For 18 years now, other than high school cross-country and track, Lindsay Knake has run alone. The 29-year old communications professional from Michigan loves the time to herself, especially after a day of working in an office, surrounded by colleagues. A self-described introvert, Knake appreciates an activity that allows her peace and solitude.
Jennifer Pett, on the other hand, knows she needs the community of group exercise if she is to stick with it. The 44-year old college professor seeks out classes like Cross Fit and yoga, where she can build and maintain relationships with others, motivating her to show up time and again.
Both women have discovered an important component of dedication to exercise: matching their personality types to their workout choices. A recent study, conducted by John Hackston, chartered psychologist and head of thought leadership at British firm OPP, confirmed the importance of this connection. “People tend to think that there’s one best way to go about an exercise routine, but one-size fits all doesn’t apply here,” says Hackston. “Instead, it’s important to know who you are and select a type of exercise that fits.”
Knake for example, has tried group classes a few times, and even participated in a weekly group run for a stint, but quickly returned to her solo efforts. “I simply love things that I can do by myself,” she says.
Pick your poison
Hackston says that in order to nail down the type of exercise that’s best for you, it’s important to first know and understand your personality. He points to the Myers-Briggs MBTI test as a way to determine this. “If you’re a creative type, for instance, you probably have an intuitive personality and and variety is important to you,” he says. “In that case, you would probably get bored with the same old routine, so make sure you have some variety in there.”
Jessica Matthews, senior advisor for the American Council on Exercise, and professor of integrative wellness at Point Loma Nazarene University, has developed a test specifically for the task of matching personality to exercise. She says that people have found their right type of physical activity when they truly enjoy and look forward to the experience. “From a behavior change perspective, the more you enjoy the activity, the more likely you are to stick with it,” she says. “Ultimately, it’s through consistency that meaningful improvements to health and well being occur.”
If you’re a creative type, you probably have an intuitive personality and variety is important to you.
Ready to play matchmaker? Follow these basic guidelines:
If you’re an introvert:
You probably like exercise for its quiet, head-clearing benefits. Matthews recommends activities like endurance sports (swimming, cycling, running), one-on-one personal training, rock climbing, golf, or mind-body disciplines like yoga and Pilates. “Mind-body exercise is non-judgmental in nature and is more process-oriented versus goal- or performance-oriented,” she says. “This allows introverts to feel comfortable.”
If you’re an extrovert:
High-energy fitness classes like Zumba, HIIT and U-Jam are all right up your alley. So too are fitness meet ups, like hikes, stand-up paddle boarding classes, or yoga in the park. Team sports and partner-based, creative activities like aerial classes are other options for the exerciser who draws energy from others.
Of course, there will always be outliers, such as the extrovert who puts on headphones and heads off for a run in search of some quiet time. “An individual’s specific intention for his or her workout may lead them to fall outside the basic parameters,” says Matthews.
Still, at the end of the day, finding that perfect match will serve you for a long time to come. Pett has been doing yoga with the same group of women for four years now. “It was yoga that got me in the door,” she says, “but the relationships that keep me coming back.”
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