January Gym-Joiners

January 1, 2005 | 30 comments
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Every year about this time fitness clubs swell with new members. Armed with New Year’s resolutions, people sign expensive contracts and buy new athletic gear in sincere attempts to lose weight or gain muscle as they try to improve their physical appearance. I respect their efforts and try to take them seriously, happily sharing the cardio equipment, free weights and yoga balls that I usually have mostly to myself. Experience has taught me that by the end of the month most of these new members will be but infrequent guests here. I’ve observed this phenomenon every year without fail for the past twelve years. I don’t know how well they keep their other resolutions, but there seem to be many people who cannot keep their New Year’s resolutions to exercise regularly.

I’m not sure that we follow through on our New Year’s resolutions, or others of our goals any better than those who join fitness centers in January seem to follow through on theirs, but Latter-day Saints do tend to be goal-oriented people. We have been taught to lengthen our stride and to be anxiously engaged in good causes. We are counseled to become self-sufficient and to be diligent in all things, pressing along with our shoulders to the wheel. In fact, the scriptures indicate that we should even strive for perfection. Since perfection is a long way off for most of us, setting and achieving goals is a way to measure our progress. Goal-setting might involve serious reflection, public commitments and careful record-keeping. For others, goal-setting may be a less formal re-commitment to continue good practices already begun.

How do you make your goals?

It seems likely that many Latter-day Saints would include things like daily prayer and scripture study, monthly temple attendance, weekly family home evening and so forth on their lists. Are they on your lists? Perhaps we don’t include these things as New Year’s resolutions because we have already turned them into habits of behavior. But, if these practices haven’t become habitual, does resolving to accomplish them at the beginning of a new year make a difference? If so, how do you account for the difference?

What is it about a “new year� that has the power to get us to change our thinking about something, to commit to change and improve? If the dawning of a new year has this sort of power for you, how does it differ from the fresh start that is possible after taking the Sacrament, for example?

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30 Responses to January Gym-Joiners

  1. Julie in Austin on January 1, 2005 at 3:26 pm

    Great topic; for now, I’ll just say that I think the prophet has been pretty clear in teaching that jogging and other forms of exercise lead to early death and it surprises me how many so-called Saints are willing to completely disregard his counsel.

  2. Melissa on January 1, 2005 at 4:32 pm

    Julie,

    Are you kidding? If not, I have no idea what you are talking about. Not that I want to threadjack my own post (which is about goals and the somewhat arbitrary act of setting them January 1st), but I can’t resist asking for a reference to where the “prophet has been pretty clear . . . that jogging . . . lead[s] to early death” ? I have never heard of anything even remotely close to this. Am I misunderstanding you?

    President Hinckley walks on a treadmill, lifts light weights and stretches almost everyday. His daughter, Virginia H. Pearce indicates that he is very disciplined about his exercise regime. Both Elder Wirthlin and Elder Nelson have spoken in recent years about the benefits of exercise. One of the promises of keeping the Word of Wisdom is that we will be able to “run and not be weary.”

  3. Keith on January 1, 2005 at 5:30 pm

    Mellisa: It’s all in fun. Note President Hinckley’s remarks to Larry King:

    KING: When you get to be your age, you attend a lot of funerals.

    HINCKLEY: Yes.

    KING: Don’t you?

    HINCKLEY: All of my friends who jog.

    (LAUGHTER)

    KING: As a famous coach here in Utah once said, I don’t jog, I want to be sick when I die.

    But isn’t that hard, to keep – you know, as Frank Sinatra once said, all of my friends are gone.

    HINCKLEY: Yes, that’s right. I sometimes feel like the last leaf on the tree and the wind’s blowing.

    (LAUGHTER)

  4. Melissa on January 1, 2005 at 7:10 pm

    Thanks Keith!

    Missing interviews like this is one of the consequences of not having television.

