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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USMAWIFE 5/14/2021
thanks Report
YMWONG22 1/28/2021
Thank you Report
I have been working out alone for many years. My motivation is my good health Report
I'm definitely a Triangle. Thanks for the article. Report
Very interesting Report
Thanks! Report
thank you Report
I kind of agree with truechick. This doesn't make sense to me either. But I know that we all have to find an exercise that works for us individually. And what works for my friend or client may not work for me. Report
I'm some kind of combination! LOL

I am a planner and I write down things like weight lifted and number of reps, but I am also flexible and like to try new things! I really miss my group classes at the Y so it might be time to add that back into my 'plan'. :) Report
Thanks Coach Nicole! Report
Thanks Report
I like this information. Report
I'm a squiggly square, LOL.

Just great! Thanks, Coach! Report
I am a rectangle. I enjoy a group class for zumba and pilates, but also pickleball for the laughter. I am more of a listener than a talker at the classes. Report
Thank You for a great article. Report
I guess I would be a rectangle. Report
I think I am a circle and rectangle. Report
I think I am some of each Report
Triangle here. My hubby is my workout buddy but totally non-competiitive. I have learned to compete against myself. I like beating my previous goals and it reduces the negativity that can creep in a competitive person. Report
Without a doubt I am a rectangle!
I can't decide if I belong to the Circles or Squigglies I am a combination of both I believe Report
Squiggler here! Report
Great article! Report
I'm a Squiggle for sure but I like working out with someone; I've done the DVD's at home by myself but I recently started a program at the gym that I really like so I must be turning into a Square!!😆😆 Report
I believe I am a piece of all of these shapes. But most important is to keep moving. Report
Think I'm a TRIANGLE at heart! Thanks!! : ) Report
I am a triangle -square most definitely! I always have a list or plan in hand or mind and I celebrate NSVs as much as weight loss on the scale!! Report
I don't see myself anywhere! I'm the one who has always hated exercise and never goes to a gym, has a collection of different exercise tapes that are all dusty, and has never felt a need for exercise. Not easy to find motivation for my type. Report
Squiggles....anyone got a good workout website with dancing...but not too strenuous...I am 66 with heart disease, diabetes etc. but try to be active. Report
This is cool! I'm a "squiggly". I thought I was doing something wrong hopping from Wii Fit to long walks to dance videos to yoga and so on. Sounds like this is a good way to keep things going and keep me entertained while also getting fit. Report
This makes no sense. No one needs to be a "social butterfly" to get a workout in. I hate people. I hate people at the gym. I hate that someone may be using the pull up bar when I need it and I may need to actually take my headphones out and talk to someone. I do what I do at the gym, I want to get in, get out, and get on with my life without having to talk to anyone. I am none of these things. I do what makes me feel good Report
I'm a circle and a rectangle, I can go it alone but it's much easier if I have someone there to do it with me. Report
A Square in life and a Squiggly in Fitness! I love to change up my routine so that my mind, body and muscles are never bored :D Report
Iam between Rectangles and Squigglies . I love run with group and have fun too , no fun no run (: Report
I'm a Square and an Introvert. Going to a gym and being around a lot of people kills my energy. Group exercises make me want to run in the opposite direction...alone! I really wish Sparkpeople would make more available to our demographic. Introversion is a wonderful thing. It's not a disease or a symptom of depression or due to emotional issues. It is a way of being every bit as valid as extroversion. We're just quieter about it. Report
I'm a Square-Triangle supposedly. An interesting mix of shapes, but as an artist, I think it fits (I stink at Math so no engineering for me, lol). I was considering rectangle, instead of square, since I am quite flexible, but I have a strong dislike for group settings and I'm pretty anti-social so square it is.

I'm not competitive, but I chart everything - workout stats, step counts, weigh ins, measurements... my hubby calls me obsessive-compulsive and I have to agree with him. I like seeing progress and without my charts I wouldn't know my weight can flux almost 4 pounds either way (a real freak-out causer) yet I'm 10.8 pounds lighter since I started in January. Every little bit of progress pushes me to keep going and I have plenty of goals for each stat so I'll not hit that pitfall even without a workout buddy.

I like having schedules and plans (I tend to be unfocused without them), but as a mom of a toddler, I've learned a well-made plan can go poof very easily, so plan b (and c, d, e, and f) are ready and waiting daily. If it rains, treadmill instead of outside walk. Can't do my usual 3-4 miles today? Shoot for a mile and see if I can do more later. Not up to exercising at all? Do some cleaning up around the house to get my step count up as well as get stuff done. I also tend to adjust my workout schedule regularly, mainly to make it easier to stick to and to account for the change in weather, so I don't believe I'll hit those pitfalls either. Report
Haha, I'm such a square. I do plan on adding in some new exercises like yoga to my routine. :) Report
Squiggly. Report
I'm a square leaning toward rectangle. I like to have a plan/schedule because I'm less likely to "opt out" if I'm signed up at a specific time. I really like taking classes because I feel more motivated when working with others and will stick with it longer. Some exercises I prefer to do on my own elliptical. Report
I'm a square. I'm also an introvert so I gain strength by working out alone not with others. Report
I am SUCH a Squiggles! Report
I am so a squigglie and a rectangle Report
I am a squiggle, a triangle, and a square--in that order. I have to have fun to participate in something. Secondly, I need competition--even if it's only to better my own 'score' or prior experience. Thirdly, I am unchanging if at all possible. Why fix something that isn't broken? If I'm having fun and seeing increasing success, I'm not going to stop. Report
SQUIGGLY!!! Report
I'm a Squiggly Square! LOL! Report
I'm a rectangle! Though some days I'm a squigglie :) Report
I am such a square! No doubt about it! Report