December 13, 2022

Want to love exercising? Link it to your tigers!

If you already engage in a form of exercise that you love and are extremely passionate about, this post will explain why that sport is so appealing to you.

But if you don't, this post will provide you with a method to choose a sport that you'll genuinely look forward to. Like a lover you can't wait to meet.

And that might bode well for you–especially if you made a New Year's resolution this year around exercise.

So read on, and I'll share with you a surefire way of finding a type of exercise that brings on your athletic passion.

While I've enjoyed participating in a number of sports over the years, I never really found "the one." It was just that--I was "participating" in them. I wasn't enamored by them.

As a result, I dabbled in a variety of forms of athletics, including skiing, mountain biking, wind-surfing, acro yoga, riding horses, and working out at the gym. And while I found some of them enjoyable, I failed to find any long-term continuity in any one of them.

That really hit home early this year when I was doing almost nothing to exercise. I felt out of shape. I felt guilty for being so sedentary.

I made up all sorts of excuses for my lack of physical activity: I was too busy with work. I was lazy. I have good genes and low stress, and I don't need to.

At the same time, I looked at others who had their regular matches of tennis, who went for long runs, or who hit the gym five times a week with devotion and gusto.

And I was jealous.

Then one day, while using my virtual reality headset, I stumbled upon a game of VR table tennis. I loved it so much that I thought, "Why to play virtually when I can play the real thing."

So I got myself a paddle and found a local ping pong club. In no time, my romance was now ablaze.

So what was it about ping pong that made such a difference compared to other types of sports?

As I analyzed it, I realize that this sport aligned perfectly with my inherent talents--my tigers, as I like to call them.

Here's what I understood:

We each have a set of 19 tigers. You can read about all of them here.

When these qualities align with what you do, you feel whole, connected, and in tune with yourself.

More commonly, I talk about alignment with people's professional activities. But they also pertain to leisure activities—including sports.

All you need to do is to identify which tigers are big, medium, or small and see which sports correlate with them.

For example:

  • Gross Bodily + Naturalistic --> hiking
  • Gross Bodily + Naturalistic + Adventurous --> extreme outdoor sports
  • Low Interpersonal --> solo sports
  • High Interpersonal --> team sports
  • Visual Tigers --> sports with targets or requiring you to "hit" things
  • Educative --> opportunities to teach others while you exercise
  • Logical --> analyzing data around your fitness and progress

And how about this:

  • High Interpersonal + High Intrapersonal +Naturalistic = Go hiking, walking, or cycling with others who are interested in talking about deep topics.

When I look at myself and my ping-pong passion through the lens of the tigers, I can see why it appeals to me so much:

  • My Naturalistic is low, so doing something indoors is better.
  • My Adventurous is high, so quick or fast play is ideal.
  • My Interpersonal is medium, so one-on-one is preferable (not a team, and not solo)
  • My Visuals are high, so having to aim and hit something is a good option.

Now I can see why so many other sports don't appeal to me.

Team sports don't appeal to my medium Interpersonal.

Yoga isn't adventurous enough.

Golf is not adventurous enough and gives me an overdose of greenery.

When I found a sport that I connected with, so much changed for me. I no longer felt the burden of "having to exercise." Now I look forward to playing with immense pleasure.

And here's something else: my play has been improving! When I started, I was the worst player in the club (someone has to be!). In a few months, I began taking matches off of players who I thought I would never be able to beat in my life.

Truthfully, winning doesn't really matter to me. The most important thing is that I have fun and I get a solid workout. After 2-3 hours of play, I'm exhausted and sweating like anything. So mission accomplished. And I get to enjoy it, too.

If you have an athletic activity that you are passionate about, I'm pretty sure it aligns with your natural talents. Check it to see if I'm right.

But if you don't, and you're telling yourself, "I have to exercise more," I urge you to pick an activity that fully resonates with your Nature.

Think carefully about each of your tigers, and choose a sport that connects with as many of them as possible.

If you do, chances are that it you'll find athletic love in the New Year.

It will bring you joy. And next New Year, you probably won't be feeling guilty about not exercising enough.

Oh, and if you're ever in Cambodia, come by and play ping pong with me!

Below: me with my coach Sun at the Santhor Mok Thmey Ping Pong Club in Phnom Penh.

Steven Rudolph and Sun (my ping pong coach)