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Feb. 1 2023

What it means to be an introverted trainer

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The fitness industry is full of high-energy, larger than life personalities. And while the extroverted trainer may be the boldest personality in the gym, introverts are everywhere quietly making a difference in their clients’ lives.

Introverts make up 30-50% of the population according to the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. The book is a fantastic read for introverts who seek validation for their behavior. And it’s an excellent tool for extroverted leaders to understand their introverted colleagues.

Introversion Is Inherent
The Myers-Briggs personality test helps determine whether a person is an introvert or extrovert. There are 8 introverted personality types just like there are 8 extroverted personality types.

Introverts are born with this temperament. A longitudinal study by Jerome Kagan done on 4-month old babies accurately predicted who would grow up to be an introvert. Infants who had a big response to stimulus such as noises, sights and smells were predicted to grow up to be introverts. When the study participants were interviewed during their teenage years, the high-reactive infants were more likely to have developed a serious, careful personality.

One important fact to understand is shyness can be overcome while introversion cannot. Introverts can develop the skills and confidence to speak up, do public speaking, appear in videos like Facebook live and attend networking events.

Socializing, however, drains an introvert. One of the hallmark traits of introverts is that being around lots of people and loud environments drains their energy. So after a day in the gym with music playing, weights clunking and people talking, the introverted trainer will be tired and ready for quiet, alone time.

While not all introverts have these traits, these are some of the common threads.

Introverted Strengths
Introverts are smart and love taking deep dives into subjects. This philosophy of continued learning and valuing education leads many introverts to obtain multiple certifications. “I love to learn and study the things that will help each individual client,” says Gwynn Lindler of Gwynn Lindler Fitness. “In my early days as a trainer, I learned to trust myself. It was too easy to get lost in rabbit holes of research, to overprepare, and overeducate until my clients were glassy-eyed.”

Introverts are typically good listeners and solution-based which makes them ideal for connecting with their clients and solving their problems. The introverted trainer is also disciplined and reliable. And she thinks things through before speaking or making a decision.

Introverted Weaknesses
Many introverts have a hard time being vulnerable. Getting an introvert to open up and discuss feelings takes time. The introverted trainer may seem aloof and uncaring, but that is not the case. She is observing and building trust.

Introverts often struggle with self-confidence. Hence, asking for a sale is challenging. Though introverts are educated, they often doubt themselves and their self-worth. So, it’s a challenge to ask a prospective client to buy a $1,000 package. With training and experience, this is a mindset and skill that can be improved.

Introverts can sometimes be rigid and inflexible. Change is especially hard for them. However, when the introvert has had time to think it over and process their thoughts, they become more comfortable.

How Managers Can Understand the Introverted Trainer
Introverted trainers will interact differently with their clients and with gym management than their extroverted colleagues. In a staff meeting, the introvert likely won’t say a lot. And if she does, it will be after everyone else has spoken. Some introverts will attend a staff meeting and say nothing at all.

To make the introvert feel valued and heard, managers will need to directly ask an introvert to share their thoughts. But, being in the spotlight with all eyes on the introvert is also challenging. So, a quick one-on-one conversation may elicit more feedback from the trainer.

“Introverts want to feel safe and know it is okay to open up and share themselves with others. Managers can help build relationships with their introverted trainers by being authentic, compassionate, warm, non-judgemental and truly focused on being in service to their trainers for their growth and development," says Steve Nathenson of StriveFor More.

Also, introverts reach a point where their zest for socializing burns out. Team building events in the evening after a day of work will be hard for the introverted trainer. The introvert’s social battery will be low and she will start to disengage and will likely leave the event early.

Managers can help the introvert by simply recognizing that she showed up and gave her energy. Praise her engagement rather than highlighting her exit. Another strategy is to hold team events earlier in the day.

Also, introverts tend to get overwhelmed easily. Helping the introverted trainer prioritize tasks helps to manage the overwhelm.

Introverted Training Sessions
Observing an introverted training session will reveal that it looks and sounds much different than an extroverted training session. While the energy and focus are high, the body language is calm.

Introverted trainers typically don’t yell, “Let’s go,” and “C’mon! Two more. You can do it!” There may not be audible clapping for the entire gym to hear, but the introverted trainer still lavishes their client with words of affirmation. This is how an introvert shines in their authenticity.

Introverts are an asset to any gym environment. The introverted trainer will naturally attract the more shy, quieter clients. And that makes the gym environment more inviting for everyone.

Sara Lewis is an introvert and 20-year veteran in the fitness industry. For 10 years, she operated a boutique fitness studio in northern Virginia. In addition to her degree in Exercise Science, she is certified by ACE, ACSM, NKT, and PN. Currently, Sara coaches introverted entrepreneurs to get out of their own head and into the world so they can grow their business without changing who they are.