It's mid January and the UK's gyms are teeming with newbies. The UK's social media platforms are also teeming with people complaining about them. They're being referred to as 'part-timers', 'rookies' and even 'idiots', and people are complaining about their hair extensions, poor technique and, well, their very existence. I'm not on board with it.
I understand that for a regular gym goer who has kept up the habit month-on-month, year-on-year the prospect of queuing for the cross trainer, when you normally have the pick of three is annoying. And turning up to a spin class where you're on first name terms with the instructor only to find there's no room at the inn is infuriating, but at some point everyone was the newbie.
Nobody was born at the gym. We all make a decision to be - or get - fit, and we all probably had some help and encouragement along to way to make it a habit. What we probably didn't have, or didn't have enough of to put us off, was a whole load of tutting and eye rolling at our mere presence.
Yes, it's true 66% of new gym members won't still be going by next month, so there's some truth in the presumption that they're 'part timers'. And yes, their form probably is all wrong, but perhaps if we face them a smile, or better still a tip, they might keep coming. I'm pretty sure there's enough space for a few more people.
Those of us who enjoy exercising consistently know the rush of a personal best, a target achieved, or a new technique nailed - we should want to share that, not greedily reserve it for ourselves.
Just like eating well is teetering dangerously close to becoming an exclusive club, in January it feels like fitness is the same. We should all feel the benefits of exercising. Yes, some may be doing it purely for vanity reasons, but who cares? If improved health is a byproduct of a peachy bum, that's still worthwhile.
I say make room for the newbies, give them a smile, a little encouragement and some support. And book your spin class with Chad early. I'd rather go to a gym that's bursting at the seams than a hospital.
PSYCHOLOGIST EMMA KENNY EXPLAINS
WHY THE JUDGEMENT?
"If someone goes out of their way to criticise newcomers, they are asserting their authority and position in the gym and letting the world know how motivated and fit they are. It stems from insecurity. It's also about territory; they feel a sense of ownership and safety at the gym. When new members start invading their 'comfort' zone, feelings of resentment and hostility can arise."
WHY IS SUPPORT THE KEY TO KEEPING THE HABIT?
"Fitness is a habit, so the more it becomes ingrained in your routine, the more hardwired you will be to stay fit. When other people are a positive, telling us how fab we are looking or how impressed they are with our commitment, it reinforces our motivation and enables us to stay on track."
WHAT'S THE EYE-ROLLING EFFECT?
"Most of us feel slightly on edge at the thought of walking into a space where we're the 'newbie' and everyone else seems at home. If people are visibly judging you, that will be huge blow to your confidence. It can make or break a fitness regime."
HOW TO RISE ABOVE IT!
"Keep in mind that everyone was a beginner at some point, and be aware that many of us have a huge dollop of paranoia when we start something new, so your perception of the whole gym shaking their heads at you is probably a little exaggerated. Keeping up a fitness habit will make you happier and healthier and you'll be oozing with confidence. If that isn't reason enough to keep braving the gym, I don't know what is."