Although this article isn't exactly about walking/running, I REALLY appreciated it and wanted to share it with you.
Why do some people relish the alone time that comes with a long solo hike, while others are bored a quarter-mile in and desperate for some conversation? Why do some of us thrive on the mind-body experience of a tai chi class, while others glance around the room five minutes in and wonder, “Is this it?” And, why do some people love the challenge of a high-intensity cycling class, while others are ready to throw in their sweat-soaked towels before the warmup is even over?
It all comes down to personality.
Knowing yourself – your exercise preferences, goals and needs – is an often overlooked, but essential, component of developing a long-term exercise habit. After joining a fitness facility, many people are initially overwhelmed by the number of machines and the variety of group fitness classes. But you can avoid that predicament by doing a little self-analysis, particularly of your own exercise past. For instance, ask yourself: When you’ve had success, did you exercise alone or with a partner? Were you working with a trainer or instructor, or did you prefer putting your headphones on and doing your own thing?
Knowing the answers to these questions is more important than you may realize. For example, if you were in the best shape of your life when you participated in an evening walking group, then 30 minutes of solitude on the elliptical machine might not be your best choice. On the other hand, if you think of your workout as “me time”away from work or a hectic home life, then a high-volume aerobics room may be the stuff of nightmares. The importance of knowing yourself cannot be overstated. After all, the goal is to find a routine that you’ll be able to maintain over the long haul. If it clashes with your nature, that’s near impossible.
So how can you identify your fitness personality? If you look to one classic study as a guide, you might begin by assessing where you fall on the following seven “psychosocial dimensions,” or elements of your fitness personality profile:
6. Mental focus
6. Mental focus
In the study, researchers graded people who excelled in four forms of exercise – karate, aerobics, yoga and running – on each of the seven dimensions. They found that the karate group scored the highest for measures of aggression, competitiveness, spontaneity and risk-taking, while runners had the highest levels of self-motivation. Members of the aerobics group, on the other hand, were the most sociable, and the yoga participants had the most mental focus.
There are no real surprises there, but the study does illustrate an important point: That a bit of self-reflection can go a long way toward ensuring that you get off to a good start when beginning a new exercise program or adding a new element to your existing routine. Check out this table to get an idea of which forms of physical activity might be best for you:
Of course, not everyone is on one end of the spectrum or the other, and some people may be risk-taking martial artists on Mondays after work and risk-avoiding tai chi practitioners early on Saturday mornings. The key is to know yourself so that you don’t become de-motivated after trying a few fitness classes that were probably never great fits for you in the first place.
Once you’ve gotten a sense of your fitness personality, take stock of other personal elements that make a difference in how likely you are to stick to a new routine. Your body clock is one of them. If you hit the snooze button repeatedly and struggle to get to work on time, for example, committing to an early morning class is likely the first step to disappointment, regardless of how well the activity matches your personality.
Next, ask yourself: Do you tend to look outward or inward during a workout? In other words, are you exercising to burn maximum calories or outrun your training partner, or do you take a more mindful approach to fitness – listening to your body’s needs and enjoying the view along the way?
It’s also helpful to consider whether you’re goal-driven. If you’re most likely to exercise when anticipating a big event – say, a wedding, reunion or adventuresome vacation – then you may want to identify or create something in the future that will motivate you to get moving.
Once you’ve established a routine, or successfully integrated a new element into your workout schedule, don’t be afraid to shake things up. Have you always been an introverted walker or swimmer? Try a group fitness class or join a running group – you’ll either surprise yourself and want to incorporate it into your more solitary routine or confirm that solo activities are best for you. On the other hand, if you’ve long been a thrill-seeker, consider that some mindfulness might help alleviate stress and bring a sense of calm you’ve never experienced.
Remember, the objective behind all of this soul-searching is simple: to find the physical activities that will keep you coming back for more. After all, the best forms of exercise are whichever ones you’ll do most often and for the long haul.