Don't join a gym in January.
In fact don't even start your fitness drive in January.
I've been the fitness business for over 12 years. I know the industry trends and so do newspaper editors and marketing directors. In January everyone feels guilty. We've typically over spent, over eaten and turned into TV watching or relative visiting sloths. And guilt is so easy to sell to.
It's all so shouty in January. As soon as the Christmas trees have left our town centres, billboards switch from sales advertising to gym memberships, Slimming World or the supermarket's latest healthy eating initiatives. Social media is awash with 30-day challenges and newspaper headlines are all about the latest extreme weight loss methods or optimal ways to get ripped, fast.
It's because of this I think January is the worst time to jump on the fitness bandwagon.
Yes I'm in fitness and yes my job is to inspire others to get healthy and in shape, but feeling guilty, punishing yourself or falling prey to the marketer's promise that a gym membership alone will turn you into the svelter version of yourself is not inspiring. That's just going to knock your self belief and make those good intentions harder to achieve.
Fitness doesn't have to be painful. It can be fun and empowering. Eating well makes you feel great. But in January we're constantly reminded that we should be starting a fitness regime or going on a diet and it all seems like such a chore.
So here are my five reasons why you shouldn't join a gym or start your fitness drive in January:
- Someone is saying you should. As with all life goals and challenges, it has to come from you. When did you ever achieve something in life because someone told you to do it? I have two young children and I can tell you that instinctively, we will always push the other way to what we're told is good for us. So if you're going to join a gym because you think it's the best way to lose weight, think again. What do you want? How do you want to feel? Will a gym give you those things? If you know you love gym environments then okay, go ahead and try it out. But a gym membership isn't a magic button. You still have to do the work, on your own.
- Gloomuary. If you live in the UK (or anywhere that shares our winter) January is miserable. It's dark. A lot. It rains. A lot. If it's not freezing cold and frosty then it's just 'meh' and grey. Aside from the rare few days when it's bright or snowy winter weather is not conducive to getting outside and training, especially if you are new to it. As a regular outdoors exerciser, I love taking on the weather on my bike or on a run and getting back for a hot drink and shower, but it's still easier to get your trainers on, on a spring day than any day in the winter. Don't beat yourself up if you aren't feeling it. Instinctively we want to snuggle up indoors and eat casserole. And that's okay!
- Desperation fitness. When you're feeling out of shape, it can be tempting to throw yourself into the hardest class around. Bootcamp, HIIT or Lean'n'Mean (I made that up) seem to answer your workout woes. They promise to melt the fat off (that's not an actual thing by the way) and psychologically you feel this is exactly what you need. Actually, you don't. Hurting or reaching near vomit levels of exertion aren't necessary to lose weight or feel the benefits of exercise. Increasing your activity levels daily will be enough to improve your fitness levels. If done alongside a healthy eating programme it could start to shift some weight too.
- Money. January is just about the most expensive time of year to join a gym. Especially if you walk in and part with your cash at the first tour. They don't need to sell it to you, you've already decided. If you must join in January then either play a bit of hard ball (don't join at the first offer) or wait until the end of the month when sales teams have targets to reach.
- Don't wait until January. You can get results at any time of year. We ran an online pre Christmas shape up programme which our participants loved so much they carried on through the festive season. Imagine that - losing weight over Christmas. Actually it's a great time of year to get in shape, especially if you're a parent since you tend to have some more grown ups around to share child care.
It all comes down to confidence in your choices. What if you had the best advice available for your health? What if you were so self assured in your nutrition and exercise habits that you could ignore all the shouty marketing and fad diet newspaper headlines? Do you know what? You probably do know exactly what you need to know to get in shape. And if you need some accountability, find a local community of fitties or an online group to help keep you on track.
These are the five things I would advise you to do in January before you sign your money away:
- Cut out all the extra calories you don't need (junk food, processed food, fizzy drinks, fruit juice and alcohol are the biggest culprits).
- Add 30 minutes of heart raising activity into every day until the end of January.
- Drink lots of water.
- Sleep some more.
- Ignore all the shouty marketing and fad diets and do things your own way.
Even if you don't lose fat (which you probably will) you'll feed lots better, will have saved yourself some money and you won't feel guilty.