6/27/17

Making Health a Priority: Exercise personalities

By Kiley Owen, PA-C

When it comes to those who exercise, I am convinced that there are two types of people: the competitive and the leisurely.

Let's take biking, for example. This is how my husband bikes. 

Competition drives him. Working toward a goal, continually improving, and testing his limits are what keep him coming back for more. He reads books like Relentless by Tim Grover, where contentment is not a word in the vocabulary.

The second photo shows how I bike. (Though I'll admit, that wet sand would more likely have me on the ground!)

Relaxation is my interest. Enjoyment and stress relief are what keep me coming back for more. I prefer books like Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, where contentment is the goal.

The competitive group can get pretty intense. They love their races (or other competitive sports events), and their workouts frequently include some dramatic grunting. :) They might say to the leisurely person, "Step it up — no pain no gain." 

They see dramatic gains in their physical abilities. We admire these heroes for their incredible drive in this regard. We give high-fives and get inspired when we watch them perform.

In contrast, the leisurely group is more relaxed, slower paced, enjoying the ride. They venture outside their comfort zone, but nothing too crazy. They might say to the competitive person, "Easy there, tiger."

Their results may not be as immediate or dramatic, and there's typically no fanfare, but don't underestimate these quiet heroes, who often see big wins in the lifelong journey of health. 

My goal is not to label people. I think we've probably all got a combination of each of these character traits within us, with overall tendencies in one direction or the other. Furthermore, what starts as a leisurely activity may become more competitive, and vice versa. 

My intent is simply to point out how different our motivations for exercise can be. Yet they each lead to the healthy behavior.  

There's no right or wrong way to be. In my opinion, any mindset that gets a person up and moving on a consistent basis is the "right" way for them.

What is the "right" kind of exercise for you?

  • Do you prefer a more competitive or leisurely routine?
  • Do you prefer the company of others or solitude?
  • Do you prefer to be outside or in a climate-controlled environment?
  • Do you prefer a strict program or freedom to decide as you go?
  • Do you prefer to start your day with exercise or to do it later?

We're all wired differently. The point is to find out what works for you.

Kiley Owen is a physician assistant, blogger and preventive health enthusiast. This post — along with helpful links to other resources — originally appeared on her blog, makinghealthapriority.com.