I was at the gym this past Sunday afternoon, a time that usually attracts bored college students and hen-pecked husbands looking to get out of the house for a while. I normally have my pick of treadmills and I can run for as long as I want. It's my favorite time to exercise. It's pure.
Today, not only did I have to wait for a machine, but while doing some sit ups I was approached by a trainer who pitched me personal sessions as I caught my breath between sets. When I told him I had just run four and half miles and was going to run a 10-mile race later in the spring, he looked as if he had been hit in the face with a skillet and moved on to the next sweaty prospect. Maybe I wasn't the easy target he thought I would be.
Such is January, when so many people decide that this is the year that they will finally lose 20 pounds, run that marathon or get their pre-baby body back. For the first two months of the year, wide-eyed newbies hog the cardio machines, loll around on the mats when they should be stretching and never quite figure out how to use that chest press machine.
For people such as myself, who are regular gym goers, we loathe this time of year. All of a sudden the gym is crowded, hot from sweat and body heat and there is always a risk I will be kicked off a machine after 30 minutes to make way for some rookie. For me, the gym isn't so much about weight loss as it about stress reduction. It's amazing how clear your head is after running for a half hour or more. How many wonderful albums you can rediscover on your iPod as you push for another mile. Ever better is when you get on a machine and realize that after weeks of working out, you can easily add another plate to your reps.
Those joys are canceled out by all the newcomers hanging around. I suppose I could be nice to them in their new endeavor, but the truth is that they're encroaching on my plans. Maybe it's some sort of inner turf war I think I should be winning. I was there first, months ago, and now these couch potatoes and their shiny new Nikes (most likely a Christmas gift) want to take up space on the bicep machine or in the hip-hop funk class. Come January I don't decide to pick up bad habits and start hanging around seedy bars or off-track betting sites. So why is my exercise compromised?
The crazy part about all this New Year's gym enthusiasm is that by March they'll all be gone. Statistics show that most people don't stick with resolutions beyond a few weeks. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think the largest is that it's cold in January. Why would anyone want to come to the gym after work or on a weekend when it's 30 degrees out, just to take off their clothes and put on shorts and a tank top?
I suppose I could just bite my lip and hope that I can run on a treadmill for more than half an hour. I suppose I could smile and make room on the mats for the new people. But I won't. I picked up the good exercise habits long before the New Year arrived and I'll be there long after everyone else's endorphins run out. It's going to be a rough few weeks.