Your workout, yourself
Your choice of exercise can definitely say a lot about your health, but can it explain you? While it’s impossible to generalize in absolute terms about workout routines and types, says Julia Kim, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery, there are often similarities in those who favor a particular pursuit. “Workouts can reflect aspects of our personality as we tend to engage in what suits our needs and desires, making it naturally rewarding,” she says. Dr. Kim also notes that it’s important to consider the context in which the exercise is done—solo or part of a team, for competition or recreation. For example, a solo recreational swimmer may be different from a Masters swim team member. In general, however, she says that what workout routine you favor often gives compelling insight into whether your motivation come from others or from within yourself, if you’re extroverted or introverted, a risk-seeker or avoider, competitive or collaborative, spontaneous or controlled, aggressive or not-so-much, and whether you prefer rewards or simply don’t want the guilt of being out of shape.
People who choose group workouts tend to be more social—no surprise—and need help staying on track, says Dr. Kim. Everyone is looking for new ways to stay motivated for exercise, but there’s nothing like a group workout routine to get you to show up on time. Kim also believes of the group exerciser: “You are more social and extrinsically motivated (rewards, encouragement, and praise from others). You like to be more spontaneous, and less competitive and less aggressive.” Tracy Morgan, a New York City-based psychoanalyst, adds that group classes puts someone else in charge for those who like being told what to do. There is also a competitive aspect to group classes. “If you’re competitive, classes or group activities push you to another level of performance,” says Kevin Gilliland, PsyD, executive director of Innovation360 and author of Struggle Well, Live Well. “You know your level of performance, but others help to bring out the best in your abilities. You may tend to feel the energy of the group and get caught up in it or even need it.” He also notes that people who don’t interact with adults in their daily life (think elementary school teachers or people who work from home) often crave group interactions. Make sure you’re not making these group fitness class mistakes.