Ask the experts
Catering to introverts

Is the health and fitness industry more geared up to meet the needs of extroverts and overlooking more introverted customers? Kath Hudson investigates


In a world set up to reward extrovert behaviour, introverts are commonly misunderstood and judged – labelled as shy, lacking in confidence or even boring. Even the dictionary definition is reductive and fails to appreciate the many nuances of the introvert personality.

The scientific difference between introverts and extroverts is how they respond to the neurotransmitter dopamine: a chemical released in the brain that provides the motivation to seek external rewards.

Dopamine makes everyone more talkative, alert to their surroundings and motivated to take risks. Extroverts enjoy this feeling, even crave it, but it makes introverts feel overstimulated, so after a dopamine rush they need to withdraw to recharge their batteries.

Introverts thrive on a different neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which allows for deep thought and reflection. In short it means that introverts can act like extroverts – and even be mistaken for them – but doing this drains their batteries and then they’ll need to withdraw. Put simply, extroverts recharge with people and introverts recharge on their own.

The world has been set up to be pleasing to extroverts, so let’s make sure that health clubs lead the way by offering inclusive, welcoming environments that introverts will want to visit, before we lose this group of members to digital streaming services.

So how can you make your club more appealing to introverts? We ask the experts.

Jacque Crockford
American Council on Exercise: Exercise physiology content manager
Jacque Crockford

It’s the instructors’ role to meet participants where they are on that day. Instructors should check in with each participant, individually before class if time allows, and address the class as a whole with inclusive, motivating language.

Instructors, and the industry, should celebrate personality differences and strive to be as inclusive as possible. Inclusive language in marketing material is one way the industry may be able to drive participation by introverts.

"Instructors, and the industry, should celebrate personality differences and strive to be as inclusive as possible"

Generally, group exercise participants return to classes because of the instructor. If the instructor can meet each participant where they are in their exercise journey and mood that day, they will be successful with introverts.

This means giving clear instructions and modifications to the whole group and creating an inclusive, fun and encouraging environment that engages everyone.

Dan Maroun
Les Mills US: Assessor, presenter, trainer
Dan Maroun

One of the biggest things I’d love for people to understand is that introversion and extroversion do play a role in what we enjoy, or what we find fun in life, and so creating awareness of this topic is very important. Because they have higher thresholds of stimulation, extroverts lean towards varied, high-intensity modalities in exercise, with constantly shifting movements and high-paced programming.

Combine this with social factors of team-training, small-group, or group fitness and you have a recipe for success for those who self-identify as extroverts.

Although we have to be careful not to generalise too much, the opposite can be said for introverts. Over-stimulation is going to turn them off. They prefer workouts where they know what’s coming or can anticipate shifts.

They prefer longer sets of a movement and some argue they enjoy the melodic and pace-oriented setting of a group class set to music, which moves with the beat.

It’s hypothesised that the rhythm of the music gives them control in the workout in terms of tempos.

"Introversion and extroversion do play a role in what we enjoy, or what we find fun in life, and so creating awareness of this topic is very important"

In a group exercise setting, we can appeal to extroverts through higher intensity and variability, combine that with high-paced music and possibly programming which prefers various pyramids, ladders and AMRAPS.

Introverts, on the other hand, are going to feel more secure working out in a group fitness setting where the stimulation factors are controlled and where the workout is somewhat isolated, even, independent and non-competitive.

To appeal to both groups, each day you should include a variety of classes which maximise the combination of formats and instructors across the board, with a welcoming, inclusive, and fun atmosphere which makes people want to be there.

Joanna Rawbone
Flourishing Introverts: founder
Joanna Rawbone

Introverts will pick their time to visit the gym – when it’s not so busy, or when their ‘type’ of people visit. As they typically don’t enjoy making small talk, removing the points where they might usually be obliged to make conversation can be a relief.

Although social and open introverts might be happy to engage with a member of staff at reception, classic introverts prefer to walk in with headphones on and go straight to their preferred place in the studio.

Online booking and payment, and opening the studio ten minutes early facilitates this. It means they can take their space and get into their own zone, rather than having to queue among chattering groups in the corridor. If I’m going to a class, I like to sit with my headphones on and do a quiet meditation beforehand.

Subdued lighting, rather than harsh lighting, is appropriate, as it allows introverts to be private. But a dark studio with neon lights can be overwhelming and over stimulating. Natural lighting is good.

"Subdued lighting, rather than harsh lighting, is appropriate, as it allows introverts to be private. But a dark studio with neon lights can be overwhelming and over stimulating"

Although home fitness offers a draw to introverts, there are many reasons they will want to visit the gym and take part in a group exercise class – for example to learn from a passionate and knowledgeable instructor or take part in a challenging workout. Silent disco concepts can be effective, as they allow introverts to be part of an uplifting group activity, while the headphones assure them of their own space.

