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Understanding Your Personality Type Can Improve Your Training

You may be missing one important component of an optimized training plan: your personality.

Maintaining stringent training logs, following a prescribed plan and keeping up with nutrition are all common techniques that runners adopt when it comes to improving your performance and reaching big goals. But you may be missing one important component of an optimized training equation: your personality.

Generally speaking, individuals can fit under one of four personality types: dominant, influential, stable/steady or compliant. Based on the DISC Personality Type test and research, each type is associated with specific characteristics, thought patterns and habits. Dominant for example, is the “just do it” personality that doesn’t care about the fine details and just wants to get from Point A to B. The influencer however, values relationships, cares about the steps of solving a problem and is more focused on “doing it happily,” than just getting it done.

The compliant type is a stark contrast again. They require meticulous details and complete certainty behind a task or decision before carrying it out, and like to stay in their comfort zone. Finish off with the stable or steady personality, worn by someone who also doesn’t like being uncomfortable. And while stabilizers may not need the impeccable details of a task as those of the compliant, they will require significant reassurance before carrying it out.

By now, you no doubt are starting to have thoughts percolate that make you ask “what is my personality type?” Do you overthink decisions and need to consider all the possibilities before you can decide? Or are you more impulsive, making the choice on the spot? Do you write everything down, with painstaking attention to detail, or it is enough to just hear the details from someone else who you know is an expert in the field?

Wherever you fall, understanding your personality type can dramatically impact your work, relationships and of course, your running. Training according to your personality type allows you to make the most of your regimen and to carry out an efficient and effective workout. Moreover, when your training aligns with your personality, and as a result your values and how you define success, you are more likely to walk away from a session feeling just that: successful.

Step 1: Determine Your Type

Use the information above and the below common traits and characteristics of each personality to determine where you fall:

Dominant: Impulse decision-maker, “just do it” attitude, competitive/wants to win, driven by certainty, outcome and results-focused.

Influential: Values relationships, needs decision criteria, communication-based, driven by variety and trying new things, messy under pressure.

Stable: Indecisive, needs reassurance, wants to be comfortable, likes to please.

Compliant: Detailed and specific, self-critical under pressure, fears criticism, slow decision-maker needing evidence.

It is not uncommon to share a few characteristics amongst more than one type, but consider where you are best aligned most of the time.

Step 2: Create a Training Plan

Use your personality type to help you create an effective training plan or run workout. You can use the following examples to help you get started:

Dominant: Tempo

DO: Just get out the door and do it. Have a plan for the distance you will be covering, and the paces you need to hit, and then get started. Record what you achieve and next week, try to beat it, turning your running into a competition. Dominant types benefit from having clear outcomes and results and then trying to beat those next time.

DON’T: Overthink your paces, distance or the fine details of each mile. Overanalyzing for dominants leads to frustration and a feeling of being overwhelmed, and this takes up mental energy and may even cause them to throw in the towel and not do it at all.

Influential: Long Run

DO: Plan out your route, where you can get water along the way (if not carrying it with you), and where you will take in each fuel source. Have an approximate time to get from your start to finish and be familiar with each section in between.

DON’T: Leave home without a route planned, or no knowledge of how far each section is and how long you expect to be gone for. Failure to know the details of getting between Point A and Point B will not set you up for success.

Stable: Track Workout

DO: Head to the track with a group and a pre-determined workout lined up, such as three sets of 6 x 400m. Have other members of the group indicate the start for each 400m sprint. Use the time to connect with others while being slightly pushed out of your comfort zone, without needing to make decisions.

DON’T: Tackle workout sessions, such as intervals, hills or track workouts, alone and without a plan. The need to make too many decisions, or having to do things alone does not bode well for stabilizers who follow a “let’s do it together,” mentality. As a general rule, stabilizers are group runners, not solo runners.

Compliant: Fartlek Workout

DO: Write down the workout before your session with clear details, deciding whether to use time or distance as your metric and accounting for the specifics of each part of the workout.

For example:

  • 2 mile warm-up
  • 7 Fartleks, 1 mile each; 0.25 mile recovery between
  • 1.5 mile cool down

Total: 12 miles

DON’T: Leave the house without a measured plan, thinking that you will just make each Fartlek from one block to the next. Lack of details and specifics will cost you a lot of mental energy during the session and make your performance suffer.

It is important to note that just because you may have a prevailing personality type doesn’t mean it is easy to conform to what that personality type likes best and how it optimally functions. It is not uncommon for influencers to feel as if they overanalyze decisions too much and try to “just do it,” like a dominant. Zeroing in on your type however, and knowing how to apply it to your training, is a key aspect of making progress towards your goals.