Planner or Go-Getter: Which Fitness Personality are You?

If you’ve ever wondered why you just can’t get into Zumba, maybe it’s because when you get to that class, you’re still, unfortunately, you! According to James Gavin, PhD, professor of applied human sciences at Concordia University in Montreal, ‘Whoever we are, we manifest that in all of the realms of our life. Physical activity is just another expression of our personal preferences and style.’ So, does that mean it’s better for your wellness to pick activities that suit your personality?


The short answer: yes! ‘When people are similar to the activities they pursue, they tend to be happier, express more satisfaction and stay with it longer,’ says Gavin. To get your head around this idea, Ryan Rhodes, PhD, a professor in the Behavioural Medicine Laboratory at the University of Victoria, says you should think about how hard it is to stick with something when you really don’t like it. ‘We like the outcomes of exercise – weight control, disease prevention, a boost in appearance,’ he notes. ‘These are highly-desired things, but the process to get there is not.’ Even though you know that you have to enjoy things in order to successfully implement them into your daily life, Rhodes comments that we make the somewhat boring mistake of focusing on how exercise will improve your wellbeing, rather than on how fun it can be.


Therefore, instead of dragging yourself along to a spin class, you may be able to benefit more from understanding your natural, emotional responses to exercise. In 2009, Margaret Schneider, PhD, associate researcher at UC Irvine, explored this very idea in her paper “Personality, Physical Fitness, and Affective Response to Exercise among Adolescents.” Schneider asserts that there’s a link between physical activity and two personality systems; behavioural activation (BAS) and behavioural inhibition (BIS). If you have a high BAS score, this means you are more motivated by reward. High BIS scorers, on the other hand, are more motivated to avoid punishment.


It’s not hard to see how physical activity can be both rewarding and aversive. ‘We know that at very high intensity, everybody feels bad,’ Schneider explains, but at a more manageable level, you will feel different things while exercising than your different-personality friend might ‘People who are more BIS-motivated may be more sensitive to the negative cues like sweating, breathing hard and increased heart rate,’ Schneider points out. Gavin adds that those cues are part of your body’s physiological response to exercise, which is by definition a stress response. So how do you work out what your fitness personality is?


Jessica Matthews, an exercise physiologist and spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise (ACE), advises, ‘It’s really important for people to know what their expectations are for fitness. What they gravitate to becomes helpful [in making] exercise something you want to integrate into your life and continue long term.’ To help you with this, Matthews has developed an ACE Facebook quiz that can help you to determine whether you’re one of four fitness personality types:


1. The Planner: You may take a more reserved approach to fitness, sticking to familiar, tried-and-true exercises.


2. The Go-Getter: You love the intensity of competition and thrive off of seeing your performance improve.


3. The Social Butterfly: What does it for you is group fitness and positive energy.


4. The Adventurer: You will try anything and everything, even if it’s just a passing fad.


Matthews’ quiz also pairs each personality type with some suggestions for how to bust through those typical routines to reach peak fitness, so why not get online and see which fitness personality you have?

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