A line for the showers, no available locker (or parking spot!) in sight and a waitlist for the treadmill that's longer than the time you're allowed to spend on it. It must be January at the gym!
About 15 percent of people who make New Year's resolutions vow to get fit, WebMD reports. In many cases, that means shelling out for a new gym membership (or swearing to make better use of an existing one), which often results in packed locker rooms and long lines for ellipticals. "Usage can increase by 25 percent during January," Lisa Hufcut, director of public relations of New York Sports Clubs, told The Huffington Post.
If you're a regular gym-goer, the next few weeks can be frustrating, but at least you can assume that, come Valentine's Day, your fitness routine will pretty much return to normal. If you find yourself thrown off in the meantime, here are a few things you can do.
Go At Different Times
It's easiest for most people to get a sweat session in either before or after work; you probably know even during the other 11 months of the year those are busy hours at your gym. Try going a little earlier or later than you usually do, to see what the crowd is like, or at an altogether different time.
Gyms are often quiet midday, so if you can swing an early afternoon workout, you're likely to be able to nab your favorite elliptical, certified personal trainer Jason Anderson wrote for Spark People.
Ask at the front desk if your gym collects any data about when the location is its most crowded, and tailor your schedule to the less busy times.
Mix Up Your Routine
Stuck waiting for a treadmill? Use your time wisely. Try strength before cardio, suggests FitSugar, or sneak in some floor exercises while you wait.
The Tabata method is a great way to get in a lot of reps in a short amount of time, writes HuffPost blogger and personal trainer David Buer. For 20 seconds, do as many push ups, pull ups, burpees, mountain climbers, squat jumps or other plyometric moves as you can, rest for 10 seconds, then repeat up to eight times.
Try A New Cardio Machine
The treadmills and ellipiticals may all be in use, but chances are there's a free bike or rowing machine you've never tried before. With the right resistance, you can burn 500 to 1,000 calories an hour on the bike, writes HuffPost blogger and fitness expert Ben Greenfield. Rowing can also knock out 1,000 calories an hour, with the added benefits of an upper-body workout, too.
Even in the cold, heading outside to exercise is a good idea. Not only will you soak up your daily dose of vitamin D in just 15 minutes of sun exposure, you'll also boost your mood and improve your sleep. And you don't just have to walk or jog -- some winter-weather favorites, like sledding, torch a surprising number of calories. Check out the healthiest winter activities here.
Remember, You Were New Once Too
Think about the first few times you went to the gym. Did you dawdle between reps on strength machines? Listen to your iPod in Spin class? Not know where to find the sanitizer to wipe down your machines? Cut new members some slack -- you know it won't take long for the ones determined to stick around to find their groove. "A lot of the long-term members have come to expect that the gym is busier in January," said Hufcut. "A lot of them will even go out of their way to help the newbies."
Follow The Rules
Once you've put yourself in a new gym-goer's shoes, remember that one of the easiest ways to learn proper gym etiquette is to follow the leader. So lead by example: Wipe down your machines, share space in stretching areas, keep cell phones stashed and don't hog the machines.
Instead of getting frustrated, turn the new resolve of the resolutionaries into inspiration and re-energize your own commitment to fitness. A gym is really a community of like-minded fitness fans, and research shows that people in your social network influence your waistline.
Befriending a new person at the gym could help you both keep the pounds off for longer. A 2011 study found that we may unknowingly alter our attitudes toward fitness and nutrition based on those of our closest friends, Scientific American reported. And exercising with a buddy is built-in motivation, according to Self.com.
Cancel For January
If you find you really can't stand the crowds, don't make yourself crazy. If you have a month-to-month contract, cancel for January. And for yearly members, see if your gym is one of the many large chains that will let you put your membership on hold, according to RealSimple.com. Instead, bundle up and head outside, or pop in that new fitness DVD and work out in your living room.