Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dear Newbies: Resolve To Succeed

Any gym-goer will tell you, there's a phenomenon that happens, like clockwork, during the first few weeks of January. The gyms get packed - not just busy - I'm talking lines-of-people, no-treadmills-available packed.

When the calendar flips to the new year, people undoubtedly get the itch (or feel the pressure from society) to make resolutions. And, not surprisingly after the piles of holiday sweets that many indulge in at the end of the year, a lot of these resolutions focus on getting in shape, losing weight and hitting the gym.

A string of comments on Facebook caught my eye yesterday and one of my "friends" (truth be told, I'm not sure I've actually ever met him, although our circles certainly overlap a lot) was reporting about the jam-packed parking lot at my gym.

I chimed in, expressing some frustration with the busier-than-usual time of year and my thoughts on dreading the fight for a single treadmill. The comment thread included some snarky back-and-forths about how things will even out if we wait a month. Even in a few weeks, the crowds will die down.

They always do. Always.

One particular commenter chastised us a bit for not being welcoming of the newcomers. If we were more supportive, she said, maybe they'd stick with it.

Point taken.

Based on the conversation she saw (and if I hadn't experienced the January gym madness for many years), I might have had a similar thought.

What she probably didn't know was that I'd like nothing more for those resolution-ers to be there a month from now, six months from now, a year from now.

More than anything, I want people to succeed. I want them to stick to their resolutions. I want them to achieve - and be proud of their achievements. I want them to have the same feeling that I did (and do) when I accomplish something I never thought I could do.

So, as I put in my five-plus miles on the treadmill last night, I spent most of time thinking about why these people (the vast, vast majority of them anyway) won't succeed.

Why won't I see them on the treadmill in front of me next month?

The reasons are plentiful, I think - not the least of which is probably that they start off with too much gusto. I mean, really, it's hard to go from never going to the gym to trying to go everyday. Do too much right away, you're going to burn out.

I did some serious people-watching last night - a roomful of heads bobbing up and down as the ran, walked, biked or tried their hand at any of the other pieces of equipment there provided plenty to look at.

I saw lots and lots of shouldn't-do's - people running way too fast for their ability, wearing the wrong stuff (bad shoes and amounts of clothing that I wouldn't wear to run outside this time of year) and just not using the equipment in the optimal way.

The problem, at least at the gym I go to, is that there isn't anyone to help them. (
I did offer the girl next to me some help with starting the treadmill after I noticed her staring at it as if she was launching the space shuttle. My small part to help her succeed, perhaps?)

The gym staff is swamped with people just checking in the door and is busy enough setting up new accounts. Not even considering whether the staff has the know-how to give these new clients the steps to success, they just don't have the time.

The gym seems to feed upon these resolution-ers, offering ridiculously low deals (sign up for $1 with no commitment!) just to get them in the door. See that - "no commitment" - right in the pitch to join. How will anyone ever succeed if they can't commit?

So - how do I think they'll succeed? Here are a few things I've learned from personal experience.

HAVE A PLAN. The newbies' goals are probably vague - "lose weight" or "go to the gym more" - and, I'd suspect, not written down anywhere. To succeed, you've got to have a specific plan, in writing, that can be tracked and measured. Trust me, it works. Hold yourself accountable. Remember, this is the girl that signed for a half-marathon without ever running a mile. Now look at me.

HAVE A WANT-TO ATTITUDE. A little (or a lot) of determination and focus doesn't hurt. You've got to want to succeed - and not just because it's a new year or a new month. You've got to want to do it for some other reason - you should want to be a better you.

FIND YOUR TEAM. You also have to surround yourself with people who want you to succeed - a friend, a spouse, an online community, anyone. For me, it was my team. Their support was invaluable. They knew I could do it, they knew I could succeed. And they helped me get there.

WORK TOWARD SOMETHING. It doesn't matter what it is - whether it's a half-marathon, a 5K, a number on a scale, a mileage goal, a certain pace. Find a realistic goal and work toward it. It will give you something to celebrate when you reach it. And guaranteed, you'll be motivated enough to set your next goal. And your next. And your next.

SPREAD THE WORD. Once you've set your goal, tell everyone about it. And talk about it often. Talk about the goods, the bads and the uglies. Trust me, it's not all good. This in-your-face approach may annoy some of your less-than-supportive friends, but you'll quickly find who's there to motivate you, inspire you and help you. I bet you'll be surprised by who your cheerleaders turn out to be.

DO WHAT YOU LIKE. If you hate running, don't do it.
(But don't give up on it too quickly!) If you hate the gym, don't go. (But don't give up on it too quickly!) The point is, find something that you like, something that will make you feel good about yourself and what you can do.

I could go on and on about my thoughts on achieving your goals - isn't that what this whole blog is about? - and I realize it's different for everyone. Each person needs to find the formula and motivation that works for them.

Those who know me know it would be hard to find a bigger cheerleader for new runners than me. I was once in their shoes - scared, nervous, full of self-doubt.

But look at what I've accomplished - a marathon, 10 or so half-marathons (I can't believe I'm actually losing count!), the confidence to try new things ... and on and on. Part of setting goals and achieving them is that you also get to recognize them and pat yourself on the back, even if only internally, every once in a while.

I hope at this time next year the newbies, even just a handful of them, get to do that, too. It's a pretty good feeling.



  1. Loved this post!

  2. Great post Teresa - same thing happens at the college the week before Spring Break. Wish people could stick with it.


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