Find the Workout That Will Help You Reach Your Goals

A few years ago, a friend convinced me to try Zumba classes with her. I bought a package of five sessions, excited to see what all the hype was about—until I realized, about thirty seconds into the first class, that the other students had more rhythm in their pinky toes than I had in my whole body. I stuck it out and completed all five, but was more or less going through the motions (and usually the wrong ones).
On the other hand, there are plenty of people who can't comprehend why I choose to run when nobody's chasing me. They read down the laundry list of running evils: It's painful, it's hard on your joints, it's boring. I try to explain that my morning runs are essential to my sanity and creativity—not to mention my health—but they still think I'm crazy.
It all boils down to passion and motivation. If you find an exercise that you truly enjoy, one that brings you closer to your goals or dreams, you'll be much more likely to stick with your fitness plan.
Research has supported this idea that workouts should be tailored to our motivations. In a recent study at the University of Phoenix School of Advanced Studies, behavioral researcher Dr. Greg Privitera looked at how motivation impacts the intensity and quality of exercise in two different groups. For women who are driven by the challenge of their workouts, he recommends exercising with people who are more fit and choosing routines that can be ramped up for a greater challenge. For those who are motivated more by social recognition (Instagramming their tough gym sessions, for example) or stress management (blowing off steam after a long day at work), Dr. Pritivera recommends easier exercises, such as yoga or walking, which are considered equally as beneficial to health as running. Light weight lifting workouts can also keep them motivated to exercise more intensely.

Find Your Exercise Match

The first step is to identify your goal, and then choose a workout to get you there. We talked to some health and fitness professionals to get their tips.

Treva Brandon, Fitness Trainer
If your goal is to: Try this:
Lose weight fast Any cardio workout. "The stationary bike, treadmill, running outdoors, stair climbing, elliptical machine and spinning classes are all great for reducing body fat and getting lean."
Build muscle mass Traditional resistance training. "Try free weights and weight machines using heavy plates. The heavier the weight, the fewer reps and sets needed."
Reduce stress Ashtanga yoga. "The combination of flowing movements and breathing exercises can help to relieve tension and promote mindfulness."
Strengthen and tone the entire body
Core conditioning exercises. "Incorporate balls, bands, tubes and bars, or check out tabata, TRX or CrossFit classes."

Cheryl Russo, Fitness Trainer
If your goal is to: Try this:
Improve your aerobic capacity "Take advantage of the warmer weather and start power walking outside. Many malls open before store hours to accommodate walkers, which is perfect for a rainy day."
Transition from walking to running Sign up for a local 5K. "Committing to an event will make you more committed to working out. There are many running clubs that meet weekly."
Exercise outside "Look for local parks with bike/walking paths, hiking paths, beaches and boardwalks to walk or jog along. A bench can be used to do push-ups, step-ups and tricep dips."
Ease into exercise "Try a yoga class. As your practice increases, you can expand to include more power type classes."
Try new workouts on a budget
"If you're not sure what you may enjoy and don’t want to commit to one gym, check out [online coupons]. Local gyms frequently offer deals. Purchase a few at different clubs and participate in a variety of classes until you find one that you prefer."

Mandy Unanski Enright, Registered Dietitian
If your goal is to: Try this:
Work out at home "Research in-home workout options. Online videos [like SparkPeople.TV], cable On Demand and Netflix are just a few places where you can check out home workouts. There are also great fitness apps available. And don’t rush to purchase a lot of fancy equipment to work out at home—otherwise, that treadmill could become a very expensive laundry rack if it doesn’t get used."
Work out when you feel most energized Do you exercise best first thing in the morning, in the afternoon or in the evening? "If a gym or studio doesn't have hours or class times that fit your schedule, it’s probably not the right match for you. And don’t forget to take into account travel time to/from the location and time spent getting ready before or after. Remember, there is a difference between having time and making time: Perhaps getting up a little earlier or skipping a happy hour will help get you on track."
Exercise without aggravating an injury "I personally have had my ACL repaired twice, so jogging causes too much pain, and I try to avoid any activities that involve jumping over things or changing direction quickly. Be kind to your body, but don’t rule out the unknown—just because you can’t touch your toes today doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try yoga."
Find a gym with the features you need "If you need childcare, shower accommodations or want group classes, make sure to ask if these services are available. If the facility boasts a swimming pool, sauna and steam room but you have no intention of using any of them, perhaps your money could be put toward another facility that better meets your needs."
Tailor your workouts to the seasons "Where I live, we have boardwalks, parks and outdoor fitness set-ups that are great during the warm months, but not something you want to be doing while wearing a puffy coat. If you need to migrate to an indoor facility during colder months, check out facilities that can meet your interests for inside workouts. There are facilities that offer everything from indoor surf workout classes to indoor tracks—you just need to do your homework to find them."
Avoid commitments and contracts "If the thought of signing a year-long contract causes you to sweat more than the workout, check to see if the facility offers monthly or class pack options. (Or perhaps that contract is what you need to keep you motivated. Sometimes spending more on that workout package shows how committed you truly are. And as my best friend says, the more she goes to her gym, the less it costs her each day she goes.)"
Watch before you commit "Some facilities will allow you to watch a class to see if it’s something that may be of interest to you. I remember going to my first yoga class and seeing half the people stand on their heads—it was then that I knew I wanted to keep coming back, because I wanted to achieve that someday. Likewise, try to interact with the staff and take a look around at the people who attend this facility—if you don’t feel comfortable with the people around you, it will be harder to keep coming back."