  5. Ben H on January 1, 2005 at 8:27 pm

    Okay, I’m a chump! Well, I don’t have to buy a membership for the gym at ND, but my resolutions are to finish my dissertation and go running at least thrice weekly (or comparable cardio). No jogging, though : )

  6. Clark on January 1, 2005 at 8:30 pm

    I’ve definitely made the resolution to get back in shape over the next three months. In fact I was making up my exercise schedule when I read the lead in to this thread. I think it can easily be done. (In fact I think it ought to be done) However the problem with gym membership I’ve found is that other significant people (i.e. spouses and kids) make it very difficult to exercise consistently. We’re getting around this by purchasing some exercise equipment. Indeed that was our only real Christmas present. A treadclimber was one gift (and I’ll be paying it off for the next year). A bench press that was on sale at Sears made up the other present. It doesn’t make up for the gym, of course. Just not enough equipment to exercise all your muscles. But it makes it so that if you miss going to the gym and lunch or breakfast that you aren’t cursed to have to go at peak hours (4 – 11) when the gym is so packed that exercise is anything but an enjoyable experience.

    I do agree with January crowds though. I always hate January in the gym. Truthfully though, around here that is more UVSC and BYU students going to the gym. And yes, they do taper off. But from April to August is indeed the best time, because there are so many students. And September is far worse than even January for people at the gym. It’s all the students getting in shape post-mission, getting read for the dating scene or so forth. Then when classes start picking up gym consistency goes down.

  7. Ann on January 1, 2005 at 8:55 pm

    “I am in shape. ROUND is a shape.”

    Here is a funny blog entry about making resolutions that are easy to keep:
    Chubby Girl Brigade: Changes aren’t afoot

  8. James Rabaan on January 1, 2005 at 9:03 pm

    Elder Nelson–yes, I can see that, but Elder Wirthlin???

  9. Derek on January 1, 2005 at 9:37 pm

    Exercise with a buddy on a regular schedule. Used properly, peer pressure can be a great tool to help you fulfill your (less private) goals. Another good tool is this CNN article about making S.M.A.R.T. goals.

  10. Ivan Wolfe on January 1, 2005 at 11:04 pm

    Clark –

    when I was at BYU (and somewhat here at UTexas as well) – the weight room was always full for the first month of the semester, and then it gradually tapered, until it was nearly abandoned by the end of the semester.

    Here at UTexas, though they have so many gyms on campus there’s always somewhere I can exercise if I need to.

    I did gain a lot of weight after getting married – it took me four years of marriage (and two kids) before my wife and I wife could figure out a way to exercise and make it fit in our schedules.

  11. Clark on January 1, 2005 at 11:25 pm

    BYU’s problem is that their weight room is tiny. Further they really don’t have enough equipment. Things may have changed with the new field house though. Perhaps the regular students got some of the equipment the athletes were able to use. By and large though you were simply better off getting a membership at Gold’s or 24 Hour Fitness. Further the BYU gym wasn’t open up late, while I usually worked out or jogged after 10:30.

  12. Keith on January 2, 2005 at 12:54 am

    “Elder Nelson–yes, I can see that, but Elder Wirthlin???”

    I remember that the Church News of about 1979-80 had a picture of Elder McConkie jogging. I was surprised. I also remember President Holland joking at a devotional about his distaste for jogging–how he liked to read books about how it was bad for you.

  13. Jason on January 2, 2005 at 12:56 am

    they should replace all of the vending machines on campus with treadmills.

  14. Ivan Wolfe on January 2, 2005 at 1:55 pm

    Yeah – the BYU weight room was waaaaaaaay too small

    I hope the old athletes weight room will be converted to a student weight room – they had nice equipment and a lot of room.

    Of course, students aren’t allowed to use any of the facilities in the new building, from what I hear.

  15. Melissa on January 2, 2005 at 3:08 pm

    When I was a student at BYU I never used the university’s faciliites. It is not just that the room was too small. The environment just wasn’t right for me somehow. I was a member of Gold’s Gym for many years and was happy that they let me have a short 10 week membership when I was in Provo again the Summer before last doing some research. Besides a courteous staff and great aerobics and yoga classes, I would also endorse Gold’s as a great place to find a date.

    Clark, I hope your home gym experiment goes better than mine did. When I first moved from Provo to New England I found myself several miles away from any gym. After being spoiled in Provo by being able to walk to Gold’s, I decided a ten minute drive into campus to workout would never do so I bought a treadmill and some free weights. I think I used the treadmill five or six times before I gave up on it and started driving into New Haven to exercise anyway. I just never got the same kind of workout at home for some reason.

