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Personality Profiles And Training

The human body is not a "one off" system. Everything is tied together and interlinked to create a dynamic state which has multiple influences and things which impact each other.

I've had a few conversations this fall with athletes regarding personality types and how this plays a role into their training, sport, and recovery. Personally, I can tell you my Myer's-Briggs Personality type (alternates between ISFJ and ISTJ), and thanks to an ex-girlfriend in college my Enneagram type (5w4). It can sound odd for people to talk about personalities in the training environment, but it really becomes beneficial for creating long term strategies for managing stresses and recovering well.

Let's break down the two major personality types which people often talk about, because I think they often have the biggest overarching influence on training: Introversion and Extroversion. While the common understanding of Introverts and Extroverts is a little misplaced, with Introverts being labeled as shy and Extroverts being labeled as outgoing, these two personality traits are much deeper. I personally enjoyed Susan Cain's breakdown of them in her book "Quiet", which detailed the processing of stimuli and how it impacts each individual. Introverts, you see, are not necessarily shy individuals, but individuals who use energy to manage stimuli they encounter. Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy from stimuli.

Why does this matter, though?

If we start to consider the personality of an individual, especially those who are involved in an athletic endeavor, we can better start to prescribe training and recovery protocols in a more effective manner. Christian Thibaudeau is one coach who comes to mind who has discussed the act of "neurotyping" athletes to reach high performance goals. I like to at least have conversations with my athletes as to their personality types to guide their decision making on how they spend free time or prepare for their sport. Especially when we look at all the stimuli one can be exposed to in training and sport, we can begin to dial in training to a greater degree.

As an introvert myself, I'll use my own training as an athlete to provide some examples of what managing stimuli can look like to improve performance.

I was notorious in my weightlifting days for training with the lights off and in silence. At my peak, I trained in the faint light coming in through windows or from emergency lights in the facility. If I did listen to music, it was almost exclusively instrumental or soundtrack music. This is obviously not for everyone, but for someone who needs less stimuli to feel energy and recover, having less going on in the training space meant I could continue to spend energy on my training. This was the same for my recovery. I would routinely sit at home at night alone and read or watch movies/shows with predictable plot-lines as part of my recovery to minimize stimuli and be able to recharge. And it worked really well! But if I hadn't known my personality, I wouldn't have been able to create those scenarios or environments which fostered it.

For extroverts, doing something of the opposite may be of great use. Loud music, more fluidity or creativity in training, and a social feel to training may be a greater benefit to their state as a whole. Extroverts especially can thrive with more reactive or constraint based training because the stimulus around them gives them energy. Their recovery may look like a night out with friends, or going to another sporting event, and spending time around people. These things need to be considered and utilized to their advantage in order to help drive outcomes in training.

Now, there's a lot of ways to determine personality types, but having a way to help athletes identify their own personality can also tell them a lot about themselves and help coaches guide the training process. As part of this, I wanted to share with you two personality assessments which may be able to help guide you as part of considering personality type in training.

This is probably the most universal assessment out there, and one which is likely the easiest to take or understand the results of. There's roughly 15-20 different combinations of the main personality traits in the Meyer's-Briggs assessment, but the more you can begin to understand this general overview of personality the more it can help create better training and recovery scenarios.

DISC is a good profiling tool, is commonly used in the business world, but has one drawback: your answers can be highly dependent on situation or circumstance. The answers and results from answering questions can then lead you to understand more context specific clues on personality as to a particular circumstance or scenario. DISC results are fairly easy to understand, but need to be taken from the frame of mind of training or sport to be the most accurate.

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