Survive the New Year’s Gym Rush

It’s no secret that one of the most common New Year’s Resolutions is to live a healthier lifestyle. According to, 3 of the top 10 are “Eat Healthier, Get Fit, and Lose weight.” Whether looking to lose weight, improve physique, or just improve overall health, this means that gyms and fitness centers around the country experience increased traffic during the first months of the year. Many gyms experience a 25% boost in attendance during January, and most don’t stick with it through February. For those who regularly attend year round, this causes a unique challenge: navigate the unusual crowd and still get in your workout. For those set on sticking to their resolution the challenge is much more daunting: find a rhythm, schedule, and routine during one of the most hectic times of the year.

For those who attend year round, there are many options. The most obvious one is to just go at a different time. Gyms are most busy in the periods before work (5-8am) and right after work (again, 5-8pm.) Most of the increased “resolution” traffic will occur during these times. If a mid-day or late night workout fits in your schedule, you can easily bypass much of the new traffic. If this is not an option, the best bet is to adopt a more flexible routine to make use of what is available, when it is available. Try out new cardio machines if your normal bikes, ellipticals, or treadmills are taken. Consider bundling up and sneaking in your cardio outside if possible. Even fun activities like building a snowman or pulling around kids in a sled can burn a shocking amount of calories.

Understand that these new members will be slower than the usual members because they are still learning about themselves, the machines, and the facilities. Ask if you can rotate in if there is just one person using a machine and taking breaks between sets, or switch to the free-weight equivalent. Look at this as a chance to switch up the normal routine and try something new, you might just enjoy that neglected rowing machine or doing barbell shrugs over the machine equivalent. Remember to set a good example for the new members, be considerate, wipe down machines when you are done, and re-rack your weights. Some of these new members will be sticking around and it is a good idea to set a positive example. If the crowds prove to truly be intolerable, many gyms allow you to pause or freeze your account for a month, or just go inactive if you pay monthly.

Survive the New Year's Gym Rush

For those just starting out, finding time with a trainer or experienced friend can work wonders. Knowing what to do is almost as important as actually doing it, and having some sort of routine established can provide improved results with less time actually spent at the gym, and less time tying up equipment. Remember that the order you exercise in doesn’t matter as much as consistently doing it. A good tactic is to dedicate each day you attend the gym to certain parts of the body, and spread out all the muscle groups across however many days per wekk you can attend. This gives your body time to repair recently worked out muscles, and the flexibility to swap around machines and equipment based upon what is free.

Having a partner can also help eliminate the stagnant time between sets where a machine is still being occupied, as well as help keep you motivated. Speaking of motivation, many new members cite a lack of results as their main reason for discontinuing their membership. Remember that ideally you should have a minimum of 45 minutes of aerobic activity 5 times per week as a baseline. If the time is not being put in, the results will not happen. Additionally, it takes your body some time to adapt to your new level of activity, and it often takes 4-6 weeks for someone to switch from a sedentary lifestyle to one involving vigorous exercise so regularly. During that time, results will be relatively minimal, while discomfort will be at its peak.

Keep in mind that once that difficult first month has passed, results come more quickly, soreness is decreased as your body becomes used to the new level of activity, and the gym will clear out as those less dedicated stop attending. Stick with it, be considerate to the other members, and be prepared to deal with the wave of new members next January.

And before you decide on a membership, be sure to check out the discounts available from your insurance carrier. Some offer discounts on membership, others will reimburse you for part, or all, of the cost.

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