Introverts will be drawn to instructors with a calmer manner, possibly the type of people who may have been previously overlooked by employers, or who thought they wouldn’t be suitable to lead a group fitness class. Positive language should also be used when describing this type of class – avoiding the term introvert, which still has negative connotations – instead using positive words like quiet or calm.

Frances Mikuriya
Body Machine: owner
Frances Mikuriya

This is a fascinating subject and I think it’s important that the industry starts to acknowledge that not everyone is the same and not everyone wants loud.

As an architect, I believe it’s possible to design spaces that can accommodate any personality and make people feel good.

There’s been a tendency in the industry to create nightclubby spaces in the belief that loud music and neon lighting are the only way to create an immersive environment. Many people actually find this a distraction from the workout. It’s better to make the experience immersive through a well designed and structured class, with an attentive instructor.

My architecture partner, Jorgen Tandberg, and I spent a long time looking for a site that benefitted from natural light, and we designed my club differently from the industry standard, using a light palette of colours that make people feel calm and relaxed. Many people spend all day indoors, with little natural light, and it’s important for circadian rhythms and stress release to come into contact with it. Studies also prove that working out with natural light is beneficial.

"Shouting, singing and high fiving will not suit everyone. It goes without saying that instructors should be discreet when speaking about personal things"

I believe many introverts enjoy group fitness, especially concepts involving equipment which then allows them to inhabit their own space, and especially if rooms aren’t overcrowded. However, the trend towards broadcasting data on a big screen at the front of the class may also introduce an element of competition which introverts don’t welcome.

The role of the instructor is key and so employing a range of personality types is important, so everyone can find an instructor they can relate to.

Shouting, singing and high fiving will not suit everyone. And of course it goes without saying that the instructor should be discreet and speak to people about any conditions or injuries privately.

Removing the need for small talk at the gym can make introverts feel more comfortable Credit: PHOTO: Shutterstock/ Hryshchyshen Serhii
Calm colours and natural light may suit introverts better than nightclub-inspired interiors Credit: shutterstock_GingerKitten
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Health Club Management
2020 issue 3

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Leisure Management - Catering to introverts

Ask the experts

Catering to introverts


Is the health and fitness industry more geared up to meet the needs of extroverts and overlooking more introverted customers? Kath Hudson investigates

Clubs should offer a variety of different classes and instructors, to appeal to different personality types PHOTO: Shutterstock/GPointStudio
Removing the need for small talk at the gym can make introverts feel more comfortable PHOTO: Shutterstock/ Hryshchyshen Serhii
Calm colours and natural light may suit introverts better than nightclub-inspired interiors shutterstock_GingerKitten

In a world set up to reward extrovert behaviour, introverts are commonly misunderstood and judged – labelled as shy, lacking in confidence or even boring. Even the dictionary definition is reductive and fails to appreciate the many nuances of the introvert personality.

The scientific difference between introverts and extroverts is how they respond to the neurotransmitter dopamine: a chemical released in the brain that provides the motivation to seek external rewards.

Dopamine makes everyone more talkative, alert to their surroundings and motivated to take risks. Extroverts enjoy this feeling, even crave it, but it makes introverts feel overstimulated, so after a dopamine rush they need to withdraw to recharge their batteries.

Introverts thrive on a different neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which allows for deep thought and reflection. In short it means that introverts can act like extroverts – and even be mistaken for them – but doing this drains their batteries and then they’ll need to withdraw. Put simply, extroverts recharge with people and introverts recharge on their own.

The world has been set up to be pleasing to extroverts, so let’s make sure that health clubs lead the way by offering inclusive, welcoming environments that introverts will want to visit, before we lose this group of members to digital streaming services.

So how can you make your club more appealing to introverts? We ask the experts.

Jacque Crockford
American Council on Exercise: Exercise physiology content manager
Jacque Crockford

It’s the instructors’ role to meet participants where they are on that day. Instructors should check in with each participant, individually before class if time allows, and address the class as a whole with inclusive, motivating language.

Instructors, and the industry, should celebrate personality differences and strive to be as inclusive as possible. Inclusive language in marketing material is one way the industry may be able to drive participation by introverts.

"Instructors, and the industry, should celebrate personality differences and strive to be as inclusive as possible"

Generally, group exercise participants return to classes because of the instructor. If the instructor can meet each participant where they are in their exercise journey and mood that day, they will be successful with introverts.

This means giving clear instructions and modifications to the whole group and creating an inclusive, fun and encouraging environment that engages everyone.

