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Natural Awakenings

Curvy or Skinny?: Design a Custom Fitness Plan that Works for You

Jan 01, 2009 03:00AM ● By David-Dorian Ross

“What’s the best workout for me?” Many people have asked wellness life coach and T’ai chi expert David-Dorian Ross this question.  His answer is always the same: “The one you’ll do again tomorrow.”Find out which workouts will most likely satisfy you physically, emotionally, intellectually and soulfully, based on your unique psycho-physio profile.


Humans experience the world on all human levels simultaneously—physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. You and your spouse or friend may experience the same event in profoundly different ways. Part of that experience is created by the way you’ve learned to process information. Another part is given by the way you are genetically predisposed to process information.

For example, while T’ai chi ch’uan, the internal soft martial art for health and longevity, is beneficial to everyone, each individual will experience it differently, and not everyone will enjoy it. If you aren’t enjoying yourself, you probably won’t slide into that flow moment that reveals your soul to your inner eye.

I do many things—I surf, ski, practice yoga and dance a lot, aware that it’s not the dance performed that is important; it is the experience of the dance, one’s appreciation of its depth and meaning—its soulfulness. All of these activities nurture the bodymind. If you steer toward experiences that are more comfortable and successful for you, you’ll make your efforts to stay fit and healthy irresistibly fun, and therefore effective.  If any given activity doesn’t transport you to an “Aha!” moment, try something else that will.


One way I help people identify what fitness/wellness pursuits would be irresistibly fun for them is through a 5-Season BodyMind Typology. I developed this system with other experts based on meta-analysis of dozens of different typologies, including Ayurvedic typing, Chinese 5 Element theory, Meyers-Briggs and Human Dynamics.

It also factors in the truth that people feel better about exercise when they are successful doing it. Also, that your body may feel better or more natural in a workout that most efficiently uses the type of muscle fiber of which you have the most: fast-twitch fibers, which are especially good for anaerobic, strength-type movement; or slow-twitch fibers, which are most efficient at aerobic, endurance-type movement.

The 5-Season BodyMind Types

Spring | The Lion | The Warrior Spirit

Psycho-physio profile:
Typical fitness club member/trainer; good competitive athlete; large-boned mesomorph (naturally muscular and able to shed weight); strong musculature

Intrinsic motivator: Achievement/action

Most compatible workouts:
Conventional, highly physical or active exercise

Springs are the quintessential go-getters. Their number one intrinsic motivator is their initiative and drive for achievement. Springs are mavericks, pioneers, adventurers and entrepreneurs—‘take charge’ people.

Springs have a strong mental component to their temperament and like to think they have logical reasons for everything they do—although decisions are just as likely to be based on emotion and instinct. They are competitive and impatient; others may sometimes interpret this as being pushy or controlling.

Springs love conventional strength/cardio workouts, which satisfy their need for stimulation and a sense of achievement. Their best intrinsic motivator toward regular exercise is a sense of competition—if only against themselves.

Springs tend to lose focus or get distracted by the next challenge that comes along. So, while Springs are the least likely to enjoy T’ai chi, the practice can help them stay in tune with their body’s signals, balancing their tendency to ignore their intuition and even physical warnings like pain. It also can help them stick with an exercise routine through its depth, both of different exercises and principles, which provide logical reasons to work out.


Summer | The Horse | The Free Spirit

Psycho-physio profile:
Will try new, fun things; small to medium-boned mesomorph; lean dancer’s body

Intrinsic motivator: Spontaneity

Most compatible workouts:
Hatha yoga, low-impact aerobics, dance, jazzercise, Nia, circuit-training, walking, hiking

Summers are spontaneous, fiery, charismatic and dramatic, but also intensely loving and empathetic. They feel emotions strongly, whether their own or another’s. They are great communicators, the life of the party, and often solve problems by talking things out. Summers tend to think of problems in terms of the people involved and how they are feeling. Some may view Summers as touchy-feely.

