Last month, my treadmill broke. This was traumatic because I’m very
fond of it. Obsessively fond. I’ve never enjoyed outdoor exercise. Nor
have I ever had a personal trainer. Gym phases and yoga classes? Most
certainly, I’ve been there. But for the past few years I’ve had an
exclusive exercise relationship with my treadmill.
There are several reasons for this. Firstly, I like to exercise alone
and in private. No chatting. No need to brush your hair. Secondly, I
save time by not leaving my house. Thirdly, I can dismount my treadmill
at any moment and instantly be in the same place I started. And lastly,
I like exercising in front of the TV so I can pretend I’m not
Nike may have said ‘Just Do It’ but depending on your exercise personality, we all Do It in different ways, don’t we?
My exercise personality could be summed up like this: anti-social and in-denial with a side order of control freak. The polar opposite of me are the people who exercise in groups while being shouted at. Boot camp people.
I’m endlessly fascinated by the exercise personalities of these extremists and quiz them at every opportunity. Why do they do it and are they insane? “I’m unmotivated yet competitive,” explains one male boot camper friend. “I won’t initiate exercise on my own but once I’m there I’ll leave nothing in the tank. If you’re sacrificing sleep to get up at 5am, you may as well go hard.”
A female boot camper explains it this way: “My exercise personality would be extreme team player and suck. I have serious approval-seeking tendencies and I want the trainer to think I’m a bit of a star. There’s no one to please or impress when you work out alone. The group thing appeals because I like having witnesses to verify how heroic I am to run 25km with 5kg hand weights before 7am.”
Do exercise personalities change when men and women train together? “There are more girls than guys in my training group but they’re generally not as competitive,” says one bloke who met his girlfriend on a soft-sand beach sprint. “Guys hate to be overtaken by girls and this leads to very funny testosterone displays. We’ll make up for lack of fitness or ability by killing ourselves to be the most alpha male in the group.”
If hardcore training appeals to those with masochistic ‘stick” exercise personalities, others require more of a carrot approach.
“I only exercise when there’s a reward involved,” agrees Fran, a carrot girl. “I only ever do the Bondi to Bronte walk if I know there’s a coffee for me in Bronte. And possibly a muffin when I get back to Bondi although that kind of defeats the purpose of the exercise.”
Sociability and distraction can also be powerful motivators. “I prefer company,” concurs Leanne. “I always ask people to come walking with me. I’ll even borrow a dog if I can’t find a human. When I’ve been slack and need to buy some motivation, I’ll spend my shopping budget on a personal trainer. But I still have to chat. My trainer at the moment is the strong silent type and I bore him to death telling him what I’ve been cooking or watching on TV.”
Others are motivated by vanity. I know several women who refuse to exercise outdoors for fear of sun damage and premature aging. And for every indoor exerciser, there’s someone else with gym-phobia, like my friend Tom who admits, “I’ve never been comfortable working out with lads. At City Gym the big guys straddle each other on the weights bench and shout GIMME ONE MORE!! It just looks like a prison nightmare waiting to happen.”
My favourite exercise personality is the Promiscuous Exerciser. Also known as Exercise ADD, the Promiscuous Exerciser just can’t commit. “Exercise to me has parallels to dating,” explains one self-confessed workout floozy. “Running is the ex-boyfriend I always go back to, even though I know it’s bad for me (kills my knees), but I constantly flirt with yoga and pilates and have brief, meaningless flings with swimming or boxing for short periods until I’m bored. Before long I start pulling away from them, start skipping our weekly dates… and then inevitably, I’ll start cheating on them with that ol’ flame, running, again.”
Can I recommend a treadmill?