Beware the January People

Overnight, our gym is mobbed and bulging. That’s because the January people are here.

They are bright-eyed, eager and determined. This year — 2012! — they are going to change. They will lose weight, gain muscle, increase lung capacity. They will pound the treadmills, raise the weights, fling themselves into warrior two position.

Here and there, among the teeming crowd of January enthusiasts, you will see the rest of us. We were here in December and we’ll be here in February — assuming the January people don’t drive us nuts.

We’re not as enthusiastic as the January people. We’re really kind of, well, resigned.  We know our body-mass index is as good as it’s ever going to be (which isn’t that great, frankly.)

We don’t get high from exercise. We just know that if we keep showing up, we’ll slow the deterioration a little.

But don’t tell that to the January people. They look exalted under their sheen of sweat. Their ears are iPodded and their clothes are colorful and coordinated. They are excited because 2012 is their year, which is why they have prepaid a deluxe year-long membership at the gym.

All their zest and determination will last, well, a couple of weeks. Then, gradually, you’ll begin to see the changes. The exuberant light in their eyes will die slowly — or suddenly. The pounds will cling stubbornly in all the wrong places.

In the cold winter light, they will see the gym for what it really is: a place of sweat and drudgery that smells kind of funky.

By late February, the January people will have thinned out. The rest of us will go back to normal, pleased to have more room, relieved not to be swamped by such rampant, ultimately tragic enthusiasm.

Only a few January people will last into the summer. By then, they will have exchange their fervent passion for grim determination. Their workout clothes will be wrinkled and sweat-stained.

In December of 2012, you will find yourself chatting with somebody at the gym who rolls her eyes and says she’s heard horror stories about the hordes of January people. As you agree, you look at her more closely. You realize she’s one of the few January ’12 people who persisted. But how did she get this cynical, this beaten, this badly dressed so quickly?

“Don’t worry,” you tell her. “They’re almost always gone by February.”

(Copyright 2012 by Ruth Pennebaker)

Read one of my favorite posts about communication skills of the long-married

17 comments… add one
  • Ah, yes. All the January people were at my strength training class on Monday–it was wall-to-wall people, yet the instructor didn’t seem to mind so folks were bumping into each other doing lunges, hitting each other with the balls that went amiss. Not pretty. But hey, I applaud anyone who makes it to the gym because you know you’re right it is sweat, drudgery, and smelly…

  • Ah, well. Those January people are a step ahead of me, even if they DO quit in February!

  • Sheryl Link

    I had a really hard time finding a parking spot yesterday at the gym, and that was in an OFF hour. Aarrghh…new members…

  • I’ve learned something entirely new about you! You go to a gym, routinely, day after day, year after year. This, in addition to holing-up to write constantly, decade upon decade. And as a fellow Southerner, I’ve known for some time you, no doubt, beat yourself up if you fail to say “please,” “thank you,” or extend your “heartfelt apologies” to even thieves, murderers and politicians. All the signs are falling into place, at last. Ruth, bless your heart, you are a masochist, pure and simple.

  • Thanks for the post. I think I’ll wait until the end of February to start my exercising and you can be sure my clothes won’t match!

  • Cindy A Link

    I was a January person once about 15 years ago. Absolutely could not take the funky smell and all those people sweating in unison. Agree with Winston on the masochism assessment.

  • Been there done that. Someday I may do it again. Not today.

  • January people. That’s too funny. I must admit to being a little perturbed at not being able to find a vacant bike at 5:36 last Monday afternoon for 5:30 spin. Those January people messing with my slackness.

  • We are experiencing this at our gym. I could not get in the pool the first week in January – there were 4 or 5 people PER LANE when normally there is only one. There hasn’t been a ton of increase in my yoga and Pilates classes though.

  • Ruth, what a hoot! I loved it and how original. I never thought about the influx of January people to health clubs. Me, I’d have to catch up with the January people. Darn!

  • So funny, and so true!

  • For me Jan happens a few times a year. But I never dress up for the occasion.

  • Exactly why I quit making resolutions!

  • Ha! Yes, exactly. Same is true at my dance class–which tapped out at 100 plus last week and I spent the majority of the time avoiding flying hair and arms from exuberant newbies who didn’t have a clue. I try to be kind and welcoming but some people just have no sense of personal space, so it’s back to the back of the room for me, until these neophytes clear out, typically by Valentine’s Day.

    Did I mention I’ve been taking this class for 25 years? Yowzer.

  • I’m happy to report that I’m one of the resigned. One of the people who shows up and does what needs doing, day after day, week after week, month after month, and yes, year after year. I was doing the Jane Fonda workout when it was fashionable. Now I do yoga, pound the treadmill during the winter, pound the pavement and trails in the warmer months, ride the bike, lift a weight here and there, day after day. It’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint.

  • One of our aerobics instructors at the gym actually made an announcement about the “January People!”

  • This is why I workout at home.

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