Catherine Basu, Certified Personal Trainer at Fit Armadillo®
If your goal is to: Try this:
Help others while getting fit "Log your runs or walks with the Charity Miles app. All miles logged count the same regardless of speed—which is great if you're just starting a routine or coming back from an injury—and you can earn money for a variety of charities. To boost the fun, you can join a team."
Create your own custom workout Consider using an online personal training service. "We specialize in one-on-one training and private yoga sessions. Our clients love saving time and money by ditching their gym memberships for efficient, effective workouts completed with their own trainer over video chat."
Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints

Member Comments

Great Ideas! Report
I too have had ACL surgery. Plus MCL on the same knee and tore every ligament in my ankle so any activity with quick moves or jumping are torturous. My kids look at me like I'm crazy when working out because I modify a lot of moves during Zumba or Spark videos. I've always been a runner, so it's hard not to push myself sometimes, but I usually pay for it for weeks. Report
Thanks for the ideas. I need to change it up a little Report
We must use time creatively.
- Martin Luther King Report
Thanks for sharing. Report
Thanks for sharing Report
I appreciate the information! Report
I wanted to comment on the slideshow I read just before this, but there are no comments available there. Seems when things get changed, some things get left out. This article was fine reading with good information, but the slideshow with new t-shirts was funny. Report
Good info. Thanks for sharing! Report
Great read Report
An excellent read with some great ideas. I discovered, quite by accident, that I love spin classes. The gym where I go is not big enough to support a spin class. However, they do have a great bike available for use and I've found some good YouTube videos of spin classes. I wonder if might consider adding one? I looked through the cardio vids and did not see one??

Also let me say thank you for the affirmation in this article that I can be into fitness and not like running or jogging. My doctor has told me that running might not be the best of workouts for me because of knee joint health. I've always wanted to try a 5K, and may try to build up and do one, but jogging or running is not in my long term fitness plans. Report
I really appreciate that this article offers so many excellent suggestions on how to find the exercise/workout(
s) that appeal to you. There isn't a one size fits all, or one and done mentality that will keep us motivated and moving. Initially I was hesitant about what workouts I would try...mainly because I was unfit, with two artificial knees. Ten minutes at a time I slowly changed my life as I pondered new possibilities. My biggest takeaway is to try something new, and to mix things up when you need to. I workout at home at least five days a week. I never do the same workout two days in a row. I use different equipment, intensity levels, trainers, you name it. High impact STEP kickboxing one day, a low impact barefoot workout the next day. While this might seem nightmarish to some, it's my nirvana. So many options, for all ability levels...begin, build slowly. It is powerful to exercise your strong, your body will thank you a million times over. Report
love the ideas Report
Great ideas! Report


About The Author

Melissa Rudy
Melissa Rudy
A lifelong Cincinnatian, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from University of Cincinnati before breaking into online writing in 2000. As a Digital Journalist for SparkPeople, she enjoys helping others meet their wellness goals by writing about all aspects of healthy living. An avid runner and group fitness addict, Melissa lives in Loveland with her guitarist husband and three feisty daughters.
Close email sign up
Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a new exercise each day, handpicked by our certified trainers. We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

Magic Link Sent!

A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.