The first few months of my fitness journey, I didn’t talk to anyone at my gym that I didn’t know before I started there. The reason I started at this particular place was because several acquaintances I knew from my children’s schools posted about their workouts on Facebook. I said hello to them, of course, and sometimes exchanged polite small talk about our kids. Other than that, I came in, did my workout, and left.
I was content with this situation for some time. I had gained energy from day one, and I was losing inches and feeling better. This seemed like the appropriate level of reward from a gym.
Some of the trainers, however, didn’t seem satisfied with my wallflower routine. Increasingly, I was called out during the workouts and just in general being forced out of my introvert comfort zone.
Then, this strange thing started happening; I start talking to other people. It was like my social muscle had grown, or perhaps it was the confidence muscle. I now smile at people and say hi and chit chat with trainers, when forced to, at least.
The next step was a little more conscious on my part. The gym has “challenges” when lots of new people start for a set period of time. Maybe they join full time after the challenge, but it’s not required to participate in the challenge. A new one was starting. It was Monday. Lots of new faces, and this introvert thinks to herself, you know it was so difficult when I started this place. I was scared, intimidated, and weak. I wondered if I could make it a little easier from some of these people if I told them that.
So, I did. I said hi to some of the new faces every day. I started asking how they were, nodding knowingly when they predictably spoke of sore muscles. I revealed that I was in a new pant size, which made all the struggles worth it. I assured them that we all had a first day and couldn’t do exercises and were sore for a week or two.
A few months go by, and a woman responds to me on Facebook and says she met me her first day. She said my warm smile and greeting helped put her at ease. Wow, I teared up. Just recently, I went to an evening class (I’m normally a mid-morning worker outer). A woman I didn’t recognize asked, You’re Becca, right? Yeah. “You’ve been my inspiration” she declares. I’m not exaggerating, folks, she said inspiration. What??? Now, I’m hugging this woman whose face, I sadly, still can’t place. She was another first day person. I had told her about my shorts falling off my hips, that had inspired her to keep going after the challenge.
Now, it’s become a habit. Oh, I have my days when my head is deep in the fog of whatever life is weighing me down with at the moment. Days when I’m doing good to be there and tend to my own self-care. Yet, I now enjoy exchanging some uplifting words with the regulars, opening up about successes and struggles on Facebook, and meeting the newbies.
I was thrilled when the day before my one-year anniversary at the gym, one of the trainers asked me to help a couple who was just starting that day. My heart beamed at the opportunity to make this hard first step a little easier for them. I was thankful to be their first day person who says, “I care” whether in words or actions.
It’s a domino effect. I took the special interest the trainers took in me and started passing it along to others, whether new or just awkward introverts like myself. It feels so good. It’s another addicting part of this fitness journey.
There are some people for whom greeting a stranger comes much easier than it does to me. That’s ok. Some have a gift for making people feel special. My son is like this, it’s apparently not an inherited trait. Not all of us have that gift, and that’s ok. I’m never going to be that person, and that’s ok. Nonetheless, I encourage my fellow introverts not to miss out on the rewards of passing along a smile and a bit of encouragement to someone in your life that might need it. I know, you’re an introvert, and might have to have a nap afterward, because it wears you out. Try it a few times. It’s worth it, and what’s wrong with a good nap, anyhow?
A warm smile is the universal language of kindness. – William Arthur Ward