With New Year’s Day disappearing in the rearview mirror, those who flocked to the gym this month with well-intentioned resolutions to get fit in 2020 are about to start their annual exodus.
January brings with it a surge in attendance at most gyms, but that boost is temporary as enthusiasm for new year’s resolutions begins to wane. The number of gym-goers starts to drop off toward the end of January, says Nikki Robichaud, a fitness program assistant and personal trainer at UTM’s Recreation, Athletics and Wellness Centre (RAWC).
“By mid-February I’d say it’s kind of back to its normal numbers in terms of usage,” she says, noting the RAWC tends to see a spike in visitors starting the second week of January.
For those who have made a promise to hit the gym, Robichaud has some tips to help keep the momentum going throughout the year. The first, which is important for both beginners and those returning to the gym after an extended absence, is to start slow. Pushing too hard too soon is “detrimental” and can lead to discomfort or, worse, injuries, Robichaud warns.
“Nobody wants to feel like they’re the beginner, nobody wants to start slow, but in this case, I’d say slow and steady really wins the race,” she says.
Instead of heading to the gym with a vague promise to get in shape, have a straightforward and realistic goal in mind. Having a goal can, in and of itself, help ensure success. “Sometimes just selecting that goal is enough to give you that accountability,” Robichaud says.
She says she likes to use SMART goals with her clients, which are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timed. This ties back to taking it slow and starting small. Break big, long-term goals into smaller increments, Robichaud advises, whether that means increasing the distance you run over time or planning to lose one to two pounds a week instead of focusing on the big number at the end.
“It’s more motivating and keeps you committed over the long run instead of seeing this goal that is way out there and too hard to reach,” Robichaud explains, adding that signing up for events and clinics can provide some extra accountability.
Treat workouts like an appointment and add it to the calendar, which eliminates the need to wonder how to fit a workout into the day, she continues. And to increase the likelihood of staying committed, opt for activities that are enjoyable.
“Choose something you like at least a little and I think you’ll have better luck sticking to a routine,” Robichaud says. “Life is too short to do things you don’t truly enjoy.”
Those looking to be more active in 2020 should also look outside the gym. Robichaud suggests it’s about the total work done throughout the day, not just the 30-60 minutes in the gym, so find ways to create more movement like parking farther away from entrances, using the washroom on a different floor or grabbing coffee in a different building.
Perhaps Robichaud’s most important tip to staying committed to a fitness resolution is to be forgiving. Carve out time for self-care and plan for active recovery days with low impact activities like tai chi, yoga and walking, she suggests. “We have this mentality that every workout has to be perfect or it has to be at a high intensity. That’s not true,” she says. “You can’t be hardcore all the time.”