Personality should influence exercise

  • In this Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, photo, Brett Broviak, a manager of respiratory and sleep services at IU Health North Hospital, shows off his Fitbit fitness tracker for the camera on the hospital's campus in Carmel, Ind. Companies and insurers looking to reduce health-care costs are turning to incentives and may soon start rewarding you for wearing a fitness device that tracks your steps, heart rate and more. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

For the Washington Post
Thursday, July 06, 2017

Are you super social? Which motivates you more – internal or external validation? Maybe you’re laid-back? Or keen on getting the biggest bang for your buck? (In fitness, this often translates to burning the most calories.)

But what exactly is the best fitness routine for you? Many instructors and trainers will say – irritatingly perhaps – that “the best fitness routine is the one you will do consistently.”

Okay, if you say so.

But if you’re not already in a good routine, how do you find the right fitness direction – the one that will promote consistency?

Some say that looking at your personality outside the fitness world can help you figure out what works best inside the fitness world.

In which case, you need to know: What is your fitness personality?

“If you’re a Type A personality, you probably have a quantitative goal. You might be wearing a fitness tracker, and you probably feel you need a reason to work out,” said Pete McCall, a spokesman for the American Council on Exercise.

“On the other hand, if you’re more motivated by collaboration, whether there is a quantitative goal or not, then you might do well in something like Zumba, where the purpose is to have a dance party,” McCall said.

So, ask yourself:

Are quantitative goals important to you? If so, try fitness trackers, spin class, treadmill workouts and the like.

Or are you energized by the group setting and maybe having less-trackable goals? Then try group fitness, a la Zumba.

Cassia Denton, personal-training and group-exercises director for Balance Gym in Washington, agrees and says to look specifically at what energizes you in life.

“The first thing to look at is what tends to recharge you outside of work. Is it a hot bath and a glass of wine? Or is it a big meal with friends?” Denton says. “This can be telling in terms of what will help you stay motivated.”

In other words, are you an introvert or extrovert?

The former, Denton says, might do well in a spin or yoga class, where, although there are people around you, the room might be dark and the focus is turned inward.

The latter might do better in a group fitness class such as CrossFit, treadmill running or boot camp, where not only can people see you but there also might be an element of collaboration.

“If you’re in the ‘big meal with friends’ category, this might be a good fit, because there is a certain amount of focus on interacting with other people,” Denton said.

Liz Kerr of Washington said her personality partly fits Type A’s desire to track workouts and see results (she takes spinning three times a week and tries to lift twice a week), but over time she has added yoga, which is a little less quantifiable.

“It just makes me feel better,” she said. “It’s hard to measure, but my flexibility is better and my balance is better.”

Kerr, who tends to lift on her own, said coming to a class often inspires her to work harder (she played team sports in college), both because of the instructor and the people around her. In other words, you can be social and competitive at the same time. A good instructor, she said, will both encourage and challenge.

“If the instructor is good, they will make everyone, no matter what their fitness level, feel comfortable, and still make sure they get a good workout.”

Kerr says she prefers the gym environment because she can choose her regular classes, lift on her own or try something completely new. But some people prefer boutique studios or outdoor alternatives. How do you know what’s best for you?

Ask yourself: What setting works for your personality?

The only way to truly know is to visit many places, whether they be boutique studios, gyms or outdoor boot camps.

Once you have figured out your fitness personality and started your routine, then what?

McCall says to keep it up for six weeks or so and then start honing in on what your fitness goals for the year might be.