Decode Your Exercise Personality!

By Raymond Onyango.

One of the undoubtedly indispensable skills you need in order to thrive within the fitness industry is people skills. Every single fitness professional faces one huge career challenge; essentially, ‘ captivating the clients attention, keeping them interested and motivated enough to stick it through and long enough to see a real difference”.

This challenge is not easily met, especially when you consider that your average fitness facility attracts a huge diversity of clients all of whom are possessed of their own idiosyncrasies.

Some clients expect you to be a military drill sergeant, barking orders and cracking the whip. Others expect you to be a teacher and help them make sense of complicated fitness concepts. Then there are those who need you to be an entertainer. To keep them laughing and take their minds away from the exercise itself. The only thing they have in common is that all of them expect you to help them achieve their goals.

I came to learn early on in my fitness career, that success lay primarily in teaching my clients how to decode their own exercise personality, and play up their strengths rather than dwell on their weaknesses. If I could match them up with activities they enjoyed, and were good at; they were more likely to succeed, because they were able to break through many of the mental barriers had kept them from building a successful exercise habit in the past.

Sunbird or Night Owl

Sometimes very minor adjustments to your workout schedule can make a world of a difference. Simple things such as changing the time of day at which you work out could help you stay true and consistent to a workout program. One of the things you need to figure out early in your workout program is whether you are an early morning sunbird or a night owl.

Sunbirds are the kind of individuals who get up in the morning all revved up and ready to go. In my experience they tend to be more dedicated to exercise because they are good at developing and following routines. They also tend to be very organized and focused people, because they need to get to the gym, workout and get out in time to make it work. The very fact that they are organized enough to pull this off every day is one of their greatest strengths. This is the kind of person who is likely follow a gym program consistently, because it appeals to their sense of predictability and routine. Working out in the morning also leaves you feeling energized the whole day and gets the workout, out of the way so that you can have a social life in the evenings.

Not every one is a sunbird however; I will be the first to confess that I am never at my best in the early morning. My body is like an old diesel locomotive engine that has to be carefully warmed up before use. I tend to come alive later in the day, and that is when I like to workout best. Working out in the evening helps me calm down and channel much of my energy, which in turn makes my habitual insomnia much easier to cope with. I am more likely to relish a good nights sleep after a long hard jog in the evening. But for some of my clients, working out in the evening has exactly the opposite effect. It gets them all worked up and excited to the extent that sleep becomes elusive. It is also much easier to get distracted and pulled away from your workout program in the evening, especially when your friends would rather go to a pub after work rather than hit the gym. Al these are factors that are likely to have a huge impact on your success or lack of it!

Lone Ranger Or Social Animal

Another important distinction to make with regards to your exercise personality is whether you are a lone ranger or a social animal. Lone rangers are usually self-driven, highly motivated individuals or otherwise people who see their workout as quality personal time, where they can retreat into their own minds, ponder life’s big questions or just experience peace and quiet.

Lone rangers do well at individual exercise options such as Martial arts, running, cycling or solo gym workouts, where they can regulate the pace of things and exercise free will and spontaneity in their exercise choices. The lone ranger can make tremendous progress in a short time because they are often much more focused on their actual workouts that your average social animal. If you identify as a lone ranger, you should perhaps avoid the gym at peak hours, where constant conversation from other gym goers might frustrate you.  If you choose to get into a group class, try classes like spinning or yoga, where there is plenty of room for individual expression and where you can still have a personal experience even in a group setting. As a lone ranger your greatest strength can also be your greatest weakness, especially when you loose motivation and fall off the tracks like all of us are bound to do from time to time. Without anyone there to pick you up it could be weeks, months or even years before you get the exercise habit going again!

Social animals are a different breed altogether. They are the guys who like to jog as a group, attend aerobics class together or feature prominently in the squash ladder. For the social animal working out is all about the opportunity to meet other folk, socialize and have a great time. This is not necessarily a bad thing because having lots of friends at the gym can in itself help to inspire consistency of habit. The drawback comes when you consider that too much time may be spent socializing and not enough time exercising. For the social animal, a group fitness class is a great place to begin. In a class you will feed off the energy of the people around you to help you push yourself much harder than you generally would on your own. Furthermore, you will be able to kill two birds with one stone by  transforming a social experience into a productive session as well!

The Look Good Factor Vs The Feel Good Factor

Good old motivation, is probably the one thing that plays the single  biggest role in determining your success at a fitness program. In the end it all comes down to one question, “Why do you work out?” When I asked this question on my face book page earlier this week as a part of my research for this article; the response was quite varied as would be expected.

Some people will do anything it takes to look good. If it means getting up at 6 in the morning and running 3 kilometers every day, they will do it. If it means never drinking a soda ever again… ditto, no problem! These are usually the kind of people who have lots of will power, focus and are often very competitive. If you belong here, your greatest strength is that you do not shy away from challenge, and where most would be intimidated you actually thrive. Seek out challenging activities outdoor like hiking and mountain biking or tough indoor workouts such as a Crossfit based exercise program to really get your juices going. You need to look out for activities that challenge both your mind and body in order to keep you interested and motivated to exercise.

Your greatest weakness is that you often get bored easily and you might expect results too quickly.  This can make you give up on an activity before you really get the chance to experience real results. You would work well with a tough personal trainer or in a group setting where the other participants are advanced enough to keep you competitive. Hard as it may be, practice some consistency and try not to skip to quickly from one fitness trend to the next.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the people who work out mostly because it feels good. They like their dance classes because it feels great to dance. They run diligently because they get a great rush from it and they don’t own a bathroom scale! Your greatest strength comes from the fact that you are not driven by results. For this reason you are more likely to be consistent in your exercise program and therefore more likely to benefit from it, than the purely result oriented individual. You need to build on this strength by finding a sport or activity you enjoy and building your fitness program around it.

Your greatest enemy is routine.  Because running makes you feel good, you may be inclined fall into a routine where you only run the same route every other day and never do anything else. You need to shake up your program once in a while by introducing a new challenge, such as strength exercises aimed at improving your running speed or endurance. This might shake you out of your complacency and push your fitness levels up a notch or two simply by providing you with a new challenge. Your body is highly attuned to adapt to anything you throw at it. As soon as you fall into a routine, your progress automatically slows down and you want to avoid that.

More often than not, most of us are a combination of several different exercise personality types. I am a great example of a Lone ranger who enjoys teaching Yoga, a group fitness activity just as there are social animals who enjoy the occasional solitude of an activity such as swimming. The important thing is to make a lasting commitment to exercise and to find an activity that expresses your individual personality and compliments your greatest strengths. It is called using what you have, to get what you want…and it mostly works!

Have a brilliant week will you!