Dan Maroun
Les Mills US: Assessor, presenter, trainer
Dan Maroun

One of the biggest things I’d love for people to understand is that introversion and extroversion do play a role in what we enjoy, or what we find fun in life, and so creating awareness of this topic is very important. Because they have higher thresholds of stimulation, extroverts lean towards varied, high-intensity modalities in exercise, with constantly shifting movements and high-paced programming.

Combine this with social factors of team-training, small-group, or group fitness and you have a recipe for success for those who self-identify as extroverts.

Although we have to be careful not to generalise too much, the opposite can be said for introverts. Over-stimulation is going to turn them off. They prefer workouts where they know what’s coming or can anticipate shifts.

They prefer longer sets of a movement and some argue they enjoy the melodic and pace-oriented setting of a group class set to music, which moves with the beat.

It’s hypothesised that the rhythm of the music gives them control in the workout in terms of tempos.

"Introversion and extroversion do play a role in what we enjoy, or what we find fun in life, and so creating awareness of this topic is very important"

In a group exercise setting, we can appeal to extroverts through higher intensity and variability, combine that with high-paced music and possibly programming which prefers various pyramids, ladders and AMRAPS.

Introverts, on the other hand, are going to feel more secure working out in a group fitness setting where the stimulation factors are controlled and where the workout is somewhat isolated, even, independent and non-competitive.

To appeal to both groups, each day you should include a variety of classes which maximise the combination of formats and instructors across the board, with a welcoming, inclusive, and fun atmosphere which makes people want to be there.

Joanna Rawbone
Flourishing Introverts: founder
Joanna Rawbone

Introverts will pick their time to visit the gym – when it’s not so busy, or when their ‘type’ of people visit. As they typically don’t enjoy making small talk, removing the points where they might usually be obliged to make conversation can be a relief.

Although social and open introverts might be happy to engage with a member of staff at reception, classic introverts prefer to walk in with headphones on and go straight to their preferred place in the studio.

Online booking and payment, and opening the studio ten minutes early facilitates this. It means they can take their space and get into their own zone, rather than having to queue among chattering groups in the corridor. If I’m going to a class, I like to sit with my headphones on and do a quiet meditation beforehand.

Subdued lighting, rather than harsh lighting, is appropriate, as it allows introverts to be private. But a dark studio with neon lights can be overwhelming and over stimulating. Natural lighting is good.

"Subdued lighting, rather than harsh lighting, is appropriate, as it allows introverts to be private. But a dark studio with neon lights can be overwhelming and over stimulating"

Although home fitness offers a draw to introverts, there are many reasons they will want to visit the gym and take part in a group exercise class – for example to learn from a passionate and knowledgeable instructor or take part in a challenging workout. Silent disco concepts can be effective, as they allow introverts to be part of an uplifting group activity, while the headphones assure them of their own space.

Introverts will be drawn to instructors with a calmer manner, possibly the type of people who may have been previously overlooked by employers, or who thought they wouldn’t be suitable to lead a group fitness class. Positive language should also be used when describing this type of class – avoiding the term introvert, which still has negative connotations – instead using positive words like quiet or calm.

Frances Mikuriya
Body Machine: owner
Frances Mikuriya

This is a fascinating subject and I think it’s important that the industry starts to acknowledge that not everyone is the same and not everyone wants loud.

As an architect, I believe it’s possible to design spaces that can accommodate any personality and make people feel good.

There’s been a tendency in the industry to create nightclubby spaces in the belief that loud music and neon lighting are the only way to create an immersive environment. Many people actually find this a distraction from the workout. It’s better to make the experience immersive through a well designed and structured class, with an attentive instructor.

My architecture partner, Jorgen Tandberg, and I spent a long time looking for a site that benefitted from natural light, and we designed my club differently from the industry standard, using a light palette of colours that make people feel calm and relaxed. Many people spend all day indoors, with little natural light, and it’s important for circadian rhythms and stress release to come into contact with it. Studies also prove that working out with natural light is beneficial.

"Shouting, singing and high fiving will not suit everyone. It goes without saying that instructors should be discreet when speaking about personal things"

I believe many introverts enjoy group fitness, especially concepts involving equipment which then allows them to inhabit their own space, and especially if rooms aren’t overcrowded. However, the trend towards broadcasting data on a big screen at the front of the class may also introduce an element of competition which introverts don’t welcome.

The role of the instructor is key and so employing a range of personality types is important, so everyone can find an instructor they can relate to.

Shouting, singing and high fiving will not suit everyone. And of course it goes without saying that the instructor should be discreet and speak to people about any conditions or injuries privately.


Originally published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 3

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