I was at my yoga studio getting something sorted with my membership last week when one of the owners came up to welcome me and to ask how I was liking the studio so far.
To which I responded, I have been coming here for 3 years.
She was mortified. I know she prides herself on knowing the yogis who flock to her studio, but she didn’t even recognize me.
I’m a full-blown introvert who can pass for socially normal, but I prefer to remain unseen. Being more visible since I’ve been paleo has been tricky for me.
But in all honesty, it wasn’t just my stealth maneuvers that were at work with the studio owner. Though I’ve observed her hundreds of times as I’ve slipped through the studio, I don’t haunt her classes. Not because she’s not a great teacher, but because she once played Bob Marley for an entire 75 minutes, and I’ve been wary ever since. But that’s an aside.
For introverts who have not perfected the art of furtiveness, venturing into any social setting, including most fitness situations, is so stressful that they just don’t.
I started thinking about nerdiness and fitness when I read that introverts are less likely to exercise in Susan Cain’s book Quiet. Think about nerds. Renowned for their physical prowess? Not so much. Why is that?
My guess is it starts early.
Flashback to 1978
I didn’t hate gym class until grade 3 when we started to play team sports. I found baseball and soccer so traumatic that I would do almost anything to get out of gym. They were stressful not only because I’m an introvert whose brain partially shuts down if I’m forced onto a team, but also because I didn’t know the rules, and couldn’t seem to learn them what with my brain:
a) mostly shut down;
b) otherwise absorbed with devising strategies to avoid gym.
I had concluded, at age seven, that I wasn’t good at sports, and as everyone else concurred I started directing all my nerdy powers into avoiding physical activity.
But when I think back, I loved moving my body.
I went to a two-room school. It had been a one-room school only a year or two before, but the population increased when a bunch of hippies bought up all the cheap land thereabouts. With them came packs of feral hippie children, of which I was one. A portable was added beside the original schoolhouse to house us, and as the years went on and more hippie kids were generated, more portables arrived.
But in the seventies it was still a two-room school, and in the absence of adventure playgrounds, all the kids still played rip-roaring games together at recess. I loved these games, especially Horses.
The rules of Horses were simple: the girls were horses and the boys were horse catchers. When a horse got caught she was put in the corral until recess was over or she managed to escape. I only got caught once (& it was terrifying) but that was not because I was a fast runner. It was because I was a nerd. I would run around being a horse deep in the woods all by myself where the boys would almost never find me. That’s the kind of game an introvert likes. Solitary while still vaguely connected.
I still love moving my body. And I still abhor team sports. Running & yoga work for me. Even though yoga classes are full of people, I can ignore them. It is perfectly acceptable to practice mat-by-mat without any social interaction at all.
I’m still happy to be vaguely connected, but unseen.
Which is why I wasn’t offended that the studio owner didn’t recognize me. I was more like Yes! My invisibility spell has been working! But that is difficult to explain to an extrovert, who assumes that we all aspire to be noticed.
So I’m calling all Paleo Nerds! Let’s not unite, but stay separate and vaguely connected! We don’t have to reflexively avoid exercise because we avoid people!
It’s a rallying cry!
See Paleo Nerd Fitness (Part 1) for a geeky fitness graph.