Match your fitness to your personality

Since fitness is about consistency, try and find a routine that is ideally suited to who you are

If you are driven by collaboration, the essential dance-party ingredient of Zumba could be the most suitable option for your type of personality.
If you are driven by collaboration, the essential dance-party ingredient of Zumba could be the most suitable option for your type of personality. THE NEW PAPER FILE PHOTO

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

At the start of the year and resolutions are being heeded, fitness and health usually take centre stage.

But what exactly is the best fitness routine for you and how do you establish this? Many instructors and trainers will say that "the best fitness routine is the one you will do consistently".

But, if you are 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 that fitness world.

In which case, you really 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," says 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 says.

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

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

Cassia Denton, director of personal training and group exercise for Balance Gym in Washington, agrees and says to look specifically at what energises 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 inwards.

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 says.

Liz Kerr, a Washington D.C. resident, says her personality partly fits Type A's desire to track workouts and see results (she does spinning and tries to lift weights), but over time she has added yoga, which is a little less quantifiable.

"It just makes me feel better," she says. "It's hard to measure, but my flexibility is better and my balance is better."

Kerr says going 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 says, will both encourage and challenge.

"If the instructor is good, he 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 is best for you?

Ask yourself: What setting works for your personality?

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

"It's like a favourite restaurant - it's not just the food, it's whether you feel comfortable in the space," says McCall.

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 homing in on what your fitness goals for the year might be.

"Exercise is stress on the body," McCall says, so you need to let your body adapt to that stress in a measured way. Do not do what so many end up doing in the new year: Ramp up too fast.

"Measured" for a beginner might mean walking briskly and eventually introducing intervals on a treadmill for 30 minutes, two to three times a week, for a six-week period.

If you then need help in the goal-setting area (is it a weight-loss goal, a quality-of-life goal, a strength goal, or a race goal?), you should ask a trainer, McCall suggests.

"In the end, exercise should be fun, enhance your life and not just make you look good, but also feel good," he says.

Now, go figure it out: Who are you?


Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 28, 2018, with the headline Match your fitness to your personality. Subscribe