Discover the Perfect Workout for Your Fitness Personality!


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

Dragging yourself to Spinning class each night? Having trouble waking up for those morning workouts (you know, the ones you vowed to stick with this time around)? Tired of walking on the treadmill by yourself?

Having difficulty sticking to a fitness routine is a reality of most of us. If it were easy to exercise regularly, we would all be the epitome of fitness! Here's a new idea: Stop blaming yourself for lacking the willpower to stick to it. Instead, blame your workout! If you're trying to force yourself to take fitness classes or clock in 2 hours a day at the gym, your workout—not yourself—could be the problem. How do you know?

Ask yourself this question: Do your workouts fit your personality?

Linda Shelton, a veteran author, editor and fitness expert, has identified five distinct personality types for exercisers. And she should know. With over 25 years in the fitness industry and a recent induction into the National Fitness Hall of Fame (yes, that does exist!), she used her experience to define the five fitness personalities , which she recently presented at the American College of Sports Medicine's Health and Fitness Summit. Put simply, stop working against your true nature and use it to find the best workout for you.

Are you ready to find out which of the five types is most like you (and how you can use that knowledge to find your perfect workout)?

Here's a summary of Shelton's five fitness personality types (classified as shapes). Keep in mind that many people may be a combination of more than one type.

Of all five fitness personalities, squares are "the most reliable, stable and predictable," Shelton says. They like to plan everything and prefer to stick to a routine. Generally, "squares" tend to work in the math and science fields (think engineers) and be less social around other people.

  • Pitfalls: According to Shelton, squares like to do the same routine so long, often sticking with the same schedule, that they hit plateaus. If you ask me, squares probably tend to have problems if their routine gets out of whack—it's all or nothing. (Plan B? No thanks!)
  • Perks: The fact that squares are so committed to routine is good when it comes to exercise. They're more likely to schedule their workouts and stick with their routine for the long term.
  • Tips for Squares: Don't be afraid to change up your routine. Shelton advised Squares to “take baby steps toward sprinkling in new activities weekly that switch up their routines while still giving them the familiarity of the old program.” If that's not possible, stick to your workout plan for 4-6 weeks, then change it and follow the new routine for several weeks—you'll get the best of both worlds.

Rectangles are slightly more flexible than Squares, but still like order and routine. "They love groups, and perform best with social interaction," according to Shelton.

  • Pitfalls: Rectangles are likely to work out alone, even though they do better in groups, and that can hinder their ability to stick with the program.
  • Perks: Being more flexible than a square means it's not the end of the world if something interferes with a Rectangle's workout plan. They'll go to plan B or find something else to do instead.
  • Tips for Rectangles: If you haven't already, join a gym, running group or fitness class, says Shelton. It has schedule and social interaction all in one place!

Triangles are competitive and driven. They're organized and keep detailed lists. They can probably even tell you (by turning to their handy workout journal) exactly how many repetitions they did on the leg press machine eight months ago, along with the weight they used. Triangles love to monitor their progress (scales, measurements, weight lifted, miles ran) and appreciate all of their successes.

  • Pitfalls: No amount of tracking will keep you going if you don't have a higher goal in mind. Without a goal, like a race or competition, Triangles will have a hard time sticking with it and staying motivated.
  • Perks: All that detail is great! Triangles will look for successes everywhere. Even if you're not seeing it on the scale, you could look at your logs and see improvements in your measurements, endurance, or consistency!
  • Tips for Triangles: Shelton suggests that Triangles pair up with a workout buddy who is competitive like they are. Set a higher goal, too, so you can train for something. A race walk, marathon, triathlon or figure competition might be just the ticket to help you stick with it!

Emotions drive Circles; they're the social butterflies at the gym, too.
  • Pitfall: While you may get yourself to the gym, you're more likely to socialize with your workout buddy than make good use of your time. Because they're emotional and care about others, Circles tend to put themselves at the bottom of their own to-do lists.
  • Perks: Caring for others and socializing at the gym can be a good thing! All that camaraderie gets you there regularly, which is more than most people do!
  • Tips for Circles: Shelton suggests that Circles find a workout buddy or trainer who is nurturing and motivating, but won't push you too hard. Group fitness classes are perfect for circles because they can be part of the group, yet they have to follow the routine. If you're putting everyone's needs above your own, take steps to make yourself a priority, too.

Squigglies (love that name!) are very outgoing and do not like structure. "They are the complete opposite of squares and hate routine," explains Shelton. Squigglies are all about fun and pleasure—if they don't enjoy what they're doing (exercising or otherwise), they'll quit!

  • Potential pitfall: Without a constant variety of workout options coming your way, Squigglies are likely to get bored and drop out of a workout program.
  • Perks: You're not likely to plateau with such a varied workout routine, and you're more likely to find activities that you truly enjoy versus forcing yourself to make it through a boring workout that you hate. You're also likely to try new things!
  • Tips for Squigglies: Shelton says, "Squigglies should try an extremely varied routine that includes lots of different classes and new activities to maintain interest in exercise."

