We all have that annoying friend who just lives to exercise (confession: I may or may not be that friend). Or that spouse who can’t even be dragged off the couch. Next time they irk you, don’t blame them—blame their workout spirit animal.
To maximize your fitness potential, use this blog to discover yours. Are you a wolf? Or perhaps a koala? By finding which of these animals best embodies your approach to exercise, you can learn how to use your primal instincts for your fitness advantage.
Key word: water-lover
Water is, obviously, a dolphin’s natural habitat. If this is your spirit animal, you come alive in the water, whether you’re swimming, diving, paddle-boarding or playing a rousing game of Marco Polo.
Play to your strengths: Make room in your schedule and budget for water workouts by joining a masters swim team or buying a kayak, for example.
Attack your weaknesses: Dolphins are in danger of falling into a rut, limiting themselves to swimming laps. Instead, seek out a variety of water activities, such as deep-water running, water aerobics or resistance workouts in a pool. Or consider doing twice-weekly strength-training workouts to target muscles you don’t use when you’re swimming.
Key word: competitive
One of the most intense conflicts I’ve ever witnessed was two male deer locking horns in battle. Next in line, perhaps, was some guy at the gym who kept ramping up his treadmill speed to keep up with the woman next to him. If you’re a buck, you find a way to make any physical exertion into a competition—and you’re not happy unless you win.
Play to your strengths: Indulge your inner buck by putting competitive events on your calendar. Sign up for races, join a rec team or schedule a tennis match with a buddy. Then plan your workouts to prep your body for those events.
Attack your weaknesses: Bucks’ intensity puts them at risk for injury, burnout or frustration. Avoid that fate by embracing competitive outlets—such as races, tournaments or sports leagues—but view your workouts simply as training for those events. Don’t turn every exercise session into the Olympics.
Key word: inactive
Koalas are cute, but they rival sloths for the title of Earth’s Laziest Creature. They spend about 80 percent of their time resting or sleeping, and much of the remaining time eating. “Workout” is not in their vernacular. If you have an aversion to all forms of exercise, you are likely a koala.
Play to your strengths: It’s a stretch to think of a koala’s strengths when it comes to fitness, but your best strategy is to reward yourself anytime you engage in physical activity. And by “reward,” I don’t mean a giant bowl of ice cream. Instead, opt for a healthy treat, a relaxing bath, a nap or another incentive that will motivate you.
Attack your weaknesses: To get yourself moving, frequently remind yourself of the value of working out, and enlist people to exercise with you or at least keep you accountable. And start small—perhaps with a short daily walk or easy exercises during commercial breaks. You may also find you prefer mellower fitness activities, such as yoga.
Key word: sporadic
Lions’ physical activity (hunting) comes in short, powerful bursts. After a big kill, they might sleep for up to 24 hours and not hunt again for several days. In human workout terms, this can play out in different ways. You may get fired up to work out for a week or two, but not be able to sustain your enthusiasm. Or you may exercise infrequently, but very intensely when you do.
Play to your strengths: Work with a personal trainer to develop a plan to stay fit with only two or three weekly sweat sessions. Focus on high-intensity exercises and strength-training—these can keep your metabolism revved for days after your workout.
Attack your weaknesses: Set a goal that will motivate you to sustain your workouts for the long term, and recruit someone to keep you accountable. Register for a race that’s three months out, or join a training group that counts on you to be there. Lions also need to be more vigilant about their nutrition choices to avoid packing on pounds during less active periods.
Key word: playful
Otters are some of the planet’s most playful creatures (if you ever need an antidepressant, simply visit your zoo’s otter exhibit). If this is your fitness spirit animal, you likely despise the gym. In fact, your workouts rarely happen unless they’re disguised as a game, sport or fun activity.
Play to your strengths: To stay fit, otters need to be proactive. Some ideas: Join an adult rec sports league, set aside time for active play with your family, try a dance-workout class or invest in active video games.
Attack your weaknesses: Otters often lack the strength-training they need to keep their bones and muscles healthy and balanced. Try distracting yourself with a TV show you enjoy during strength-training sessions. Or check out Playout: The Game (playoutthegame.com), which takes the drudgery out of your workout.
Key word: active
Squirrels actually sleep a ton, but when they’re awake they are constantly on the move. They scamper up trees, scramble across fence-tops, chase other squirrels and flee dogs. If you’re a squirrel, you are in constant motion. You’re happier taking the stairs than the elevator, you prefer active pastimes and even when you are sitting around, you’re fidgeting or jiggling your leg.
Play to your strengths: Because you’re burning more calories than the average creature, you need to eat plenty of nutritious meals and snacks to keep your energy levels high. Sleep is also key, as any squirrel will tell you—make sure you get ample amounts.
Attack your weaknesses: Your perpetual motion may keep you slim, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re fit. Be sure to schedule regular strength-training sessions to keep your bones and muscles healthy.
Key word: social
Wolves run in packs. And eat in packs. And sleep in packs. And so on. If you’re a wolf, you’ll never be found exercising alone—or at least you won’t enjoy it if you do.
Play to your strengths: If you’re a wolf, you’re in luck: There are more opportunities than ever for group exercise. Nearly every gym offers group classes and group personal training sessions. You can find workout partners and training groups via apps and Internet sites (try Fitspur or My Gym Pals, for starters), or join rec leagues to play either mainstream sports, like basketball or soccer, or off-beat ones, such as dodgeball or kickball.
Attack your weaknesses: If your schedule prevents you meeting up with a group, find an app or online community that can keep you accountable and offer some of the benefits of group exercise. Popular options include Fitocracy, Endomondo and Traineo.
I’ll tell you my workout spirit animal if you tell me yours! Also, let us know below how you make the most of your fitness personality.
Kellee Katagi is one of those strange souls who actually enjoys working out for the sake of working out. She’s spent most of her 20-plus-year writing and editing career covering fitness, nutrition and travel, as well as outdoor sports ranging from skiing to spelunking to street luge (yes, that’s a thing).