Some people get great results in the gym through setting clear goals, and working towards them with a progressive programme. They tend to be consistent and when their routine is disrupted, this sort of person just gets back into it as soon as possible. Other people start diet and fitness regimes with great enthusiasm and discipline, but soon are distracted by other life elements, or are put off course by a few weeks out of their rhythm. Yet another group has little real interest in physical activity or eating in a specific way, and needs an intellectual motivation to make lifestyle changes. Understanding which type you are will help you to design an effective exercise plan, that you can stick to in the longer term.
The following questions are designed to give you an insight into your personality as applied to exercise behaviour, but do not focus only on exercise-related topics. Answer each question and keep a note of your score. You may have a predominance of one type, or a mixture.
1. Which of the following sounds most like you?
I hate to be bored (LT)
I really dislike instability and uncertainty and try to avoid it (BN)
My emotional life is something of a rollercoaster – I wish there was more harmony (O)
2. Which of the following statements about career/work do you agree with most?
Work is important for providing me with a sense of self-worth (O)
Work is important, but mostly as a means to an end. It provides me with stability and a regular income, but I don’t feel emotionally attached to it beyond that (BN)
I really enjoy intellectually stimulating work, and throw myself into it. I have no patience for boring or mundane work, though (LT)
3. Can you relax easily?
No, I often find it hard to switch off irrespective of how much I have to do (O)
Yes – relaxing can mean cooking and enjoying a meal, catching up with friends or going for a walk (BN)
Yes – I daydream a lot and enjoy stimulating my mind with books, films or puzzles. I don’t need to be around others to relax (LT)
4. What would you say your biggest strength is?
My ability to commit and stick to things, even when the going is tough (BN)
My creativity and ability to innovate (LT)
My energy and drive, which can sometimes be super-human (O)
5. What would you say your biggest weakness is?
I get bored easily and give up on things that don’t interest me (LT)
I have large ups and downs – one week I am all-conquering, the next week I struggle to get out of bed (O)
Sometimes I can be stubborn or closed minded, sticking with things just because they are familiar or established (BN)
6. Do you currently exercise?
Yes, as much as possible (O)
Yes, I have a routine which I try to follow (BN)
When I can be bothered – I do what I feel like (LT)
Not at the moment – I know I could find the time, but I have too many other things on my mind (O)
7. Whether you exercise or not, which of the following do you agree with most?
The human body is designed for movement, and being active is natural (BN)
Exercise helps to relieve stress, it can help a person to forget the other issues in their life (O)
There are many reasons to exercise – weight loss, preparing for a sporting event, socialising (LT)
8. If you had an exercise routine disrupted by illness or a holiday, for example, how would you react?
I would just get back into my routine as soon as I could (BN)
If I had a break from the routine, other things would take its place and I would probably forget about exercise (O)
I wouldn’t allow anything to disrupt my exercise routine (O)
It would knock my exercise off track for a few weeks, but I would get back into it if there was a reason to do so (LT)
9. Imagine you are at the gym – where would you be found?
Trying out a strange new piece of equipment, or in an interesting-sounding class, like Boxercise, Body Attack or Salsacise (LT)
Following your usual routine, recording your progress (BN)
Doing another 45 minutes on the cross trainer or treadmill – you need to reach a certain calorie target this session (O)
10. Which of the following sounds most like your exercise behaviour to date?
I usually have some sort of routine, and stick to it – it might not always be the best routine, but at least its something and at least I have regular activity (BN)
When I have a reason to exercise, I do it, but I can get bored of it quickly, particularly if it is too much effort or I don’t see results (LT)
I go through phases of exercising a lot, or not at all. I don’t always have a particular plan, but I know I can achieve a lot (O)
Exercise is the most important thing in my life, I have to fit in a certain number of sessions every week (or day) (O)
What your results mean
The Obsessive. Lives through emotions, desires, compulsions
Obsessives are motivated by their compulsions. They can have immense drive, setting and achieving extremely ambitious goals – at any cost. However, Obsessives are by nature inconsistent – they can fluctuate between doing the work of several people, to being barely able to function.