I can definitely see a little of myself in each of these. On one hand, I'm a Square. I'm totally predictable, organized, and efficient and I love schedules and lists. But that describes my professional life more than my workout routine. To be honest, when it comes to exercise, I'm the total opposite—I'm a Squiggly! I really don't even have a routine! I have to like what I'm doing or I won't do it. I love to try new things and I never do the same workout twice. When it comes to fitness, I'm really flexible. I'll pack my gym bag for Spinning after work, but if I’m not feeling it, I'll head home and run or workout with a new DVD instead. Although the other areas of my life are planned and controlled (as much as possible), exercise is one area where I'm totally laid back--probably much to my own (mental) benefit!

Your turn! Which fitness personality sounds most like you? Does your workout routine line up with your shape?

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  • 294
    HAHAHA!! I am a total Squigglie when it comes to my workout routine!!! :P - 12/3/2010   5:10:54 PM
    Im a Rectangle...thanks for the info...this will help me a lot! - 12/3/2010   2:00:07 PM
  • 292
    Totally Rectangle!!! Makes sense. I love running on my own, but I always push myself more with a friend. And love going to Yoga and feel so dedicated going to every single class. I think I will spice up the workout routine! - 6/25/2010   9:18:33 AM
  • 291
    Rectangle - usually work out alone but truly enjoy my running "peeps" and groups - they help me run longer and faster than when I'm by myself! - 6/23/2010   9:14:43 AM
  • 290
    Little bit of all of them. Mostly a rectangle. - 6/23/2010   9:11:57 AM
  • 289
    I'm a squiggly triangular Rectangle!
    The only thing square about me is my math/science nature.
    I am NOT round!! till I get tired and want a rest from my workout! lol
    AKA DISTRACTED! - 5/15/2010   1:23:59 AM
  • 288
    TOTAL Squiggle! My routine used to have no rhyme or reason and I am a real free-wheeler. Right now I have a running routine that has enough variety to keep me interested and I have blown myself away by having stuck with it for several months! Of course, I include loads of cross training to keep it exciting. - 5/10/2010   9:34:20 AM
  • 287
    I am a total square! I'm even an engineer! I take the same walk every day at lunch down the same road. I used to ride my bike to work, every day, but after two years, I got to the point where I felt like it was a burden and stopped riding almost completely. I better mix things up before I burn out on walking; seems like I only have about 18 months left! - 5/4/2010   11:40:21 AM
  • 286
    rectangle for me. - 5/4/2010   10:48:51 AM
  • CHUNK40
    Have to go with a rectangle for myself. - 5/4/2010   9:06:51 AM
    I'm Triangles - 5/3/2010   10:31:25 PM
  • 283
    I'm part Square and part Squigglie. I'm an introvert, not extrovert. But I've got to like it and have variety or I won't do it. However, I need the Square structure to provide accountability to do it, whatever "it" turns out to be from day to day. I created a "menu" of lots of different options in my fitness favorites list so I can always find something that sounds fun. But I also made a promise to myself to do some exercise within 90 minutes of waking every day, and to get in a certain amount of cardio every day, and those "rules" are the Square support I need. - 5/3/2010   10:25:46 PM
  • 282
    mostly Rectangles .. - 5/3/2010   10:01:14 AM
  • 281
    Interesting article....I'm a little of everything, but mostly a rectangle. Love the info! - 5/3/2010   9:35:45 AM
  • 280
    i am a square.. wow that is me to the T !!!! - 5/3/2010   5:51:53 AM
  • 279
    I'm a squiggly...have to love what I'm doing and have a variety of exercise routines. - 5/2/2010   3:54:23 PM
    i'm half square, half squigglie... i'm not at all outgoing, and i like to schedule my life, but i get bored very easily - 4/30/2010   6:11:42 PM
  • 277
    Rectangle-Squigglie in the house! Back in the day, I'd choreographed my own step aerobics routines that lasted very long (rarely taking a class at the overcrowded Bally's); and now, with bad feet, I sequence my own vinyasa yoga practices and chanting/pranayama segues. I go to studio classes here and there, but I guess I just outwore my welcome there because they don't respond to my copious email feedback as an avid, knowledgeable student (I more than earned whatever discounts they'd thrown my way--I consider it unofficial low-priced consulting fees--no wonder all the hugs from them [I am neither young, nor attractive, nor have yuppie $$]). Their prices became highway robbery, and I am soon outta there!

    Wish I were more squigglie to that rectangle, but you get what you get in this life!

