The Internet is filled with "10 Things You Must Know Before..." and "15 Ugly Truths About..." articles. A lot of them exist to tell first-time CrossFitters what they're getting into. The extrovert reads these articles -- which at some point inevitably reference the "community" aspect of the workout -- and they're sold. Awaiting them at their new box are 50 gym-BFFs to cheer them through workouts and share a beer with afterward. The introvert reads these same articles and wants to run away in fear. The thought of having to interact with people at the gym is enough to make them cancel their evening plans for a night alone on the couch. But they also want abs and a nice butt. The struggle is real.
Introverts have been safely at home in globo gyms since the invention of the Walkman. The mobile personal music device (which has thankfully evolved to much smaller sizes) allows them to be fully engrossed in their own world, avoiding interaction with fellow gym-goers. Introverts can generally succeed working out on their own, because they don't need anyone to push them. In fact they prefer to push themselves. They block out their surroundings and give each set their full effort and attention. Accidentally catching eye contact with the bro benching next to them sparks a wave of anxiety. Phrases like "Can I work in with you?" cut their workout short a set. If the day calls for supersets, they'll be at the gym when the doors open to ensure they have the equipment they need to themselves.
At some point, the solo workouts just aren't cutting it anymore. Summer is coming, and the introvert's abs have been in hiding since senior year of college. He's come to find the treadmill's "fat burning zone" to be a complete lie. It's time to cut the fat. Plus he's been told there's bacon.
While CrossFit may seem socially overwhelming, the introvert can survive -- even thrive. First, a few tips to quell the introvert's fears.
Bodily functions are a no-shame zone inside the box. Pee yourself doing double unders? Did that 1RM back squat come with a fart PR? The spider stretch tore your shorts down the center? That chest-to-bar pull-up was a little too chesty? Was the finish a little too close to your unmentionables on that last clean? Not to worry. Everyone in the gym has been there. And if they haven't experienced a near-pants-sh*tting experience yet, they just haven't found the requisite timing of pre-WOD Chipotle. Think of these moments as initiation. You're not cool unless you pee your pants.
Team WODs happen, and they're nothing to be afraid of. There will be people in the gym who are more fit and therefore capable of doing more work. There will also be people who are less fit and therefore not capable of doing as much work. Team WODs exist to prepare CrossFitters for life -- physically, mentally, and emotionally. Relationships require teamwork. Raising children is a team effort. Corporate life requires that teams work together. It's a universal truth that not all employees are created with equal intelligence or give-a-damn. The same is true of physical ability in the gym. Being able to capitalize on individual strengths to contribute to team success is a skill that proves invaluable in all facets of life. The unique capabilities and strengths of each person contribute to the successful completion of a team workout. All that's required is the best effort each person can give. Don't feel bad that you just made Suzie do an extra snatch...she's glad you picked up those two burpees for her.
The CrossFit box is a judgment-free zone. At one point, every single person walked in the doors for the first time. They all started at some level of fitness significantly below their current ability. However, consistency has increased their fitness. Seeing others succeed in the same way they did -- getting their first pull-up, back squatting 200 pounds for the first time -- brings back the emotions they felt when they hit those milestones. Helping new members accomplish these goals provides the seasoned member with motivation to continue improving, to feel those feels again. What every member has in common is the desire to be better than they were yesterday.
There are several qualities of the introvert that make him suited to excel at CrossFit.
Introversion is generally coupled with an outward impression of humility (even if deep down they think they're business, they typically won't say so). Because the introvert is quick to listen but slow to speak, they're lovable. When they do speak up, they ask questions. This endears them to the more seasoned gym members. They'll smile, nod, and offer congratulations & daps to every member sharing their latest PR story. The introvert is an observer. Rather than assuming professional status immediately upon being taught a skill, they'll watch every other member do the skill, and pick up small pieces to improve their own.
All of these things make the introvert the coach's dream. As an athlete he is humble, a great listener, a quiet observer, and does not let his ego get in the way of improvement. Whereas extroverts may spend the instructional period of class having side conversations and slow down pre-WOD prep with their incessant trash-talking, the introvert allows class to run smoothly. They also do exactly what they're told -- like record their workouts! Extroverts may get caught up in the gym gossip pre- and post-WOD and forget to track their progress. The next time the 1RM back squat comes around, the introvert will know their previous PR. The extrovert will know who left Friday Night Lights with Josh and cooked him a paleo breakfast the next morning.
Of course the extrovert deserves some love, too. Without him, we wouldn't have inappropriate jokes, sweet dance moves, witty nicknames, post-WOD pow-wows, or bold suggestions like running a beer mile after Saturday's nasty team WOD. All things which make the introvert laugh, blush, and cringe simultaneously. But also things which keep them coming back for more!
Elisa is a competitive weightlifter and a CrossFit, weightlifting, and gymnastics coach in Southern California. A gymnast for 19 years until injuries forced her out of the sport, she found CrossFit and weightlifting in 2011 and has never looked back. After five years in the Air Force and a six-month stint in a “real job,” she is now fortunate to spend her days in the gym training and coaching. The opportunity to help athletes become stronger for their sport or more fit for life drives her to improve every day.
Elisa is a gymnast-turned-weightlifter and full-time coach living in Colorado. A previous career in the Air Force let her travel to several countries and experience different cultures. Now, she uses weightlifting and snowboarding as excuses to travel and see more of the world. Her aim as a coach is to introduce others to the same confidence, physical strength, and mental awareness she found through weightlifting.