This is the time of year when gyms are flooded with new members. The people who are faithful gym-goers and go year-round call these new members either ‘January People’ or ‘Resolutioners.’ January People/Resolutioners are people who decide that the new year is the time to get in shape. This year will be when they lose weight and get healthy.
This is a great idea, but people rarely follow through on this. They go to the gym a handful of times in January, once or twice in February, then they’re gone by March. Regular gym-goers impatiently wait for these people to clear out so they can have their gym back.
Don’t let yourself fall into the January Person/Resolutioner category! Often people will expect an instant change in their body and the way they feel. When they do not look completely different in a month, they decide that exercise isn’t working for them and they start going to the gym less and less, until they completely stop going. Don’t let this happen to you. Changing your life is always challenging and does not happen quickly. The gym is an example of change that takes patience and time. Like anything else that is worth your time and effort, you have to keep trying to get to where you want to be.
Make the gym a regular part of your life and keep going! People who exercise regularly are healthier, often have higher self-esteem, and are less stressed out. Getting in shape can change your life in 100 positive ways, but that is not going to happen if you go to the gym a dozen times, then go back to your old ways. The trick is that you need to have reasonable expectations about exercise and make it part of your life. Exercise has to be something you really want to do for yourself, not because of outside influences like other people or a calendar date. Once you start working out regularly, you will see how good it makes you feel. That feeling is not one you will want to go away and you’ll start to see how your whole outlook on life changes for the better. Stick with it!
These things will help you keep exercising:
- Join a gym with locations that are convenient for you. If there is a gym you drive past every day, or one right in your neighborhood, join that one. Even if you think a gym 30 miles away is better, it’s less likely you will go if it is out of the way.
- Think about activities you have enjoyed in the past. Did you love to swim as a kid? Make sure your new gym has a pool. Were you on the cross country team in high school? Make sure your new gym has plenty of treadmills. Are you unsure about how to use free weights? Make sure there are plenty of weight machines to use.
- Are you more comfortable exercising around people of your gender? Check out a unisex gym. Many gyms also have an area where only women are allowed.
- Do you feed off the energy of other people or prefer to work out without many people around? Think about timing your gym visits around either high-traffic or low-traffic time periods.
- Consider group exercise classes. A room filled with people doing the same thing you are can be highly motivating. It also can keep your head from talking you out of finishing an exercise. If you are in the back of an exercise studio packed with people, it is unlikely you will leave midway through a class. A class can also give you new ideas about cardio or weight lifting. You may even make some new gym friends.
- Get a personal trainer. A trainer will act as your coach. He or she can help assess your current level of fitness and set a realistic picture of how you can achieve your goals. A personal trainer will put together a program for you to follow and encourage you all the way through. If you spend the money for a trainer and have set appointments to go to, it will help push you off your couch and to the gym. A trainer will also introduce you to new exercises you never knew you enjoyed.
- Break your goals down into manageable chunks. If you want to lose 35 pounds, this is not going to happen instantly. Instead, you can aim for five pounds a month and make that your goal. Likewise, if you want to run a marathon, aim to run an extra mile every week, rather than think about the full 26.2.
- Implement a reward system for yourself. Every time you meet one of your goals, allow yourself something special. Decide that when you lose that first five pounds, you can get a massage or for every month you stick with your gym schedule, you can buy yourself a small luxury.
- Make the gym a part of your daily life. This way it will not seem like something you are forcing yourself to do. If you are a morning person, it will be easier to start going to the gym before work. If you want a diversion during the work day, try going to the gym at lunch time. If you are at your best at night, go in the evening. Make exercising a regular part of your schedule and it will become a second-nature part of your daily routine.
- Find a friend to go to the gym with you. You can encourage each other and spend time together while you work out.
- Tell everyone that you will now be going to the gym. The more people you tell, the more real it will feel. When people know what you are up to, they will ask you about it. You won’t want to admit to everyone that you are no longer exercising; it is more satisfying to talk about how great you feel and how you are working toward you goals.
Using some or all of these ideas will be helpful in starting your life as a gym-person, a person who views the gym as a positive place and makes it a part of who they are. After a few months of regular exercise, you will begin to see improvements in your body, your mind, and your attitude. This positivism will make its way into areas of your life that may surprise you. Once you are a gym-person, you will never want to go back.
Keep going to the gym and keep exercising!
Stacey Rosenberg is a personal trainer and group exercise instructor at Boston Sports Club in Somerville, Massachusetts.