    TINIERtina - 4/30/2010   1:46:06 PM
  • 276
    I'm a Squigglie-Triangle, don't like a set schedule and always changing things up, but track, track, track... with everything, pedometer, heartrate monitor computer programs and paper (always changing how I track).
    Change is GOOD.
    Right now I'm into push that pedometer past yesterdays point. - 4/30/2010   11:39:41 AM
    I am Squigglie and proud! - 4/30/2010   11:37:32 AM
  • 274
    square/triangle for me - 4/30/2010   9:59:43 AM
  • 273
    i am a square/triangle. totally predictable with the same routine, although i am adding new techniques. i'm also organized and competitive. - 4/30/2010   8:04:44 AM
  • 272
    I am definitely a SQUARE. My exercise routine is warming up, light jogging, running, cooling down and stretches. Everyday for 60 minutes. Then additional 20-30 minutes of jumping jacks, skipping and sit-ups. I should be preparing for that plateus soon. - 4/28/2010   6:23:03 AM
    I am a square. I workout majority of the time by myself. I think I also push myself harder when I do participate in group activities... so I should probably do it more often. Hmmm - 4/27/2010   9:18:57 PM
  • 270
    I was a squiggle last month, but decided to try being a square. I thought I'd get bored but it's working out very well. I still get variety but with more structure. - 4/27/2010   7:16:06 PM
    I am definitely a squiggly.....I get bored with routines very easily....I like to break it up and do my workouts at home because I am not a gym person and I do not keep up with instructors very well. - 4/2/2010   12:58:12 PM
  • 268
    Squiggle for sure. Hate routine exercising and do better at playing sports -- softball, basketball, tennis & bowling. Also like walking scenic routes. - 3/22/2010   1:13:25 AM
  • 267
    Cute analogy! I'm a rectangle! - 3/20/2010   10:31:36 AM
  • 266
    I'm a circular squiggle! I love that! I like to be social, hate to have coaches or teachers or group mates who are too pushy or competitive, and NEED variety! I'm doing bollywood dance DVD's at home right now - not social, but lots of variety and no competition, so it's working well. - 3/19/2010   10:21:10 AM
  • 265
    OMG! I'm a rectangular squiggle. Dance would probably suit me, but I live far away from groups. Maybe I should invest in a Wii, so that I can PRETEND that I'm dancing in a group! - 3/18/2010   11:12:13 PM
  • 264
    I think I'm a rectangle - "likely to work out alone". Though it might be fun to sometimes workout in group, I'm thinking to take taekwando classes :D - 3/6/2010   10:26:48 AM
  • 263
    Mostly a triangle, but with a few circle aspects to me. - 2/25/2010   4:32:01 PM
  • 262
    I'm a squarish rectangle. The only activity I like to do with a group is go to my dance classes, but I suppose I'd be more rectangle-y if I had a buddy to do my other workouts with. - 2/20/2010   10:42:25 AM
  • 261
    I guess I'm kind of a rectangle...but a little squiggly & a bit circle....I'm all over the place! - 2/2/2010   6:11:27 PM
  • 260
    I like to run.
    Most other exercise requires too much coordination. I can at least manage to put one foot in front of the long as I am not chewing gum. - 1/17/2010   12:30:29 AM
  • 259
    A squiggly rectangle resides in Colorado. How fun to categorize what we do! - 1/14/2010   11:22:50 PM
    squiggle! - 1/13/2010   1:12:47 PM
  • 257
    I am a circular squiggly! I can't stick with routine, to easily bored. I love to work out with people but am very social (can't stop talking!!!) but I love variety! - 1/13/2010   9:28:38 AM
    I fall into a circle - 1/13/2010   7:07:37 AM
  • 255
    I am so much a square that it's not even funny. What a insiteful article. - 1/6/2010   9:06:59 AM
  • 254
    Must be a squiggle. Love to find a new floor exercise to keep workout fresh. - 1/4/2010   5:48:18 PM
  • 253
    I am a serious "squiggly circle" with a hnt of a rectangle as a garnish. Now I can figure out how to make to work for me... cannot tolerate being scream @ nor am competative which is why I amnot a hge fan of the Bggest Loser show - 12/27/2009   12:48:46 PM
  • 252
  • 251
    I'm Squigglies (or is it a Squigglie?...) and maybe a little Circle :o) - 12/19/2009   5:12:08 PM
  • 250
    I'm a square and rectangle, I have to have a routine but am flexible whenit comes to exercise too. - 12/18/2009   7:17:46 PM
  • 249
    I am definitely a circle and squiggles when it comes to exercise.. now to only find a committed workout buddy and maybe some group exercise classes.. :) - 12/18/2009   6:34:27 PM
    i think im rectangular.........
    marq thompson
    - 11/19/2009   6:37:21 AM
    Wow! I've been into exercise since High School and now am an instructor of exercise science at a community college and what I just read makes all the sense in the world. So hard to get students to stick to set programs. Now I know why. I love it! I would like to learn more about it, are there any clinics, forums and/or literature on this topic?
    By the way I'm probably a square and triangle at this moment, but I do find myself getting bored at times and just need a change. I do like to keep track of my workout and structure it so I can see improvement. I would like to be more like a squiggle but it seems difficult to make improvements. Good to know what gets us going. - 11/5/2009   3:58:11 PM
  • 246
    When I started ready this Blog I thought for sure I was a square then as I continued reading I realized I was a Triangle. I log everything and live and breathe by those numbers...did I mention I am competitive too. I am however, very motivated like a square and live by schedules that CAN'T be changed! - 10/7/2009   10:13:41 AM
  • 245
    By reading this article, I realized that I'm a "square" because I do like structure. I'm always using the elliptical trainer and tradmill. At times I do tend to get bored, so I'm learning to change my exercise routine such as jogging. - 10/7/2009   4:40:39 AM

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