In terms of exercise, an Obsessive could have an unhealthy relation to exercise, using it to avoid dealing with psychological issues. More commonly, they are the “all or nothing” types – able to be incredibly strict, but also vulnerable to binge eating or drinking, depending on circumstances. Many Obsessives feel they do not have time to exercise, as they have too many other things on their minds
Advice for Obsessives
- Whilst exercise is useful for relieving stress and letting off steam, dealing more openly with any psychological issues will help you to better focus your drive and energy
- Make time for regular practice of balancing exercises such as yoga and pilates – these will help to calm your mind
- Try to include different types of exercise, allowing you to improve the connection with your body and take enjoyment from activity. Get outside when you can, and try things “just for fun” – the idea is to bring balance. If you feel you don’t have time to exercise “properly”, you can start with these kinds of activities
- Avoid setting too many goals, and focus on the process more. You know you can achieve goals, but now think about what you can do for yourself for the longer term
- Exercise is not about proving a point, or passing or failing – it is about you and your health, and no-one else. If your routine slips because of a temporary change in your circumstances, accept it, but don’t dwell on it. As soon as you can, simply start your activities again
Sample exercise routine for an Obsessive, to help with achieving harmony
Monday – Resistance training/interval cardio gym workout (programme designed by fitness professional)
Tuesday – Walk in the park after lunch
Wednesday – Resistance training/interval cardio gym workout (programme designed by fitness professional)
Thursday – Yoga
Friday – Walk in the park after lunch
Saturday – Exercise class of choice
Sunday – Walk in the country with friends
The Body Natural. Lives through sensory experiences, the body
Body Naturals are not always high energy “sporty” types, but are in fact the type most likely to achieve and maintain the best results or to master a sport. With a strong connection to the body, this type appreciates the sensual, and understands instinctively the need for movement.
A Body Natural usually includes some form of activity in their life, because it feels good. However, this is not always the progressive training required to achieve results – Body Naturals risk being “stuck in a rut” and continuing with a routine because it is established. This type responds best to goal setting. A Body Natural at their best will be committed and consistent – and will always be rewarded by changes.
Advice for Body Naturals
- Consider working with a Personal Trainer, or having an exercise programme designed for you. Record your progress each session, and make sure that each time, you do more
- Set sensible, yet challenging goals, breaking them down into sub-goals and adding checkpoints – keep a log
- If you don’t already play a sport, consider it. Your commitment means you do well with mastering new techniques (no matter how long it takes), and you can be an excellent team player. This could be any kind of sport, from field and track to golf to football
- Don’t forget the fun – as well as progressing with your routine, occasionally inject something new into your activities. Plan an active break, try out a class or exercise with a friend or a group
- Every so often, either alone or with a trainer/instructor, critically review your exercise programme. Is it helping you to achieve your goals, or does something need to change? Don’t be afraid to make changes when necessary – by making sure you have good advice on technique, etc. you reduce the risk of a new exercise not suiting you
Sample exercise routine for a Body Natural, to help with making progress
Monday – Personal Training session, resistance work and cardio
Tuesday – Sport skills training
Wednesday – Personal Training session, resistance work and cardio
Thursday – Sport skills training
Friday – Resistance work and cardio session (alone)
Saturday – Walk in the park
Sunday – Rollerblading in the park
The Lazy Thinker. Lives in their head
Lazy Thinkers tend to be dreamers and theorists, who live in their heads and thrive on intellectual challenge, and who therefore may have less of a connection to their physicality. They are able to commit themselves wholeheartedly to an interesting project, but lose interest with mundane tasks.
Lazy Thinkers can motivate themselves to exercise – if they have an intellectual reason to do so. They can therefore masquerade as other types, committing to an ambitious regime if they realise they need to lose weight, for example. But once the activity becomes too much of an effort, or is not yielding results, momentum is lost. Lazy Thinkers may be captivated by the latest fad, class or piece of equipment, but are likely to give up when the novelty has worn off.
Advice for Lazy Thinkers
- Accept that you have little real interest in exercise and stop trying to set goals that don’t mean anything to you on an intellectual level. Try to find a real reason for exercise – this might be something as broad as improving your health for the longer term
- Brainstorm how you might include exercise in your life, and make a note of ideas that appeal to you
- Once you have decided to exercise, your challenge is to prevent boredom. Whilst some element of progressive training is required to see results (which you need to see to stay motivated), this can be balanced by activities that are stimulating and fun
- Speak to a Personal Trainer or fitness instructor, and consult fitness magazines and websites for ideas. Consider working with a Personal Trainer at least once a week
- Consider taking up a sport with a mental/strategic component, such as a martial art. Read up on the history and culture of the sport, and look forward to the time when you have mastered the basic techniques (a stage which you will probably find boring) and can apply them creatively
Sample exercise routine for a Lazy Thinker, to prevent boredom and to achieve results
Monday – Sports class, e.g., martial arts
Tuesday – Personal Training gym session – resistance and interval cardio
Wednesday – Sports class, e.g., martial arts
Thursday – Dance class
Friday – Resistance and interval cardio session
Saturday – Thinking time – whilst walking outdoors
Sunday – Outdoor Personal Training/Military Fitness type session