What kind of exerciser are you?
From people player to weekend warrior, find the key to enjoying your workouts and sticking at them.
When it comes to exercise, you can’t fault our intentions. According to a recent survey from Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA), 85% of us want to exercise to improve our health.
It makes sense; research has shown that exercise improves quality of life for practically everyone. “We need to think about how we can make exercise a lifelong journey,” says Beth Sheehan, an accredited Exercise Physiologist and Professional Practice Advisor at ESSA.
Sadly, the same survey showed that fewer than 40% of the people who signed up for an online exercise program made it to the end. Some cited work and family commitments for quitting, but exercise experts say lack of enjoyment – being stuck in a rut with a routine mismatched to our personality – is often the unspoken reason for not exercising.
While you can't do a lot about overtime or the school run, you can find the type of exercise that works best for you.
Your perfect fit
The first step, says Sheehan, is looking at your exercise history. “In the past when you exercised and felt really good, what sort of exercise were you doing? If you’re doing gym work and hating it, maybe you need to be looking for less structured exercise, like rock climbing or dancing.”
Identifying how you like to work out is the key to sticking at it long term, says Kurt Vogel, an Exercise Scientist and Sports Performance Coach in Brisbane. “Discovering a program that suits you is a very individualised process,” he says. “Talk to an exercise professional to help you establish your fitness goals.”
Most of us should aim for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise (brisk walking, gardening, housework) or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise (jogging, swimming laps, many organised sports), or a mix of both in sessions of at least 10 minutes, plus 2-3 episodes of strength training each week. And it doesn't need special equipment. “It can be fun,” says Sheehan. Hula hooping or jumping on the trampoline with the kids is still exercise. So is running an obstacle course in the backyard, or chasing your kids. “Being physical shouldn’t be seen as a task. It’s about bringing the fun back into it.”
To find your fun again, see which exercise type best suits your personality. You might be one, or a mix, or even change depending on your stage of life. “One way isn’t necessarily better than another,” says Sheehan. “What matters is finding exercise you enjoy and that keeps you motivated.”
Which exerciser are you?
- The people player. Nothing beats exercising with friends. They bring out the best in you and you're happy to try most things if it's in their company. They don't just guilt you out on a wet day for footy, social exercise can help your mental wellbeing too says Sheehan.
Best for you: Team sport, Zumba classes and boot camp are a natural fit. Sheehan also suggests events that can include the family like parkrun – a free, volunteer-organised regular fun run held in multiple locations. “It’s only 5km, is usually a flat course and paved, so everyone can join in."
- The solo flyer. You want nothing more than to switch off from the outside world. You're happy to compete only against yourself – exercise is a precious piece of 'me time' you can take when it suits you, not others.
Best for you: The pool or jogging are the obvious choice, but you can make a success of any style of exercise. If you’re just starting a program, Sheehan says don’t go it alone, “See an exercise professional once a week for the first few weeks to develop a good technique.” Then check in as needed to change up your routine and keep challenging yourself. If that's not possible, use a good online exercise program to guide you.
- The A grader. You're a driven type A and want short, sharp sessions where you can achieve your goals as efficiently as possible. You have the “mindset of an athlete,” says Vogel and you don't like to back down from a challenge, even if it hurts you.
Best for you: High-intensity interval training methods, like F45 workouts (based on 45-second rotations), burn a lot of energy and combine interval, cardiovascular and strength training. Balance is key as people who are very driven can overtrain. “If you’re doing two high-intensity exercise classes a week, combine it with a yoga-based BodyBalance class for lower intensity,” says Vogel. “This type of exerciser likes a challenge and that challenge may simply be to slow down – to do a 5km run at a slower pace in a set time.”
- The age defier. You're getting older, but you don't want to feel it. You know exercise is our best defence against a range of age-related diseases, from cardiovascular disease and diabetes to osteoporosis and even Alzheimer's.
Best for you: Try HIIT (high intensity interval training). The latest research shows it’s especially effective at slowing, and possibly even reversing, the ageing of cells. If walking is more your style, try fartlek (Swedish for ‘speed play’), suggests Vogel. Fartlek combines moderately paced exercise with bursts of high-intensity activity. “When you’re out walking, start up a jog at every third power pole, or pick up the pace walking up hill.”
- The weekend warrior. So you’re not the type to hit the gym before work, that’s ok! The latest research suggests that you can still achieve big gains by packing a couple of robust workouts into your weekend.
Best for you: You’re pretty happy to try any form of exercise. A big session at the gym or a full-on game of footy will cut it, but not a casual afternoon at croquet. Build incidental exercise into your weekdays, too. Sheehan says, “Take the stairs instead of the lift, park the car an extra five minutes away from your destination, change your work station so you’re standing for some of your day. It all adds up.”