The clothes you wear, the car you drive, the music you listen to—everything you choose to surround yourself with speaks to who you are. But think about it: Can you say the same about what you do to stay active? If not, then we may have just discovered the key to finding an exercise that you’ll truly enjoy and stick with for a long, long time.
All exercise is good exercise, but even if a workout is convenient or effective, it’s hard to stick with it if it doesn’t inspire, excite and motivate you. And different things will inspire different people. For example, your spouse may love to run races, but competitions may not be your thing. And do you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that.
So, that gym class that your best friend lives for and you dread? Ditch it! Just don’t lose your enthusiasm for moving more. Instead, channel it into finding your exercise personality—the approach to fitness that matches your interests and preferences, and that lights a spark for you. Choose a profile from those listed below that you identify with most. You’ll be one step closer to finding your perfect fitness fit—one that may have you coming back for more sooner than you ever imagined.
You love the thrill of the win, whether it is over an opponent or your own personal record. Exercise is always more fun when it comes with an element of immediate achievement (even if it’s simply bragging rights). When you’re not breaking a sweat, you strive to be the best you can be—whether that means scoring a promotion, perfecting your homemade tomato sauce or achieving the greenest lawn on the block. You thrive on pushing yourself, testing and extending your abilities, and you’re committed to improving yourself every single day.
Joining an Athletic Team: Many cities have organized adult leagues for sports like cycling, triathlons, masters swimming, volleyball, tennis, softball, football or soccer—and your fellow members may enjoy the challenge of an opponent as much as you do. Look for one that plays at a level that meets your own.
Racing: Train for a 5K, triathlon or distance bike ride. You’ll have a concrete goal with a finish line to cross, and you may also find it rewarding to see your pace and endurance improve as you prepare. Work to beat a personal best or rank tops in your age group.
CrossFit-style programs or “boot camps”: For an über challenge, consider one of these strength and conditioning programs. The intense workouts involve a combination of sprints, climbing ropes, carrying objects and other activities that will push you out of your comfort zone.
You love change and trying new things. While others thrive on predictability and structure, you prefer the opportunity to choose your own adventure. Regimens are less attractive to you than free-flowing opportunities for expression or exploration. You see your body and movement as tools to articulate what’s in your soul. In your everyday life, you’re the person who has tried every type of food and been to every museum, and is constantly looking for the next thing to capture your attention and interest.
Dancing: Lyrical, ballroom and ballet often express stories with movement; salsa, swing and African are spirited choices that allow you to add your own personal touches. And fitness dance classes like hip hop and Zumba can be fun and invigorating. Try one, try them all or mix them up on a regular basis to keep yourself on your toes. Focusing on expressing yourself or the sheer entertainment value of the music can make you think of exercise as art rather than work.
Working with your trainer: A fitness expert can cater your workout to your needs by suggesting unconventional techniques and keeping things interesting each session. Be vocal about your likes and dislikes, and challenge her to find out-of-the-box options for you to try. Boxing anyone?
Hiking and Climbing: Explore new trails, blaze new paths and reach new heights—hiking and climbing are great ways to keep things exciting while being surrounded by the ultimate expression of creativity: nature.
Friends call you the social butterfly. On a night when you could just curl up with a good book, you call a friend to get together and go to a movie. You’ll pretty much try—and enjoy—anything, as long as you are with good company. Your energy is fed by support and encouragement, and you gain confidence by being around people who are doing the same thing you are. Having people expect to see you also motivates you to keep your promise to exercise.
Finding a buddy (or buddies): Take up an outdoor activity that is easily done in groups, like biking in the park or walking around the neighborhood. If no one you know is game, look for like-minded exercise groups or partners on sites like fitness.meetup.com or fitlink.com.
Joining a gym class: A good teacher can be especially motivating, and you’re likely to become friendly with class regulars, adding a social element to your workout. Even if you’re not feeling up to exercising one day, the thought of missing out on catching up with classmates may prompt you to put on your sneakers. Check your local community center or fitness club’s schedules.
Becoming a member of a social sports club: Unlike athletic teams, these organizations usually don’t center around serious competition. Instead, activities are all in the name of fun—both on and off the field or court. So much, in fact, that you may forget you are getting in a good workout. Most pair a game day with a get-together, say at a restaurant or park, so the group can continue to enjoy each other’s company and build camaraderie after the final whistle blows.
You love understanding the mechanics of things. Though that means you love to explore and tinker with gadgets, it also means that when it comes to exercise, you’re less concerned about what you’re doing and more interested in how what you’re doing will get you the results you seek. Numbers are your friends, and you thrive on data that calculates your effort. Measuring your progress so that you can monitor and make strategic changes to your routine keeps you energized.
Getting an assessment: See your physiologist to determine your body composition, resting metabolic rate, target heart rate and VO2 max. These numbers can give you a better sense of your fitness level and how your body responds to exercise, as well as help you identify the intensity at which you should be working to get the best results. You can also leave with a specific plan, right down to your optimal treadmill incline. (If you like, pick his brain about what exactly goes on in your body when you lift weights while you’re there.)
Hitting the machines… Today’s ellipticals, treadmills, steppers and other pieces of cardio equipment are quite sophisticated when it comes to features that can gauge your effort and progress. Use their bells and whistles to get in-the-moment feedback on your workout.
…or get some technology of your own: Watt meters for outdoor bikes allow you to gauge your intensity and workload by measuring your power output, GPS devices let you track your distance, pace and route on outdoor walks, runs and bike rides. And tools like heart rate monitors, pedometers, apps and fitness trackers capture data that will help you chart concrete progress over time. Use these gadgets to track the number of steps you take, how intense your activity is, how long you spend in your target heart rate zone, how fast you run and more.