New research suggests who you are may determine how you stay fit. Angela Tufvesson investigates the exercise routine best suited to your personality type

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New research suggests who you are may determine how you stay fit. Angela Tufvesson investigates the exercise routine best suited to your personality type

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Photolibrary
Photolibrary

What do a studious accountant, fast-talking lawyer and creative writer have in common? Apart from indulging in the obvious cliché, each has scored a personality match with their respective profession.

 

It’s no secret that you’re much more likely to achieve longevity and happiness in a career well-suited to your personality.


And the same goes for exercise. Just as a flighty accountant is unlikely to reach the top of the corporate ladder, choosing an exercise routine that’s out of sync with your personality may see you give up on your new year’s resolution before the month is out.

“Recognising the different values of clients is hugely important in terms of being able to motivate them,” says PT Edwina Griffin, the 2010 Exercise Professional of the Year. “It is necessary to find what inspires them and to know, for example, if they work better alone or in a team environment.”


The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment – a questionnaire developed more than 70 years ago to measure psychological preferences for how we perceive the world and make decisions – is a well-known tool for assessing job candidates, management techniques and decision-making processes.


Suzanne Brue, a Myers-Briggs personality assessment specialist and author of The 8 Colors of Fitness, believes the questionnaire is just as applicable to fit folk as it is to the HR department in your office. She says that in order to stay fit you need to choose activities that cater to your personality type.


“How do people keep their mind engaged during exercise?” she says. “It’s about finding your true self and finding what’s going to hook your personality other than the purity of exercise, which is boring for most people. What’s the most natural part of who you are, and how do we create that in exercise?”


With as many as 60 per cent of people dropping out of an exercise program after only six months, it’s an interesting question. Research conducted by the University of Florida in the US found who you are may determine how you stay fit, so a cookie-cutter, ‘just do it’ approach to prescribing exercise might not be the health saviour advocated by many experts. Instead, tailoring exercise to suit your personality may be the way forward.


“We use the Myers-Briggs personality inventory to direct clients toward the trainer or style of training that will best suit their personality,” says exercise physiologist Kylie Royal. “It is very important that we not only understand why we are prescribing a certain exercise or program, it is also essential that we can explain it, and ultimately in the right way.”


Brue interviewed people who were able to maintain a consistent pattern of physical exercise and found they could be classified into eight categories – or colours – according to the findings of Myers-Briggs. So which personality type are you?

 

BLUE


Blues are conscientious, committed and concerned about safety. You have a dutiful approach to exercise. You just do it – you don’t have a lot of internal debate. Blues like to track their progress, focus on one thing at a time and follow processes that are proven, rather than take risks. You take your cue from voices of authority and are concerned about doing the right thing.


“If a doctor tells a blue to exercise, that would have more influence than if a friend would tell them to exercise,” Brue says.


Likes: Solo workouts at the gym, swimming laps, anything repetitive.


Dislikes: Disruption of routine, unsafe equipment.


Top tip: Keep an exercise journal of sets and reps to monitor your progress.

 

GOLD


Traditional and conservative, golds are robust, friendly people. Committing to yourself is very important, and to achieve success you break down goals into smaller achievements. Your goals are oriented to positive and friendly atmospheres – golds will quit a gym if it’s not friendly enough. You have a structured, routine-like approach to training and enjoy mapping out your plans.


“Golds really like to share what they do with others,” Brue says. “They like to be in touch with other people about their accomplishments.”

 

Likes: Straight-talking yet positive PTs, routine, discussing progress with others.


Dislikes: Fitness without specific goals, irregular workouts.


Top tip: Write a training schedule for the next few months that lists all your workouts.



Red


Reds are high action exercisers. You don’t talk about exercise, you talk about training for a goal. You have a high need for fun, and being physically active is what you do with your friends. You are extremely social and competition is very important. Exercise is always more fun if you think you can win, but you’re such a natural competitor that you don’t offend people.


“Reds have lots of active friends – this person they play netball with, I met this person skiing, this person I go running with,” Brue says. “They are stylish and care about what they look like during exercise.”


Likes: Competing, spontaneity, highly stimulating activities, exercising with friends.


Dislikes: Routine, exercise where there’s no chance of winning.


Top tip: Turn every workout into a mini competition – challenge yourself to beat your previous times.

 

Green


Greens never get lost and they have a way of being in the natural world. You get itchy feet if you’re not outside. You don’t mind being with other people but you love being in nature by yourself – it gives you an experience of being alive that’s profound to you soul. Reducing the decision points as much as possible makes it easier for greens to commit to exercise. If you start debating it, you might no do it.


“If greens have to drive to a park, they’re not going to do it – they need to be able to get there naturally,” Brue says. “They need to find that time alone.”


Likes: Solo outdoor exercise – hiking, mountain biking, surfing.


Dislikes: Being stuck indoors, exercising with too many other people.


Top tip: Allocate time to exercise outside on a regular basis.



Silver

Silvers are excited by new ideas and new possibilities. They have a very active mind that’s always making new connections. Pure exercise is really unimportant to silvers –  there’s got to be something else that touches their passion.

 

A walking meeting is the perfect thing for silvers as it’s really efficient – you can have a meeting and exercise at the same time. Silvers will give anything a try but need active friends around them. If your friends are doing something, you’ll do it too.


“Convenience is really important for silvers – they like to make it about the activity and get exercise along the way,” Brue says.


Likes: Convenient activities where the exercise component is disguised, exercising with friends.


Dislikes: Boring and inconvenient workouts.


Top tip: Get a group of friends together to play a weekly team sport.

Saffron


Saffrons are a tricky bunch because they are fun and playful but possess an internal intensity that makes finding the right workout difficult. You like other people to exercise around but it has to be the right people. Saffrons don’t like a lot of advanced planning but challenging goals are important. You get bored easily and demand convenient workouts.


“Saffrons love to exercise with music more than any other type,” Brue says. “They love to dance and workout with an iPod.”


Like: Distance workouts like running and cycling, exercising with music, spontaneity.


DislikeS: Drill sergeant PTs, ‘stylish’ gyms, rigid routine.


Top tip: Choose activities that appeal to your fun, playful side and avoid structured activities with rigid attendance requirements.

 

Purple


Purples are disciplined about initiating activities and fit into new situations easily. You think in categories – one workout for strength, another for cardio. Purples are happy to try something new but will tend to go back to routine. Exercise is planned around self-defined goals, with specific purpose and objective. Once exercise is in your life, it’s likely that you’ll stick with it.


“I am a purple and I like spinning because it’s very intense and I can do it at my own rate,” Brue says. “I get the energy from the group but I am in my own space because no one is talking to me.”


Like: Routine, categorised workouts, taking direction from experts.


Dislike: Talking during exercise, working out without a plan.


Top tip: Exercise with other people around you, but don’t talk to them!


White


At less than two per cent of the population, whites are a niche group. Advance planning is huge – you envision what you’re going to do and have a full-blown plan locked in before you begin. Whites are sensitive to the environment and disturbances – you want to be calm, quiet and orderly. You exercise where you can reflect and let your mind go.


“Of any type, whites are the closest to the unconscious,” Brue says. “You want to exercise in a way where you can receive the thoughts that bubble up during a workout.”


Likes: Familiar environments and workouts, exercising alone, structure.


Dislikes: Unfamiliar or distracting environments, being rushed, disrupted routines.


Top tip: Workout in calm and tranquil spaces that encourage relaxed exercise.

 

TAKE THE QUIZ: Find your fitness personality with Suzanne Brue's quiz at www.the8colours.com