Summers tend to make good athletes, dancers and gymnasts. They love to have fun, to do activities that involve other people, but not necessarily with any particular end result in mind; it is the process that inspires them. Summers are about more than the goal. They often stick with an activity because of the people involved, not the activity itself.


Indian Summer | The Bear | The Nurturing Spirit

Psycho-physio profile
Systematic thinker; down-to-earth; typically larger-boned endomorph with slower metabolism (gain weight easily); a curvy female; a male Teddy bear

Intrinsic Motivator:

Most compatible workouts:
Walking, jazzercise, swimming, tennis, cycling, circuit training

Indian Summers find their identity in terms of a group, whether it is family, church, occupation or politics. They are patient listeners, extremely empathetic peacemakers and often have trouble saying no. Indian Summers know exactly where they are going and are not likely to swerve from their path. They see things from a holistic point of view. They take their time gathering information and once they see the whole picture, act decisively.

If Indian Summers get active upon awakening, they will do well and feel energetic for the rest of the day. Their sense of group connection makes them interested in just about any activity, as long as they do it with other people who are important in their lives.

Autumn | The Fox | The Thinker

Psycho-physio profile
Logical and linear thinker; appears a smart competitor; ectomorphic with faster metabolism (smaller-boned, slim, with compact musculature and low fat storage)

Intrinsic motivator:
Love of values and personal integrity,  “doing the right thing”

Most compatible workouts: T’ai chi ch’uan, weight training, hatha yoga, Pilates, cycling

Autumns are deep thinkers and, while logical and linear, may also be quick, sharp and witty (vs. the deep, slower thinkers, Winters). They tend to internalize their emotions or put them to one side. Others may see them as aloof or unemotional. Autumns feel their emotions deeply, but keep them in perspective.

Because of their physical body type, their movements, like their thoughts, tend to be quick, precise and linear. Exercise education often works well as a motivator for them. Becoming fit, well or healthy is the right thing to do, for themselves and their family.

If they work with a coach or trainer for the first few weeks, Autumns are more likely to religiously follow their exercise routine, almost as if inertia was keeping them from stopping. Yet, Autumns have a high tolerance for discomfort, and so may ignore pain or other warning signals and end up overtraining or getting injured.

Workouts to balance this tendency include T’ai chi ch’uan, swimming and ballroom dancing—opportunities to help them get out of their heads, find calm and have fun.

Winter | The Ox | The Strategist

Psycho-physio profile:
Systematic thinker, appears aloof; endomorphic with strong musculature and may tend toward a slower metabolism (gains weight easily)

Intrinsic motivator: Seeing the big picture

Most compatible workouts:
Body building, Ashtanga yoga, martial arts, cardio-kickboxing, tennis, golf, swimming, Chen-style T’ai chi ch’uan

Like Indian Summers, Winters see things from a holistic point of view. They take their time gathering information and once they see the whole picture, act decisively.

Winters are patient listeners—not necessarily to understand another’s emotions, but to gather information. Some may perceive the inwardly directed Winter as aloof, even cynical, but more likely, Winter is simply processing information and creating strategies for setting and attaining goals.

Winters want to know, “What will this workout do for me? How will it fit in with everything else I’m doing?” A logical approach to working out using a systematic schedule is effective for them.

Early mornings make the best times for Winters to exercise. Especially as they get older, they settle into themselves, like bears getting ready for hibernation. They need constant, regular stimulation, change and challenge.

Tennis, fencing, swimming and martial arts all are recommended, as well as the more vigorous Eastern practices, such as Chen T’ai chi and Ashtanga yoga.

David-Dorian Ross is America’s T’ai chi champion, whose competitive performances have won him seven U.S. gold medals and three World medals. He is the owner of Full Circle Fitness and the Full Circle T’ai Chi Academy, and is the talent behind the book, Exercising the Soul, award-winning educational DVDs and a PBS series. Visit

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