December may be the biggest month of the year for retailers, but January is the peak month for gyms.

Regulars at local athletic clubs suddenly find it harder to locate an unused treadmill, as a convergence of New Year’s resolutions and extra pounds packed on during the holidays brings in additional customers. The phenomenon is temporary, however: Amy Smith, fitness director at the Round-Up Athletic Club in Pendleton, said many new gym-goers lose interest after about three months.

“Obviously in January we always see a surge in membership,” she said. “Our goal at the club is to help those people who join in January to stay healthy and stay members past March.”

To get past that “critical” first three months, Smith suggests people either find a work-out buddy, hire a personal trainer or join an exercise class. The key is accountability.

“That often helps them to get started, when they know they need to be at a certain place at a certain time,” she said.

There are many free apps available for download that can also help by tracking a person’s exercise levels, food and water intake, sleep patterns and more. People often overestimate how much they’re exercising or underestimate how much they are eating without tracking it, Smith said.

She also suggested people try out different things until they find out what they like, which they will be more likely to stick with.

“Planning ahead is a good idea too,” she said. “Pack your workout bag the night before; write your workout on your schedule.”

Orien Fiander, chief operating officer of Club 24, said a key metric for workout success is if people hit the gym eight times in their first month as a member. That seems to be the “magic number” that indicates the person will likely follow through on their intent to exercise more.

The important thing when starting or increasing exercise is to focus on the long-term, he said. Once people decide to start exercising they often push themselves too hard while trying to achieve immediate changes.

“A lot of times we’ll see failures because people say ‘I’ve decided to work out’ and then they overdo it and they’re uncomfortable,” he said.

Another barrier can be intimidation. Fiander said Club 24 offers orientations, but people who join gyms often feel intimidated by learning how to use the equipment and end up just sticking to a treadmill or elliptical, which might not offer the full fitness benefits they’re looking for.

Fiander said if people want to give themselves the best chance of success, studies have shown that people who exercise in the morning are significantly more likely to stick with their routine than people who fit it in at night.

Dan Logman of Pendleton found success last year implementing an exercise goal, and since April 19 he has only missed nine days of working out at the gym.

“I set a goal to do 300 workouts in a year, and I’m going to completely destroy that goal,” he said.

For Logman, a series of health decisions have all built on each other, each one making it easier for him to meet his next goal. Quitting alcohol, for example — he’s now 42 months sober — helped him be less sluggish and freed up time for healthier pursuits. And he made his 300-day goal on April 19 because that’s when he started using a BiPap machine to help him sleep soundly through the night.

“My energy levels changed completely,” he said.

Logman said his motto when it comes to setting exercise goals is “no excuses,” and that attitude has paid off. His doctor just told him his results from recent blood work, including blood pressure and cholesterol, have all improved significantly.

“I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been at 47,” he said. “I think I’m healthier now than when I was in my 20s.”

He said that New Year’s resolutions tend not to work as well for people because they’re temporary situations, while what is really needed is a lifestyle change.

Cindee Henderson of Higher Power Fitness in Hermiston also feels that setting New Year’s resolutions isn’t the best way to create lasting change. At Higher Power Fitness they try to help people move away from rigid thinking — “I have to weigh this much” or “I can’t ever eat this” — and instead focus on moderation and improvement.

“The whole goal of fitness is to live your life and do the things you want to do with ease,” she said.

She said they also try to help people have fun with exercise — something that can help it feel less like a chore.

Reporter

Reporter covering city government and economic development in Hermiston, Umatilla, Stanfield and Echo.

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