Oh the horror. Here it is January, when everyone suddenly becomes an exercise junkie.
A month ago you had the gym to yourself. You never had to wait for a machine or circle the lot to park your car.
But now getting on a treadmill is like waiting in line for tickets to a Taylor Swift show. The weight room is as packed as a bar at happy hour. So many people are crammed into each lane at the pool you’d think Sea World was holding tryouts.
It happens every new year. People resolve to lose weight or get in shape and the next thing you know, the fitness center that you frequent a full four seasons a year—most of them in relative peace—is bursting with strangers.
But fear not. According to a study by Rod K. Dishman, an exercise psychologist and kinesiology professor at the University of Georgia, about half of the people who start an exercise program drop out within six months.
For regular gym-goers, that means you might have to suffer a month or so of overbooked spinning classes and bustling locker rooms, but the crowds will eventually thin. Besides, you have reason to be thankful for those annual exercise dropouts. If it weren’t for them (and make sure you’re not one of them, hear?), your gym membership would cost a lot more. Most fitness centers bank on a certain percentage of members not showing up regularly when they recruit new clients.
Who Works Out Regularly, Who Doesn’t
So just who will stick it out? Those who ink it in on their calendar, find something they actually enjoy doing and tell others about their goals or write them down have the best shot. The ones who won’t? The folks who charge into the gym full throttle the first day, then wind up so sore they don’t want to go back.
“Put exercise on your schedule, just like anything else,” says Ron Perry, associate executive director of the Northwest Family YMCA in Austin. “It has to be inviolate. It has to be an I-will-not-schedule-stuff-in-place-of-this thing.”
More Keep-Committed Tips
Find something that fits your lifestyle—it doesn’t have to be running or lifting weights because that’s what your friends do. Brisk walking might be more appropriate—it’s also easier on your body and you’re less likely to get injured, Perry says. Investigate class options at the local fitness center. You might prefer yoga, boxing, aqua jogging, trapeze or a Body Pump class set to music.
If you’re the resolution-making type, make sure you make “SMART” resolutions: goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Don’t set a goal to “swim more,” commit to “swim a non-stop mile by June 1.”
“If you’ve never worked out before and you say you’re going to work out seven days, that’s not realistic. Start off with one day a week and see what you can do about adding another day,” says Felicia D. Stoler, a nutritionist and exercise physiologist in New Jersey and author of Living Skinny in Fat Genes.
Consider a trainer if you need extra motivation. Knowing someone is waiting for you at the gym— someone you have to pay—keeps some people dedicated.
Sign up for a group class led by a coach, especially if you’re a beginner. Or find an exercise partner who won’t give you permission to sleep in or slack off. Because dogs need exercise, they make good partners, too.
“I feel guilty when I don’t take [my dog] Gigi to the trail for a run,” Perry says. “That has gotten me down there to exercise more times than I can think about.”
Other tips? Have your workout clothes handy. We’ve heard of folks who sleep in their running shorts (not that we’re recommending that.)
Finally, “don’t make excuses. It’s not just for losing weight, it’s for overall health and well being,” Stoler says. “It’s incredible for mental health and alleviating stress and it helps you sleep better.”