Your personality type can give you clues to the workout you’ll do—and keep doing.

In my almost 20 years of being a personal trainer and group fitness instructor, I have witnessed one common denominator that is shared by all members of a health club: the desire for results. No one joins a health club, pays the membership dues and performs grueling workouts with the intent of maintaining their fitness status quo.

Understanding what you want from your club membership is the easy part; identifying the most effective exercises that can help you reach your goals can be a little more difficult. One key component of success is to first understand your own personality type, which can help you identify the best modes of exercise that might be right for your particular needs.

Do you feel more comfortable working out on your own on an exercise machine, or do you look forward to the energy created in a group fitness studio? Do you enjoy the solitude of lifting weights while listening to your favorite playlist, or do you look forward to the camaraderie with other people sweating during a group cycling ride? Have you ever noticed that certain exercises or group fitness formats just feel “right” for you?

While each of us has our own unique personality, we can each be classified into general personality profiles. It’s important to note that your specific personality type may make you more suited for certain types of exercise than others. If you can identify your specific personality traits, then you may be able to determine the best types of exercise that can meet your particular needs.

The DISC model was developed by Dr. William Marston to identify specific personality types, and it’s used by the American Council on Exercise Health Coach Certification to help identify an individual’s specific personality traits so that ACE-certified health coaches can guide clients to the best exercise options for their particular needs. The DISC model identifies four general types of personality—dominant, inspiring, supportive and cautious which can be further characterized as outgoing, reserved, task oriented or people oriented. Having a better understanding of your personality type and the formats of exercise that you are best-suited for can help you to stay motivated to do the work necessary to get the results you want.

DISC Model

Dominant personalities:

Results oriented
Thrive on challenge

These individuals could enjoy both one-on-one and group environments as long as they feel they are sufficiently challenged or have the chance to quantify their results.

Competitions or tracking metrics like number of reps performed, time for distance or amount of weight lifted may challenge these individuals to work harder.

Exercise ideas:
As many reps as possible (in a specific time)
Keep track of reps performed in an AMRAP and try to beat them the next time.

Inspiring personalities:

People oriented
Connect easily with others
Having fun

These outgoing individuals may not only prefer the group environment where they have the opportunity to work with others but also are your front-row participants who thrive on the social aspect of exercise; the process of working with others may be more preferable than a specific performance outcome.

Exercise ideas:
Partner drills
Team- or group-based activities
Small-sided games
Dance-based classes

Cautious personalities:

Task oriented
Less emotion
Prefer data and facts
Prefer own space
Follow the rules

These individuals may prefer exercising on their own as opposed to being in a group. They may not be motivated by challenges but more interested in tracking their workout through data like heart rate, amount of weight lifted or the time to complete an assigned workout.

Exercise ideas:
Cardio machines – reach a certain distance or maintain a specific heart rate
Circuit weight training
Tracking metrics like body-fat percentage, amount of weightlifting or distance running

Supportive personalities:

People oriented
Fast movers
Desire to be appreciated
Promote collaboration

Because they are considered reserved, these individuals may prefer small group training programs that focus on everyone in the group working toward the same (or similar) goal(s). Taking the opportunity to provide these individuals with specific feedback and appreciation can go a long way to establishing a long-term client.

Exercise ideas:
“Biggest Loser”–type challenges
Small group programs that are outcome based like wedding prep, training for an obstacle course race or using a specific piece of equipment like the TRX

If you want to get the most out of your gym membership and accomplish your fitness goals, then understanding which types of exercise may be best-suited to the needs of your individual personality is extremely important. For example, if you identify as a cautious personality and you’ve been trying group fitness classes but find it’s hard to motivate yourself to get to the gym to take them, it’s important to realize that you may be better-suited for using a preprogrammed workout on a cardio machine. Or if you identify as an inspiring personality and you have a tough time motivating yourself to exercise on your own, you may want to try a small group program.

If getting results from working out was easy, everyone would be doing it. Getting the results you want is going to take some trial and error to determine the best program for your needs. You like the idea of working out and generally enjoy visiting the health club, but if sometimes you find that it can be tough to motivate yourself to get there, then consider identifying the best type of exercise for your personality.

You can save time by using the DISC model to first identify your personality type and then use that information to help plan a workout routine best-suited for your particular needs. It can be easy to find excuses not to go to the gym, but if you find the exercises that fit you like your favorite pair of jeans, then you will start seeing results before you know it. As the great college basketball coach John Wooden often said:

“Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do.”

Photo credit: Thinkstock, iStock, Antonio_Diaz.