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."
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Member Comments

Very useful Report
great info Report
Thanks for the great information. Report
Thanks This article mite motivat me to work out . Report
Thanks This article mite motivat me to work out . Report
Thank you Report
I used to do lots of different workouts. Now everything hurts. Report
One of your better articles. Report
Thank you. Report
My gym was offering a Jazzercise class. I had never done it, so talked to the instructor, and she offered a free class for me and a friend. We went for the free session the following week. I hated the music, the pace was frenetic, and for several days after that class, my hips, knees, and back were killing me. I was 65 at the time, and made the mistake of assuming that the class was for seniors.

The same gym offers a Zumba class, and I love that. I also do various aerobic and walking video workouts, so I figured the Jazzercise would be OK.

Lesson learned, try a class before committing to it. Report
Great article! Report
It will all change as you age, or your life changes. Report
Mine isn't so much a workout as a workout place. My gym is great and I can do cardio on the machines on my own schedule or take a spin class, Zumba to mix up the cardio. Barre classes have really made a difference. Best yet? The members who are welcoming and encouraging. I look forward to my gym mornings! 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.