Have you ever gone to the gym, looked at the machines and thought to yourself, “How do I use these? And which ones are right for me personally?”
I know I have. I’ve been an avid gym-goer since my early 20s, and years later, I still have questions as to whether I'm working out in a way that reflects my goals, who I am and what I like.
The Internet floods us with conflicting information when it tells us how to optimize our workouts; are we supposed to do cardio first, followed by strength training? Or is it the other way around?
Most importantly, to keep working out as something I love versus something I dread, how can I work out in a way that won’t bore me to death? Is the workout I’m doing now one that’s perfect for my body, my fitness goals and who I am as a person?
Fortunately, I had the pleasure of speaking with John Rowley, a best-selling author, certified personal trainer and ISSA director of wellness. He told me there are three different kinds of people in this world: the quitters, who go to the gym once or twice and then give up forever; the one-timers, who go in with one specific goal, such as “losing 20 pounds” or “toning up”; and the hobby-cultivators, who start going to the gym with one intention in mind, but then end up loving it and making it a part of their habitual routine.
Of those three types of people, there are certain kinds of people who work out in particular ways unique to their personalities -- and not just their gym personalities, but their personalities IRL.
Here’s what John says your go-to workout says about your personality.
If you stick just to the treadmill, you’re noncommittal.
To all of the cardio bunnies: If you’re merely spending your gym time on the treadmill, you should consider trying other equipment. You might be sticking to this machine because it gives you that great "runner's high," but long periods of cardio don't do much besides burn calories.
It's fine if you're looking to lose weight, but to give your metabolism a boost and see muscle definition, hop off the treadmill and onto the weight machines.
If you stick to weight machines, you enjoy your comfort zone.
Because machines tell us what to do and how to do it, many of us develop a sort of comfort from using strictly them. When we use free weights, we're more vulnerable and prone to looking foolish by practicing bad form in front of the rest of the gym-goers -- which is enough to scare off the people who like to stick to what they know.
You are the kind of person who might just be afraid to branch out and try new routines on the mats, for example.
If you stick to free weights, you’re more serious about getting results.
Free weights users, you are the seasoned pack of the bunch. You also go to the gym with the intention of getting stronger and progressing the more you exercise.
There is a psychology to wanting to grow in the gym with using free weights; after we use them, we can physically feel and track our progress because we are more likely to stand in front of a mirror and watch our form.
In life, you are probably incredibly goal-oriented and will do whatever it takes as a means to an end.
If you stick to group workouts, you’re focused on having a memorable gym experience.
There’s actually something to that whole SoulCycle trend...
Women aren’t just concerned with getting in shape; they’re keen on viewing their cardio craze as an experience they plan on taking with them outside the gym.
They want to kick butt, but also deem their group workout worthy enough to be a topic of conversation at their next girls’ night out.
You're the type of person to use your friends as motivation to hit the gym, and you might have a hard time creating incentive for solo workouts.
If you stick to solo workouts, you use the gym as an escape.
If you’re not into sharing your exercise experience with someone else, you’re most likely a lone wolf.
For you, the gym is like therapy: it's a place for you to be yourself, without judgment and without having to compromise. Your priority is to get the best possible results, not gab with your girlfriend on the elliptical next to you.
I personally look at the gym as my “me time”: time I take out of my day when I’m not expected to talk to anyone or do anything for anyone. And there’s nothing wrong with being a little selfish at the gym because it's one of the few places where we can do things at our own pace.
Regardless of your individual personality, John encourages everyone to make time for one thing.
That one thing is resistance training. He pointed out that people who are embarrassed to do it gravitate toward the "easier" machines, like the elliptical and stairclimber, and make a home out of them.
He is also an avid proponent of what he calls the "King TUT Method," which stands for Time Under Tension.
What he means by this is we should take 20 to 30 second rest periods between sets of lifting because having that rest time is crucial to getting the most out of your workout and keeping your muscles from getting too tired before working them again. This way, you are stimulating metabolism while also pushing the muscles.
In the end, it’s always better to do something over nothing -- so if you can squeeze in 30 minutes a day, three days a week doing strength training, you'll still be able to see results.
An added bonus is staggering the other days doing aerobic exercise and eating right, because abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym.
Also, if you're interested in more of what John has to say, you can order his books, "The Power Of Positive Fitness" and "Climb Your Ladder Of Success Without Running Out of Gas," here.