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Resolution: Exercise and lose weight!

The gyms are packed because it's January

Have you hit the gym yet? It's three days into the New Year. What are you waiting for?

Exercising more and losing weight are two of the top three New Year's resolutions according to a Harris Poll and you can certainly tell if you work out at a local fitness center. You may have to stand in line for the elliptical or get ticked when the newbies don't wipe off the machines when they're finished.

Kristin McEwen, group vice president at the YMCA of Metro Atlanta and executive director of the Carl E. Sanders Family YMCA at Buckhead says be patient and be nice. You were a gym virgin once, too.

How crowded is the YMCA in January?
Our Ys across the association start to see a definite peak in membership joins in the month of January. But it's usually the second week of January. Folks are still on vacation right now. I've already seen a couple people post on Facebook, "My new year starts on January 6." There's still a weekend they don't want to give up.

Do people admit it's their resolution?
People say, "I'm here and I admit it. I'm starting off with my New Year's resolution again." The number one way to succeed this time is to have a buddy or a partner. That's your accountability partner. "I'm saving us bikes in spin class. I'll meet you there in 30 minutes." When you don’t feel like going, that person will motivate you and vice versa. Social media is the same thing. "Someone tell me this exercise will stop hurting." People are looking for encouragement.

When do the new members show up? Do they often overdo it?
We treat our wellness centers like a pool. Our pools aren’t open without lifeguards. Our wellness centers aren’t open without coaches. We always have one on the floor. I'd encourage anyone, wherever you work out, to find a staff member. They're there to help. Say, "Hey, can you show me how to work the elliptical? Can you show me how to use this treadmill?" This time of year you have to be flexible and willing to vary your workout. If you're dead set on using a certain piece of equipment, you may be disappointed.

I'm one of those people who get up at 4:30 and I'm at the Y by 5 and I have my routine. For an experienced exerciser, you have to remember at one point you were like that, too. Just understand it's going to require a little more patience for the avid exerciser and you're going to have to be a little more flexible.

When's the best time to go if you want to avoid the crowds?
You have three, maybe four, busy times. Early in the morning you have those diehards from about 5-7:30. Then you have the group—primarily moms that work from home or stay-at-home moms—and they're usually class takers from about 8-10:30. There's a lunch crowd, often with seniors. From 2-4 is usually the slower time at most locations. (There aren't classes and usually not childcare.) Then in the evening from about 5 until closing, it's packed.

When do the new people give up and their visits start to taper off?
Most people last 6-8 weeks. At the Y we offer a six-month program called Coach Approach where a coach meets with you monthly. It's behavior modification to help you stick with exercise. We have a higher retention of members due to the fact that we're actually providing them with tools to be successful. It's not, "Here's the elliptical and twelve pieces of equipment. Good luck!" We really, really work with the individual and help folks develop healthy lifestyles and habits to continue for the rest of their lives.

Any tips for the new exerciser to stay motivated?
For a beginner exerciser, you are going to be able to produce a lot of reasons not to workout. You cannot allow yourself to fail that way. Pack your bag the night before and put it in your car so you don’t have the excuse that you don’t have your stuff with you. You have to have the proper equipment—shoes, workout clothes—that allow you to be comfortable. You should probably bring a towel and always bring water and headphones so you can kind of get distracted. And it's important to write down some goals like lose weight, run a race, or run the Peachtree in July. Keep a journal so you can be proud of what you've accomplished.