Although some of us are fitness fanatics, many people struggle to maintain consistent workouts. Whether it is a matter of time or scheduling issues, illness or injury, lack of results or no motivation, there are plenty of reasons that people don’t exercise regularly. Sometimes, people try different types of exercise, feel overwhelmed or have a bad experience and then simply quit.
Given the extensive physical and mental health benefits of regular exercise, along with the sedentary lifestyles and abundance of unhealthy food in the United States, workouts are critical to quality of life. Consistent exercise offers multiple benefits, including:
- Weight loss or management
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer
- More energy
- Improved mood
- Greater strength and flexibility
- Better sleep
- Stress management
- Enhanced self-esteem
- Limited cognitive decline and better memory
- Increased longevity
This is just a partial list of what research has found on the effects of exercise. With all that good news, you may still need a push to workout and stick with it over time. What can help is a better understanding of your preferences and knowing what’s your workout style.
What’s a Workout Style, Anyway?
If you’ve never heard the term “workout style,” it simply describes what you like most or what you are best at when it comes to exercise. Some people love to run and are fast, so they may enjoy competing in races. Others may thrive on adventure and gravitate toward mountain biking or rock climbing. And still others may prefer the mind-body focus of yoga or tai chi.
The beauty is that there is no wrong answer here, as all exercise is valuable. And although various exercise formats may confer different benefits, the best workouts for you are the ones that you will consistently perform. Let’s face it, if you like something, you are likely to keep doing it. If you hate to swim, for instance, don’t sign up for a Masters Swim program. If you dread exercising at home, then join a health club where you will be surrounded by people and workout options.
In discovering what’s your workout style, consider the following:
- Do you have any injuries or conditions that impact your ability to move (i.e., bad knee, low back issues, etc.)?
- What is your main goal with workouts (i.e., lose/maintain weight, tone up, compete in races, improve sports performance, increase flexibility)?
- Do you prefer to exercise in a group or alone? Are you more extroverted or introverted?
- Can you exercise consistently at home, or do you need to belong to a health club? Or do you simply prefer to go outside?
- What motivates you most – your own inner voice, a drill sergeant, music, programming on cardio machines, a partner or a gentle instructor?
- Do you like repeating the same routine, or do you get bored with that and prefer to mix up workouts all the time?
- Are you a competitive person?
- Do you feel uncomfortable or self-conscious in new/unfamiliar situations, or are you relaxed and open to new experiences?
- When is the best time for you to exercise – early morning, evening or afternoon?
- What is your favorite workout?
- What types of exercise do you hate?
- How comfortable are you with technology?
These questions help you identify your preferences and then guide you toward options that can help keep you adherent and broaden your workout regimens.
Your answers to the questions above serve as guidance, but there may be overlap among preferences, and not everything is black or white. You may be an introvert but still enjoy a class periodically. Or you may love high-intensity workouts but also appreciate yoga. And while you may not be a dancer, you may end up having a blast in the Zumba session your friend dragged you to.
Consider the following general workout styles, noting which one (or several) that feel most suitable for you:
- Cardio junkie – You love working up a sweat, whether on the elliptical, treadmill, stationary bike or in a boot camp class. Be sure to include both steady-state workouts and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for variety and to optimize your aerobic and anaerobic fitness. If you’re a marathoner, high-intensity intervals will be tough, but will help your performance in the long run. And sprinters will struggle with longer, slower routines, but ultimately this will improve overall fitness.
Try different machines – such as a rower or stairclimber – for variety, follow streaming workouts online or use various DVDs to keep yourself motivated and enjoying in cross training. And do yourself a favor by getting in some strength work, even if it’s just during classes.
- Strength master – You live for lifting weights and increasing your load, reps, sets and one-rep max. You prefer the weight room but will work out at home if necessary or join a strength class for new ideas or extra motivation. Make sure to use barbells, dumbbells, selectorized or plate-loaded machines, suspension training, resistance bands, medicine balls, body weight and more to vary challenges and continue seeing results. You may want to work with a trainer or join CrossFit to benefit from different workouts.
And do some cardio – hop on a bike, take a jog or hit the elliptical – even for just 20 minutes – for better overall fitness.
- Solo warrior – If you prefer to work out alone, a home gym is ideal, if you can outfit it with a cardio machine or two, along with some weights and apps, DVDs or streaming videos to keep you moving.
Or if you don’t mind the gym, invest in some good earbuds and hit a piece of cardio equipment in the corner of the room to minimize distraction. The pool is a great place for a solo workout if you are there at off-times when it isn’t crowded. A corner bike in a dark indoor cycling class can work for you as well.
- Zen addict – Some people prefer mind-body workouts, such as yoga, stretching, martial arts and even swimming laps, where you can focus inward, emphasize breathing and eliminate impact (and buckets of sweat). Pilates and barre workouts also are based on precise movements that require concentration and body control.
- Tech freak – Take advantage of wearable tech and apps, such as an Apple® Watch, FitBit® or heart rate monitor, to track your activity and log your results. Some apps let you set goals and monitor your progress; others provide workouts and coaching according to your preferences; and many popular ones now sync with cardio equipment so you get full credit and results reporting.
You can subscribe to online programs as well and take advantage of a variety of workouts, or your trainer can prescribe workouts that land in your mobile device. When it comes to tech, there are virtually endless options that continue to expand.
- Outdoor animal – Depending on where you live, enjoy running, walking, cycling, hiking, skiing, swimming, inline skating and more. Take a yoga class outside, play tennis or try stand-up paddleboarding or kayaking. You can join a local club or sports team to socialize while you exercise as well.