There's a scene in the movie Kissing Jessica Stein in which the heroine is trying the yoga her girlfriend loves. She sits appropriately cross-legged, breathing deep -- and keeps casting sidelong glances at the clock, which refuses to move. Jittery, energetic Jessica is a runner. She wants to "get somewhere" with her workout. Her more inner-focused girlfriend loves the relaxed, centered feeling she gets from yoga.
If you're like Jessica's girlfriend, find a workout that lets you get into the depth of the experience itself -- something like one of the many forms of yoga, Pilates, or tai chi. "Hammering it out on the treadmill might not do it for you," says Peeke.
While some people look inward during their workouts, others look outward. "Maybe you need a goal," suggests Peeke. Are you the kind of person who works best when you have a deadline? If you sign up for a race three months from now, you'll have a reason to slip on those running shoes every day. If you're not that competitive, but you do need to feel "rewarded," consider other goals. "Sign up for [an indoor spinning class] that will prepare you for a fall cycling trip to beautiful B&Bs in New England," Peeke says.
Of course, people don't fit neatly into boxes. Just because you love running solo doesn't mean you'll hate a Pilates class, and just because you enjoy the reflective, slow movement of tai chi doesn't mean you'll be jangled and jostled by a fast-paced kickboxing class. Once you've found the "workout you," try things that don't fit on occasion. "Exercise and physical activity needs to be individualized just like eating patterns do," says Polk.
Still not sure where your workout personality falls? Try this quiz from the American Institute for Cancer Research:
1. When I think about physical activity, I:
a. can't wait to put on my walking shoes
b. really want to exercise but need a push
c. dread the idea of moving a muscle, but am happy once I get moving
2. When I am physically active, I enjoy exercising:
a. by myself at my own pace
b. with a team or group
c. with one or two buddies
3. I exercise because:
a. I want to stay in shape, slim down, or improve my health
b. I want to see my friends and catch up on the latest news
c. the weather is nice or I just feel like it
4. When I take part in a physical activity, I usually:
a. plan the event ahead of time
b. participate when someone else has set up the activity or attend a class
c. pull it together quickly and do something active when the mood strikes
5. Others see me as:
a. a leader
b. a team player
c. someone who goes along with a good idea
6. I enjoy physical activities that are:
a. set by my own routine
b. set by a professional, teacher, or group
For every answer, give yourself:
A = 1 point
B = 2 points
C = 3 points
If you scored ...
6-9 points: you are a self-motivator
10-14 points: you are a team player
15-18 points: you are spontaneous
You like structure and organization. Creating and sticking to your own exercise plan is relatively easy, but you may find yourself losing interest in your usual routine. Try adding a few new activities such as biking, rowing, gardening, or hiking. Or try alternating your favorite workouts such as walking, swimming, and weightlifting on different days of the week.
To you, exercise is a way to socialize and stay connected to friends and family. Group activities and classes are a natural selection for you. Sign up for an exercise class; put together a group of friends for walking; or join a team sport or sports league such as bowling, softball, or doubles tennis.
You love freedom and loathe conforming to rigid rules. Things that get you moving might include a call from friends who need a fourth player for a round of golf, a hike in the woods to enjoy a beautiful fall day, or a walk to the store when you are out of milk. These activities are great, but make sure you're doing something active on most days.