting with one, maybe two, others at a time, so it may not be as exhausting (or as ‘groupy’) as you may think.
Small Talk Is Minimized
I, like many introverts, struggle with small talk. If I’m going to use my precious social energy engaging with people, I want to actually engage with them. Not spend 80% of the conversation talking about the weather and local sports teams I don’t really care about.
If I’m gonna talk, I wanna talk.
There is something unique about running conversations. There is very little small talk in nearly every running conversation I have ever had.
I’ve mentioned this to others, and they have noticed the same thing- running conversations are more likely to be ‘real’ conversations.
I think it’s tied somehow to the lack of eye contact. I don’t know enough about psychology or communications to put together why exactly, but it’s a very real thing.
Push Your Pace, Push Your Distance
When running by yourself, you (logically) only have yourself for motivation.
If you are a runner who is inclined to let yourself off the hook, quit when you get tired, or not push yourself as hard as you know you should (or could), an occasional group run may help push some of those barriers.
While you don’t want to run with a group that is significantly faster or slower, a group that runs a bit faster than your normal pace may push you past where you ever would go by yourself.
Similarly, a slightly slower group can help push you to a longer distance than you would, left to your own devices.
Of course, you should always respect the 10% rule.
Challenge yourself, but don’t go longer or faster than your body is ready to go.
I love running with music or podcasts. I also love using running as a moving meditation and to process what is going on in my life.
But there are some days when I’m just not in the mood to listen to any of my usual stuff, or when I know that contemplating my own life isn’t going to be useful or productive.
These days are perfect for group runs. They provide an ideal mental distraction.
Interesting conversations, learning from other’s victories and lessons learned, getting suggestions on gear or pop culture must-sees are all things you’ll never get running by yourself.
On some runs, the need for (and benefits of) distraction greatly outweigh the impact to my introvert psyche.
Any other introverts out there who run with groups?