Faithful gym goers will not be looking forward to January, a month when they have to contend with hundreds of sweaty new members hogging the machines during a New Year’s resolution frenzy. But the invasion will be short lived.
In this remarkable industry, two-thirds of customers will not be seen again after February even though they have paid for the full year. Some market studies claim the gym drop-off rate is as high as 80 per cent.
Wendy Bolger from Wicklow is a self-confessed "sucker" for gym membership. Every year she pays a hefty joining fee, hits the gym for a few weeks in a whirl of enthusiasm, before her attendance dwindles. From March to December she won't darken the door and admits she will probably do the same in 2014.
“I hate the gym. Really hate it. After about six weeks I start coming up with excuses not to go. I think, ‘Ah the good weather is coming, it would be nicer to do a walk in the evening as opposed to being stuck in the gym.’ I thought if I was seeing the money coming out of my account every month it would push me to go, but it didn’t.”
It is a pattern many people will recognise. An Irish Sports Monitor report found that nearly 10 per cent of the population is a member of a gym or fitness centre and pays an average annual membership fee of €428.
Route to failure
The gym isn't a form of exercise that suits everyone and, according to sports psychologist Dr Betty Cody, signing up to a workout you don't enjoy is the surest route to failure. "If you don't love the pursuit, it is as difficult to continue it as it is to give up cigarettes or alcohol," she says. "Put a bit of thought into the kind of exercise that really motivates you."
For people who do decide to join a gym, there are ways to stay motivated so that you get value from an annual membership.
Dave Peelo, founder of Metabolic Fitness, says that one of the classic mistakes people make with exercise-related New Year's resolutions is to seek a quick fix rather than making smaller, sustainable changes.
He recommends training just twice a week at the beginning. “Don’t throw yourself into a crazy gym routine of five times a week. If you do too much too soon, you will get bored and burn out. It is important to think of a routine that can be sustained for longer than four weeks.”
As a motivational tip, he advises clients who come to him for personal training to buy an outfit in their ideal size and use it as a target. It should be hung where you see it on a daily basis, perhaps on the outside of a wardrobe, and tried on periodically to see the results of your training.
“You won’t fit into it now but try it on and see how far off you are. When you start getting results, you’ll want to continue and will become more enthusiastic.”
For people who have a busy career or young family, discipline is needed to stay on track with an exercise regime. “Prioritise it,” says Peelo. “Instead of spending an hour in the evening watching soaps, spend that time exercising.”
If evenings are the only time you can exercise, avoid slipping straight into relaxation mode after work. “The first thing you should do when you get home is change into your training gear rather than your PJs. Don’t sit down and turn on the TV because you won’t get up and get changed,” says Peelo.
Maurice Whelan is managing director of Unleash Potential and specialises in personal development coaching. Asked for his advice on how people can stay on track with New Year's fitness resolutions, he says the most important step is to write down your goals and commit to reviewing them every week.
“This is really simple stuff. I’m sitting in my office now and have all my goals in front of me on what I call a vision board – it has pictures, statements, cut outs of things I want to do . . ” says Whelan. “Keep it in a place where you see it all the time. Some of my clients have their goals Sellotaped to the inside of their wardrobe or as a screensaver on their mobile phone. It’s about keeping them in your mind’s eye.”
Gym cards, where you manually enter your workouts, are rapidly being replaced by a range of fitness apps such as Gym Hero and GymPact where you can set workout reminders, log your sessions and share your progress on social media, helping make the gym a less solitary experience.
You are also more likely to stick to a fitness regime if you find someone to train with, according to personal trainer Shane McShea.“Studies show you train harder with a training partner. If you have a friend waiting for you after work, who has gotten ready to train with you, there is less chance of you pulling out of that session.”