Aerobic classes and weight rooms everywhere are bombarded with goal-setters determined to get into shape at the start of the new year.
Ron Southerland, manager of Powerhouse Gym West, said gym memberships usually double in January and February.
"Normally, people start with high hopes and get all exited with their New Year's resolutions," he said.
But three months later, many new members lose their motivation and attendance tapers off. Instead of losing pounds, they lose the money they paid to get fit.
Mr. Southerland said people stop going to gyms for two reasons: poor instruction and unrealistic goals.
"If they're not instructed properly on how to use the equipment, they end up getting bored with it," he said. "You need to get the proper training."
Most gyms offer introductory instruction and have trainers. If clients need more help, they can pay for individual sessions with a staff trainer.
Learning proper technique is just the first step. Exercisers must regularly change their workout routines.
"You get great results when you first start working out," said Mark Eaton, manager at World Gym on Wrightsboro Road. "But it gets harder to lose weight. You reach a plateau."
Without variation, Mr. Eaton said, weight loss will taper off. Members who don't change what they do in the gym may get frustrated and quit.
"It doesn't have to be a drastic change, just a little something to shock your muscles about every three months," said Mr. Eaton. He estimates that 40 percent of those who join this month will lose interest after three months.
Exercising with a partner also helps keep people interested. Many gyms offer two-for-one specials for that reason.
Mr. Southerland also suggests shopping around before signing a contract with a gym.
"People need to make sure that it has the amenities that they are looking for," he said. Some people might want a gym with child care, an indoor track or a swimming pool, while others don't.
Patricia Hayes, dietitian at Professional Health Control, said that no matter where you choose to exercise you should avoid extremes.
"Start out easy. A lot of people are their own worst enemy," she said. "You have to set realistic goals and be forgiving of yourself."
She advises people trying to lose weight to adopt a few healthful habits. Instead of going on another diet, she suggests making lifestyle changes, such as skipping junk food at the grocery store, cutting out fried foods or going outside with your children instead of sending them out to play.
Keeping your resolutionsThe January issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter gives these tips for making a commitment last.
Do it for yourself - not others. You have be motivated to lose weight because it is what you want to do.
Draw support from others. Time and time again, those who have been successful losing weight say it was support that got them through. Let friends and family know your goals and talk with them when you're having trouble.
Get your priorities straight. Don't set yourself up for failure by trying to improve your lifestyle when you're distracted by major problems. It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to change habits.
Choose a firm start date and let nothing postpone that date.
Plan ahead for unusual circumstances. Think of effective strategies for keeping your commitment while at work, on vacation and at home on holidays.
Reach: Lisa M. Lohr at (706) 823-3332.