The Best Solo Exercises for Introverts During Social Distancing

As an introvert who spends a lot of time in my mind, exercise helps me sort out my mental clutter. Then, I can intentionally get out of my head, listen to the sounds around me, and focus on living in the moment. This feeling brings a sense of relief and openness.

If I need to sort out more complex emotions, I feel ready to examine them when exercising in nature. Gaining a sense of inner calm, I notice the physicality of my experience and find joy in truly being in the moment. This is what psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi called “flow,” the pleasurable state of being fully immersed in an activity.

Introverts Excel at Solo Exercises

That being said, we’re in a global health crisis, which comes with its own challenges. The good news is introverts may be ideally suited for the solo fitness activities available to many of us right now. Chances are team sports and overcrowded gyms have never held strong appeal for us introverts anyway, so we are not likely to heavily feel the loss of these pursuits.

Still, there are many good reasons to make the effort to exercise while staying at home. If you’re working from home and spending long hours being sedentary in front of a computer, exercise is a good way to balance that inactivity.

Maybe there are times in this crisis when you want to let go of this moment we are in, and if that’s the case, then exercise is a great distraction from the bad news. The feel-good endorphins that you will get from exercise will give you temporary relief from negative emotions. And, if you make exercise a habit, it can help you gain both physical and mental fortitude through these tough times — and beyond.

Exercises to Do at Home

The three main types of fitness activities that you’d ideally add into any routine are cardio, weight bearing, and stretching exercises. So, here are my top seven pandemic fitness activities for introverts. You can do the first four at home:

Cardio

I have an elliptical machine. I bought it many years ago, and it’s been a game-changer for me when the weather in Canada is truly so awful that it’s safer just to stay inside. Stationary bikes and treadmills are also effective for a cardio workout. If yours has been gathering dust or doubling as a clothes rack, move it to a spot where you are reminded to use it. To beat the boredom factor, set up the TV or computer so you can watch a show or listen to inspiring music while you work out.

If you don’t have a machine, skipping rope is a very effective cardio exercise that requires minimum equipment and space. Plus, there are a ton of aerobics videos and dance routines available online for free. Here are some of my favorites:

So, pull on the retro leg warmers and have fun!

Weight lifting

This can be enjoyable and help you to build the body you want. Just start slow with low weights and high reps. Gyms are likely closed where you live, but in any case, the potential crowds can be a major deterrent to indoor fitness facilities for introverts. It does help if you have free weights at home, including ankle weights to work legs and glutes.

However, if you do not have those, you could use objects around your home that are easy for you to grip and have some reasonable weight to them. Start with lighter objects than you might think, like a big book or container full of liquid, and add on the repetitions for building strength and toning your muscles.

You can also use your own body weight to build core strength with moves such as sit ups, squats, and plank. Here are some of my favorite videos to get you started:

It’s not as complicated as people make it seem. Just try it; you’ll love the results! 

Stretching

I know many people call this yoga, hatha yoga to be precise, but I’m not a trained yoga practitioner. I refer to it as stretching, and I do it after my cardio workouts when my muscles are warm. Stretching is a good lifelong habit that maintains flexibility and helps everything else move smoothly. As an introvert, I have difficulty committing to classes in my downtime, but my yoga mat on the floor at home works perfectly — and my cat loves it, too! These videos will help you get started:

Yard Work

This is why we need to stay fit, right, to be able to do the daily chores? Okay, so taking out the garbage might not be an endorphin rush, but yard work can be a satisfying and honest workout! I find these seasonal activities nostalgic as well: fall — raking leaves and planting flower bulbs; winter — shovelling snow; spring — cleaning up and gardening; summer — pulling weeds, cutting the grass, harvesting seeds, and food. All of this involves bending, squatting, and carrying, so do it with proper form to protect your back (here’s a video that will show you how).

If you do have a yard that offers you private outdoor space, that’s great, but don’t overdo it! Yard work can be much more strenuous than people realize, and we tend to do it longer than a “workout” — so please pace yourself and take breaks when your body is saying it’s time for water and a break.

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Exercises to Do Outside 

Many introverts crave getting outside: the more immersed in nature, the better. Exercising while being in the beauty of nature adds a sense of inner calm to the feel-good endorphins. Research has also shown that being in nature reduces overthinking and increases attention.

That being said, many parks, forests, and conservation areas are closed right now, and may stay that way for some time. So, make sure to research places that are open to the public in your area and follow the social distancing rules therein. It might be as simple as going to a green area in your neighborhood (if you’re allowed to do so right now).

Recommendations for exercising outside are only for people who have no Covid-19 symptoms and are practicing social and physical distancing. As Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer for British Columbia, tells us, “Please, go outside!” She states that the risk of catching Covid-19 while practicing physical distancing outside is “infinitesimally small.” 

So, the last three fitness activities take us outside:

Walking

Listening to the sounds around you — like chirping birds or rustling leaves — is the quickest way to stop overthinking. You may also want to listen to music or an audiobook as you walk. A walk-and-talk with someone dear in your life is such good therapy, even for us introverts! Just make sure you have agreed to practice physical distancing from each other on your walk.

Running

Like walking, running is a very quick and simple way to experience the endorphin rush after-party in your body. It does not take a marathon distance to achieve this! Do only what your body can handle and start really slowly. I have found that a heart monitor is best to help find your ideal pace. Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge offer excellent advice on how to use it in their novel, Younger Next Year. Don’t overdo it with running and give yourself plenty of recovery time between runs to get the most out of this activity!

Biking

As a kid, did you feel free on a set of two wheels? Now many adults are discovering what a fantastic mode of transportation cycling is as we move toward alternate modes of transportation. Just be sure to get a comfy seat so you will want to do this more than once.

Every spring, I add meaning to this wonderful sport through a charity bike ride. I find that this motivates me to ride more frequently and to push myself to contribute to a cause close to my heart. This year my usual charity bike event has been postponed, but it will likely take place at some point as people can cycle as a solo activity.

A few final points for safety and satisfaction: Remember to keep your cell phone handy in case you need to call for support. None of these activities are risk-free, especially in the midst of this pandemic, but then neither is a sedentary life. The benefits of working out your whole introverted self are worth it!

Maybe some of these fitness activities are already habits for you, but wherever you are on your fitness journey, I hope you will be inspired to build some of them into your routine to help you during this time and beyond.

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Jennifer Baron has been an elementary teacher for 25 years and has written and facilitated courses for teachers in Outdoor and Environmental Education for 20 years. In her early career, she was a lifeguard, swimming, and canoeing instructor. She’s managed two of her Board’s outdoor education centers and has a great passion for integrating fitness with education. Jen has an Honors Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from Trent University. She started sprint level triathlons at age 47 and has since participated in five of them. She is a mom to two grown children and lives with her partner, Mark, in Ontario, Canada.