Fitness resolutions melt in the New Year

Gym-goers need iron-strong will as well as abdominals
By: Adina Bresge

January has been a long month for Christen Crosta.

The first week, her resolve was strong. Cardio three times a week and hot yoga. She had her eye on the prize.

“I want a slamming summer bod,” says Crosta.

This may sound familiar. According to a 2015 Nielson survey, “staying fit and healthy” was the top New Year’s resolution for Americans, coming it at 37 per cent, followed by “lose weight” at 32 per cent.

These sweaty aspirations can be seen on the weight room floor. Employees at the Dalplex, Push Fitness and GoodLife’ Fitness’s Park Victoria and Park Lane locations attested to increased attendance in 2016 so far.

New Year’s fitness fever is so pervasive it is an industry truism. Gyms promote seasonal deals and motivational challenges. GoodLife offered a 30 per cent discount on 100-session personal training packages this year.

A student at the University of King's College makes good on his resolutions
A student at the University of King’s College makes good on his resolutions

Abi Abdullah, Aaron McDonald and Raina Kahn are personal trainers at GoodLife Park Lane, where sign-ins have risen to almost 1,000 compared to 600-700 in December.

Abdullah estimates his training schedule has augmented by 30 per cent. “In January, you don’t have to go look for them. They just come to you,” he says.

The trainers say the club sold over $100,000 worth of memberships this month, up from $80,000 to $90,000 average throughout the year.

“It gets a lot busier with New Year’s resolutions and new people coming in,” says Nicole Lewis, general manager at GoodLife Park Victoria. “A lot of people have new goals – new year, new goals.”

Several fitness professionals echoed this sentiment: New Year, new body. New Year, new me. New Year, new something. This little couplet reverberates through any discussion of our annual orbit around the sun — the idea that, somehow, you are new too.

According to research from Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania, there is psychology behind this. The study showed that commitment to goals peaked following “temporal landmarks” — salient events that demarcate the past “inferior self” from an improved future model.

This sets us up for failure. Often, our old selves prevail, despite our new selves’ best intentions.

Two weeks in, Crosta’s muscles hurt. After a long workday, the gym felt like a chore.

Trainers say burnout is a constant battle, but scheduled one-on-one training sessions keep clients accountable.

A University of King's College student pedals away, staying the course on her New Year's resolutions (Photos: Adina Bresge)
A University of King’s College student pedals away, staying the course on her New Year’s resolutions (Photos: Adina Bresge)


“I wouldn’t weight lift if I didn’t see my trainer,” says Michelle Ryder, a GoodLife group fitness instructor.

Ryder says her classes are 35 per cent busier this time of year. “There’s not a lot of pressure,” she says. “You just go with your friends and no one really knows who you are.”

Alannah Wudrick played soccer in high school, but in her first semester at the University of King’s College, she became a bit of a homebody.

This term, she and her friend made a joint resolution to get active by going to dance classes twice a week. “I think having that support really helps,” she says.

With or without social motivation, it can be hard to maintain exercise momentum. Work gets hectic. The bus comes late. Happy hour beckons.

“It just sort of dropped off,” Crosta says.

Dalhousie University students Elle Doherty and Jessica Slessor do not need New Year’s resolutions. They work out all yearround, and they do not appreciate fly-by-night gym-goers taking up all the cardio machines.

“It’s starting to clear out,” Doherty says. “People are starting to give up, which I guess is good for us, but not so good for them.”

Amanda Kirby-Sheppard, a manager at the Dalplex, says after a 35 per cent surge in sign-ins in January, the gym dies down by the end of the month. Dalplex designated February its “Move More Month,” to encourage students to stay on track.

Things seem to be petering off at GoodLife as well. “Since it’s the last week of January, I’m finding the mornings aren’t as busy,” Aaron McDonald says.

Abi Abdullah tells clients who are stumbling to tap back into that initial passion. “Remember the first week of January,” he says. “Remember that long term vision that you had.”

Many fitness professionals subscribe to the popular belief that if you go to the gym so many times a week or for a certain period of time, it will become a habit. While the specifics vary, the message is clear: Physical fitness does not happen overnight, even if it is midnight on Dec. 31.

Daunting as the task may be, trainers say you have to take it one workout at a time. There is always a new “temporal landmark” on the horizon — the possibility of a new, improved you.

“I’ll go on Monday,” says Crosta, pausing for a moment. “Actually, I’ll go tonight.”