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What's Your Fitness Personality?
When I take my daughter to her dance class at our community rec center, I’m always amazed at the number of people pacing doggedly on the treadmill or working up a sweat in spinning class — even when it’s sunny and 70 degrees outside.
“This is Boulder, Colorado!” I think to myself. “We have acres and acres of public Open Space, miles and miles of running and cycling paths and hiking trails. Why would anyone choose to exercise indoors?”
The answer likely lies in a concept that’s at the core of getting — and staying — in shape: fitness personality.
I thrive on nature and novelty. The thought of a regular gym workout under fluorescent lights bores me before I even try it. But someone else may be inspired by the predictable routine and location I loathe. Ensuring that your fitness regimen jives with your fitness personality is the key to making exercise easier and more enjoyable — and thus a more consistent part of your life.
If you poll your friends about their exercise habits, patterns will start to emerge. My friend Mimi is out the door for a walk at 5:30 a.m. without fail, even in the dark and cold of winter. My sister-in-law spends her early mornings on her home treadmill. As for me, I can barely rouse myself before the sky is light, and the only thing that guarantees any discipline is if I have shelled out money for a gym class. Ideally, it’s a dance class, with invigorating music. We clearly have different fitness personalities!
Why should you identify your fitness personality?
“Fitness personality” is a concept that’s gained traction among exercise experts. Jonathan Niednagel, an athletic consultant for professional teams and author of Your Key to Sports Success, explains how understanding your inborn brain type can help motivate you, choose which sport and speed you’re best suited for, and which athletic pursuits to avoid. In Suzanne Brue's book The 8 Colors of Fitness, she applies principles from the popular Myers-Briggs personality inventory to help readers develop a personalized exercise program within eight color-coded types. And Susan Davis-Ali, Ph.D., who has developed a Fitness Interest Profile survey for the Life Time Fitness health club chain, says research suggests that people who engage in activities appropriate for their personalities will enjoy their workouts more and are likely to stay with them longer.
By identifying your fitness personality, you can create an exercise program that suits your rhythms and interests, which comprise who you are. Working with your personality, rather than against it, can help you find a fitness approach that can become an integral part of your life.
Maybe getting fit is a brand-new goal for you. Consider your overall orientation to life and relationships — do you like consistency or change? Time alone to think or lots of conversation with friends? Are you geared toward goals, or do you prefer to relax and see what unfolds? Do you like to get up early and get your obligations out of the way, or are you more spontaneous, tackling tasks as the spirit moves you during the day?
Based on a range of composites from the growing literature on fitness personalities, we’ve put together some categories to help you assess yours. Find one that captures the way you feel about exercise — there may be several. Then, check out the recommended workout possibilities, and get moving in a manner that works for you, not against you!
6 common fitness personalities
1. Disciplined and driven
This is the image most of us think we should aspire to — though in reality, not everyone fits this mold. The disciplined and driven exerciser is self-motivated and goal-oriented. Commitment and consistency go hand in hand. You like to use machines, heart rate monitors and pedometers to track progress. You may keep a training log, or work with a personal trainer to design systematic workouts that allow you to aim for and measure improvement. Disciplined types are often early risers, and regular exercise to start the day is second nature. Compatible fitness regimens include cardio workouts, interval training, weight training, running, swimming and martial arts.
2. Relishes routine
You have commonalities with “disciplined and driven,” but you’re more relaxed about your regimen. For you, the key to success is consistency. You like order and familiarity in your exercise settings and practices. You may enjoy reading magazines or watching Oprah while on the treadmill or NordicTrack at home. Whatever your approach, whether it’s a favorite training video, the Wii Fit, a gym class teacher you’re comfortable with or memorized Pilates moves, you like to stick with it. You usually like to work out at the same time every day — often first thing in the morning, or an after-work session. Making exercise predictable is the way to make it a habit.
3. Conscious contemplative
You're a reflective person who enjoys quiet, solo activities, which allow a chance to look inward while working your heart and muscles, often without thinking too much about the physical details. Long-distance running, hiking, swimming and biking offer an escape from cell phones and electronic tethers — a chance to clear the mind and renew the spirit while strengthening the body. You gravitate naturally to outdoor pursuits, but some indoor practices also suit your disposition, such as yoga or Pilates. You may enjoy t'ai chi or even karate, which incorporates a strong mind-body component. Your workouts are often soothing, rather than intense.
4. Plays well with others
For you, exercise is best enjoyed in company. Your workouts are as much about the social dimension as they are about getting fit. Left to your own devices, you’re likely to stay plopped on the couch, but connect you with camaraderie, and you’re revved up and ready to go. Whether it’s a committed group of friends to chat with at water aerobics, or a high-powered cardio class at the gym where you all sweat and moan together, your motivation comes primarily from the presence — and accountability factor — of others. A lunch-hour class at a nearby gym may be a fun break in your workday. On weekends, consider golf, tennis, dance or a local rec team.
5. Compulsive competitor
You also like a communal aspect to your fitness pursuits, but in your case, the greater gratification comes through competition over mere socializing. The “driven and disciplined” types may be happy with pushing their personal best, but the competitor is motivated by winning. Team sports are a natural outlet — look for a community soccer, rugby or lacrosse league, or a basketball or swim team at your local YMCA. Races and matches are also a natural draw for you. Find a regular tennis or racquetball partner. Sign up for 10K runs. Train for a marathon. As long as there’s an opportunity for the thrill of beating your opponent, you’re in.
6. Avid for adventure
It’s tough for any formal exercise program to keep your attention and commitment. You crave freshness and spontaneity in your fitness pursuits, seeking activities that engage your interest and animate your enthusiasm. It’s crucial for adventurous types to mix things up, so that no one exercise practice becomes stagnant. Outdoor endeavors are appealing, such as snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in winter, in-line skating or mountain biking in summer. If you’re into gym classes, master the mixed moves of Nia or the high-energy Latin dance groove of Zumba. Give kickboxing a go, or try Swiss ball or hot yoga to change things up. The key to keeping you active is to keep things stimulating. Try a midday exercise escape to break the work routine.