It never seems to fail, year after year as January 1st approaches, countless Americans pledge future allegiance to health & fitness. The notorious “resolution” that coincides with the calendar, wanting to start a New Year with a new approach and fitness-related goals are almost always near the top of the most popular New Year Resolutions. As a gym owner, and previously as a manager or even as a membership salesperson, I often hear the phrase “You must LOVE January.” And while my answer is yes, I do love January…My love does not stem from the reasons assumed in the question. See, I don’t find it surprising at all that fitness-related resolutions top the charts in America, because we live in a country that continually suffers from and succumbs to a severe obesity epidemic. So when January rolls around and mass amounts of people decide that they actually want to attempt to DO something for their health & fitness, I absolutely love it. I am a true believer in fitness being able to improve the quality of lives, to extend lives, and to save lives! I cling to the hope that as an industry, we can continue to combat the obesity epidemic and spur change. The assumption though is that fitness professionals love January because everyone gets to bathe in money like we are all Bill Gates for the first two months of the year. In all honesty, January really ends up being more of a love-hate relationship and let me explain why.
Here is another phrase I hear quite often: “I am your favorite type of member, I pay but I never go to the gym.” This statement and its sentiments make me cringe because it is another widely accepted assumption about fitness professionals when in fact: it is completely false. For me, the member(s) that pay their dues but do not attend the gym are very close to making a decision to quit…and once they quit, because they no longer perceive any value in their membership – the likelihood that they re-join somewhere down the road is slim to none. On the other hand, the member that uses their membership on any kind of consistent or semi-consistent basis is likely not even considering relinquishing their access to the gym. We open our doors at GIVE Fitness every morning with the hope that as many of our members as possible are actually utilizing what they are paying for and making an effort to improve their health & fitness.
Now, back to the “Resolutioners” and why January can be summarized as love-hate. Most people making a resolution are well intended when it comes to fitness but not so well educated. The majority of society does not look at fitness as part of their lifestyle but rather as something that is start-stop with a beginning date and an end date. As a result, we find people coming into gyms & health clubs seeking the cheapest option for membership, refusing any training or guidance and heading straight for the cardio room. This creates several layers of problems: first, there is a lack of connection within the gym and the perceived value of the membership immediately diminishes. Additionally, the cardio room (or area) is typically the most crowded area of any gym or health club, which quickly creates frustration. But, arguably the biggest problem associated with the large number of new gym members showing up in January: THE BEHAVIOR & CONDUCT OF CURRENT MEMBERS.
January somehow seems to empower the regular gym goers to plant their noses high in the sky and act like they are completely superior to any “newbie” walking in the door. It’s like a group of large bucks standing proudly and sneering at baby fawns stumbling while attempting to walk and it’s totally disgusting – hence, the hate part of the love-hate relationship with January. Gyms and health clubs are intimidating places for most people; exercise is associated with pain & suffering. Sometimes it requires true courage for someone just to walk through the door, let alone becoming vulnerable by beginning to exert energy in ways that are completely foreign to them. Shouldn’t our seasoned fitness enthusiasts or veteran members be lending encouragement & support instead of judgment, ridicule and further intimidation? Let’s get over ourselves. That’s my challenge to the gym members that say I hate January and/or all the new people. So what, we may have to wait a few extra minutes for a treadmill or that favorite bench, or maybe your class is a little overcrowded. How about striking up a conversation with someone that looks new or offering some guidance to someone that looks like they’re struggling or lost. It was everyone’s first day once, and I’m sure many of us were intimidated – let’s have a little sympathy and think beyond ourselves.
I hate that as an industry, our systems fail the people that make the decision to get off the couch, join a gym and put in effort. This failure comes as the result of MOST gyms & health clubs simply loving January and focusing only on piling people into the gym, not caring where they go or what they do or how long they stay. We won’t do that at GIVE Fitness, your success is our success. We want you to be comfortable, we want you to use your membership and we want you to stay. We don’t run sales promotions or specials: our prices are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow and they are all available online, you don’t need to call or even come in. If we end up being a good fit for anyone making a fitness related resolution, we will welcome you with open arms and do our best to assist you in the pursuit of your goals. We will make our Personal Trainers available to you for a complimentary Health Assessment: an opportunity to talk specifically about what you’d like to accomplish. They can help explain how cardiovascular exercise is an important aspect of fitness as well as the need to build lean muscle and incorporate proper nutrition. Our ultimate goal though, will be to communicate that making a resolution to get fit does not end in March and that fitness is not start-stop but part of a lifestyle.
For those of you making fitness-related resolutions, good for you! I encourage all of you to pursue them whole-heartedly, stick with them when it gets difficult and you want to quit. For those of you already active in the gym, possibly dreading the onslaught of newcomers, take a different perspective: obesity is killing people. Don’t be part of the problem by turning people away from a gym with your attitude, be part of the solution by welcoming them and breaking down barriers.