Your neighbor is at the gym most mornings by six. Your best friend can run for hours but doesn’t have patience for yoga class. And you know somebody who goes into a funk if she misses even one daily workout in a month. Then there’s you, with a style and needs all your own.
There is an exercise program that’s exactly right for you. All you need to do is find the one that fits your personality.
“People are more consistent about doing exercise if they match the schedule and activities to their personality,” says Mike Siemens, director of Exercise Physiology at Canyon Ranch in Tucson. “It’s important to find two or three kinds of aerobic activity that you enjoy, as well as exercise that incorporates the four components of fitness – cardiovascular, strength, flexibility and agility.”
So, think about your major personality traits and consider these approaches to lasting fitness:
Competitive vs. Noncompetitive
Love the thrill of competition? That’s great incentive to keep a fitness program going.
“Even young people have to be in pretty good shape to chase a ball around, so it can be tough to use the sport itself as a training mode. But you can use tennis (or soccer, basketball, skiing and other sports) as a motivator to get into better shape,” says Siemens.
He suggests working with a certified personal trainer to design a routine that will strengthen the appropriate muscles for your sport of choice. This can improve performance and help you prevent injuries. If you want the excitement of competition without the risks of many competitive sports, you might also explore alternatives such as race walking or biking, which may be easier on your body.
On the other hand, if competition is not your passion, you may enjoy less aggressive. Walking is an ideal option on your own or in groups. Dance – including ballet, western dancing, jazz, tap and other nontraditional forms of movement – may also appeal to your creative, fun-loving side.
Indoor vs. Outdoor
Siemens says the indoor/outdoor factor plays a big part in every fitness program.
When you try to start or continue an exercise routine, tune into how you feel. Some people love the controlled environment, electronic displays, TVs and book racks you get with indoor treadmills. If that’s dull or confining to you, why not cover the same distance – with different scenery – outdoors?
Regimented vs. Non-Regimented
More disciplined personalities often appreciate the technical aspects of exercising indoors on machines that allow them to determine specific programs, calories burned, heart rate and so on. If they exercise outdoors, they frequently chart a specific course.
“Many times regimented people are ‘documenters.’ I recommend they keep an exercise diary or journal so they can chart their resting heart rates, times, etc. They enjoy this and it gives them incentive,” Siemens says.
Often these personalities also appreciate the structure provided by weight-training machines as opposed to free weights.
Not so regimented? You can get a great workout bicycling, planting trees, waterskiing, running with your dog in the park, bodysurfing at the beach, taking long walks, learning to dance.
Patient vs. Impatient
Some people love the mindful repetition of exercise programs. Others lack the patience, particularly in the strength-training arena.
“Personality types who don’t have a long attention span can get great benefit from a 15- to 20-minute routine targeting just one exercise per muscle group. You still get 80 to 90 percent of the benefit of doing two or three exercises for each muscle group,” Siemens says.
It’s all about YOU
Let your personality be your guide in customizing a fitness routine that motivates you.
“This is all about being active and moving more. If you have the perfect exercise program and you never do it, it is useless,” Siemens says. “Find what suits your personality and you’ll stick with it. That’s really what matters most.”