This is the week for those with good intentions to flood area gyms as local residents make their New Year's resolution to exercise more, lose weight or even to train for a race.
But as area fitness centers swell with new members, those who work at the centers are trying to figure out how to get the resolutionists to stay longer than the usual four to six weeks.
"They come in and they're all gung ho, saying 'I want to come in five days a week,'" said Robert Piccinino, fitness director at the Katz Jewish Community Center in Margate. "They will do it on average two weeks and they'll give up on it."
Perhaps, Piccinino said, if the resolutionists dialed back their goals from intense and extreme to moderate, they might stay. Rather than five or six visits per week at the gym, how about starting with two or maybe three visits, he said.
The gym can be intimidating, especially to those who have not worked out before or who are not regular visitors, said Lisa Rumer, the program director at the Ocean City Aquatic and Fitness Center. Helping to provide newcomers with motivation to keep coming back is one of the reasons the Ocean City center has so many unique offerings, Rumer said.
"Hopefully we're getting to them and making them comfortable and helping them find things they like to do," Rumer said. "Some of the New Year's resolution people, who haven't worked out before, need to realize that there are so many things that are offered that it doesn't have to be something that's horrible, painful and something you don't like to do."
Rumer, who has worked at the center for more than 20 years, said every year she sees the same routine around the New Year. People sign up with the intention of coming every day. But after a few weeks they are gone. She even showed the number of people who have checked into the center every month for the past few years. Every year, it seems, there are between 2,000 and 3,000 fewer check-ins in December compared to January.
But, Rumer points out, in recent years - it seems - more people appear to be sticking to the plan. The drop-off in February in 2009 and 2010 was roughly about 1,300 people, she said. But in 2012 and 2013, she said, the number of times people checked into the center was almost equal to those in January.
"I think it was a week or two 20 years ago (that the resolutionists stayed)" she said. "Now they're staying longer."
John Colbert, who works in the weight room at the Ocean City center, said he still sees plenty of true resolutionists coming at the start of the New Year and quickly drop off. But, he said, the patterns are shifting.
"It used to be January when everyone would come in, but now I think people are starting earlier," said Colbert, who has worked at the center for 19 years. And the people who disappear?
"At some point, everybody seems to come back," Colbert said. "It might be months later, but they'll restart again."
As fitness instructors are trying to find ways to keep the resolutionists coming, the regular gym-goers are bracing themselves for a packed house for at least the next few weeks.
"It's definitely hard to get a treadmill," said Sarah Ford, 19, of Ocean City. Ford, who goes to college in Pittsburgh, said she also sees the influx of people packing the gym when she gets back to school.
But, she said, all of the excessive eating at the holidays may be one of the motivations for more people to come to the gym, not necessarily the New Year's resolution. "People feel like they need to go extra hard," she said.
Jerry Bonner, of Ocean City, is awaiting the resolutionists. Bonner, who used to work with the Philadelphia fire department's fitness training group, said he can usually tell who is a newbie and who isn't. "The people who are new, you always try to give them a little bit of help," he said. "Everyone tries to push too hard and too quick, when you're in it for the long haul."
Bonner said he sees resolutionists "going too hard, lifting too much, getting stuck with the bar on them." Those people, he said, should ask for help before starting so they don't get hurt or discouraged. "It should be a slow process and learn the equipment first."
Cindy Ford, 44, of Ocean City, said she always notices the swell in gym-goers in January. "You definitely see them, But by February and March, it's back to normal."
Like other dedicated gym-goers, Ford said she wants to be encouraging and helpful to those struggling or coming in for the first time. Her advice? "Try to stick with it. Try some things. Take a class. Sometimes, as it gets more routine, it gets boring, but if you change it up a little bit, it's more interesting."
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