These days 45 percent of Americans are making New Year’s resolutions, 38 percent of those involving weight and 8 percent of those being successful. (University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology, 2012) Translation: in the days since Jan. 1 you have listened to or know someone, possibly yourself, whose resolution had them buy a gym membership, attempt home yoga/exercise classes or step outside for a jog.
Next year it will happen again. And the year after that, possibly in higher numbers. But while this year still has 10-plus months for folks to tackle that weight loss resolution why do so many of them fail before June hits? A few Sparks fitness enthusiasts working in health-related fields offered some possible explanations, trends and tips on everything considered New Year’s fitness.
Everybody’s Doing It
January and February are known to many gym-goers as ‘those months.’ Those months are dreaded, congested and frustrating. The feelings during those months are also temporary because eventually things thin out and return to their norm where only ‘regulars’ are present.
Wingfield Springs Anytime Fitness owner Michelle Schroeder knows all too well the classic influx in membership during January, a time where she tries to not only attract new members but retain them.
“What’s funny is, in my personal experience, it’s kind of a sad take that people feel like they have to get to a date to start a resolution. But it is the general consensus,” Schroeder said. “I think it comes with the hype of the ‘now is the time,’ ‘everyone else is doing it,’ ‘jump on the bandwagon’ mentality. It’s unfortunate but it is the nature of the beast.
“This time of year, some people who sign up feel like that is the first step. They have their key in hand, contract signed and they feel good about it. When that hype is going on in their mind, that is when we want to grab them. We try to say ‘now that you’ve taken the first step, let us help you get there.’”
Locate Your Spot
Finding a gym to conquer your health and fitness goals can come down to several factors. While location and price usually come to the forefront, things like peak hours, number of machines, access hours, security and overall atmosphere may get left behind. Choose wisely, you’re paying for it.
“Typically price is always an issue,” Schroeder said of common questions from new members. “We usually try to do things to tell people what value we bring as opposed to the dollar. Anyone can join a gym anywhere, but what you are going to do with it is what you’re paying for.”
Schroeder said payment plans and discounts vary by gym so it is best to speak to a manager about possible savings, such as company or life insurance policies that will provide for gym fees. She also said her Wingfield Springs outlet is dressed to impress new members who come in for a tour before joining. Her secret: cleanliness comes first.
“The other big concern for people, which is huge for us, is cleanliness,” she said. “Everybody is, rightfully so, strongly worried about bacteria, and the easiest place to pick up bacteria is at the gym. One of the scariest things I learned when I opened this business is nobody regulates a gym. They do not have to pass health codes.
“One of our biggest selling points and one of the things I always talk about is it doesn’t smell like Pine-Sol in here and it doesn’t smell like a gym. We don’t want people to think about our gym as a germ-ridden place. The thing about our staff is we are here every day and if you want the gym to stay clean, you have to keep on people. It’s important to me because I know nobody is going to contract anything.”
Take It Easy
Jason Johnson, a certified personal trainer of 11 years, said it is no secret that people’s No. 1 goal is to lose weight as soon as the new year comes in. But before you go running for the treadmill and elliptical machines Johnson said there are some things beginning and long-absent gym-goers should know.
“It usually goes two ways: 1) they will say they haven’t done this before or in a long time so they start easy, and the problem is they never progress from easy,” Johnson said of newcomers. “They do not challenge themselves with walking faster, adding more weight and they get stuck doing the same thing. On the other side, you have people who are super excited thinking ‘this is the year I’m going to make those changes’ and they burn themselves out. They have gone too hard, too fast and they end up getting injured.
“We actively try to get people to understand that it is great they are coming in and that they want to improve, but it has to be a progressive method. It’s one step to the next and make sure you are preparing your body the right way. Dynamic movements, resistance training, higher intensity and trying to improve every workout and doing it appropriately.”
Snack On This
The hard part might seem like it is getting out of the house and into the gym, but a consistent diet is often the biggest factor in triggering the ‘I need to lose weight’ alarm. Johnson said the importance of nutrition cannot be ignored by anyone wishing to change their body’s appearance or overall health and wellness.
“People know they can get on a treadmill and walk anytime of year,” he said. “That can be an excellent starting point but that is really not the way to do it. Nutrition is number one. Nutrition is the biggest contributing factor to achieving your goals regardless of if you are trying to lose weight, gain muscle or improve blood pressure health. It is a lot easier to not eat 500 calories than it is to burn off 500 calories.
“The biggest thing I tell people is moderation. I am not a perfect example of what you should eat — there is a reason I work out — but the things I do eat that are high in fat and sugar I don’t eat a lot of it. I eat a little to satisfy the craving and then I can be back on track."
Hit The Weights
A simple Google search can find you hundreds of workout programs to print out and take to the gym to keep you on track. Others might like the idea of a buddy or personal trainer guiding you through the first few months of exercise until you can walk on your own. While Johnson said individual goals will fuel different workout regimens for everyone, the overall goal should be burning off the unwanted calories.
“I tell everybody that what I focus on is what I call ‘The Big 4’ which are squats or dead lifts, a lunge, push or pressing exercises and pulling exercises,” Johnson said. “The reason I focus on those is because for most you can do them with just your body weight without any equipment.”
Johnson said nutrition, weight training and cardiovascular training are the three most important principles to forming a healthier you. He said his Big 4 moves can be mixed and varied to knockout weights and cardio all in one.
“The nice thing is that a good strength training workout has plenty of cardiovascular components to it,” he said. “Circuit training or super setting will help boost heart rate. A lot of people don’t realize that strength training can be a cardiovascular workout, but it saves some time and you get the most bang for your buck.”
Protect The Goods
Monica Moreland, owner and physical therapist at Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation in Sparks, has a chance to see the New Year’s fitness craze on two levels, once at the gym during her personal training and again at her physical therapy practice. Moreland said gym distractions and improper technique can cause inexperienced gym-goers to place added stress on important body parts.
“When the starting position is off the whole movement is off,” Moreland said of weight lifting machines. “Instead of your biceps doing the work you might see the back or neck do some of the work. The other thing is I think that there would be better form and less injury if people engaged their core. Even if you are working with your arms or legs the core has to be a central stabilizer, and I think you can do more when you use your core.
“For instance, right now we have a gal that has a tennis elbow injury from lifting too heavy of weights. She definitely has that injury, but upon further evaluation there is weakness in her rotator cuff muscles of her shoulder so maybe that’s where the breakdown was. If the rotator cuff was able and ready to handle that weight, maybe the elbow would not have taken on as much of the work.”
Moreland said leg extensions and squatting movements also open up beginning lifters to ACL and knee cap problems if proper form is not held during the exercises. As a person who finds herself at the gym several times during the week, Moreland said the world around us is becoming less and less conducive to being healthy.
“(The new year) is a natural time to start fresh,” Moreland said. “It is like opening a new book or moving into a new house, but I think the reason the resolution is to get more fit is because we are just not. In this country we work a lot. We are stressed about money and there are so many things against being fit. We have gotten so far away from the natural ways of eating and walking to your job, the way people used to be fit.
“Probably the best advice is don’t get caught up in what people around you are doing. I think it is human nature to think if someone else can do something then you can as well. Don’t compete with anybody and try to keep yourself on your own program.”