    My old treadmill is still quite functional, however. Most people who come to visit never know that under the gorgeous handmade quilt in my living room is a treadmill and not a quilt rack.

  16. Melissa on January 2, 2005 at 3:13 pm

    James,

    It is true that Elder Wirthlin has recently stated that exercise pays dividends. Of course, this does not necessarily mean that he himself exercises :) (but, I’m quite sure that he does)

  17. Melissa on January 2, 2005 at 3:27 pm

    Ben,

    Why run when you have ultimate frisbee? I guess it’s hard to play in the winter, huh?

    I have to admit that in all my years of working out I’ve never really had a “sport”. I usually just sweat it out for the sake of my health. I found yoga two years ago and although I like it, I wouldn’t call it fun. All that changed when a friend introduced me to racquetball over Thanksgiving. I was absolutely terrible, but I loved it and can’t wait to play again this weekend.

    Hey, all you Mormon males, do you really love basketball as much as it seems or do you just play for your health? Perhaps it is more a male bonding experience than anything else?

  18. William Morris on January 2, 2005 at 5:24 pm

    This is the year I finally…

    wear a Halloween costume to work

    buy a pair of cargo shorts (and perhaps a photojournalist vest to go with)

    sell my rock tumbler on eBay

    substitute cream of celery for cream of mushroom in all my casseroles

    tell my barber to cut my hair to look like a picture of one of the movie stars in People magazine’s “Most Beautiful People” issue

    figure out what the heck ‘pilates’ are

    develop a convincing withering stare

    send in one of my letters to the editor of The New Yorker

    read the copy of “The 7 Habits” that my mission president gave me

    smile at the cute toll taker in lane 6

    track how often the weatherman’s forecasts actually are wrong

    take that long-planned trip to Tuscany

    win at Bingo

    organize all my photos of other people’s kids

    beat the final boss on Legend of Zelda II

    vote for a Democrat

    use the Breadmaker my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas four years ago

    stop watching the evening news

  19. Clark on January 2, 2005 at 6:14 pm

    I don’t like basketball at all and probably couldn’t hit the basket even if I tried.

    Doing sports is always better than regular cardio. My duthers would be rock climbing and hiking. Fortunately as those from the Provo area know, there are plenty of places to do that here. I also lucked out and found a house right on the mountain side. So I cross the street and am on a trail up Slate Canyon. Makes walking the dog fun. But a treadmill is definitely better for those times when you have a baby beside you. (Although I take him walking when it isn’t too cold or windy out)

    As for using the home gym, thus far I’m pretty good. I still prefer going down to the real gym with all the equipment. But being able to do bench press and some curls at home is a real way to “stay in the habit.”

  20. Kim Siever on January 2, 2005 at 6:15 pm

    I don’t make annual goals. If I find an area I need to improve, then I make an effort to improve. I f I want to learn something new, I do. That’s whether it is 01 January or 17 July.

    I find the whole notion of setting resolutions every year to be silly.

  21. Kim Siever on January 2, 2005 at 6:17 pm

    As far as fitness goes, commuting to work each day by cycling sure makes a difference. There is no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I have to get to work and I get a 30 minute workout twice a day five times per week as a result.

  22. Ivan Wolfe on January 2, 2005 at 6:47 pm

    When I was at BYU I was too broke to afford a membership at Gold’s (or Powerhouse) gym. The on campus gym was free and I could quickly do aan hour of weights between classes. So while the gyms looked better than the BYU facilities, there was a monetary problem.

  23. Rosalynde Welch on January 2, 2005 at 6:49 pm

    Hey William–will you write my resolutions for me? Your 2005 sounds like fun.

  24. Ethesis (Stephen M) on January 2, 2005 at 8:15 pm

    I got started about a year and a half ago at the local Balley’s fitness and have been surprised at the progress I made in strength. I’m about to expand from doing core muscles, but I’ve been pleased with the results.

    I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at the cycles in our lives. Sunday once a week to reflect, Fast Sunday once a month, Easter/Christmas/New Years and General Conferences for longer term re-evaluations. They all work to help us take a break from looking directly before us, at least for me.

  25. Eric on January 2, 2005 at 8:45 pm

    IIRC, Elder Wirthlin was an outstanding college athlete in his day. Of course, it was at the Universtiy of Utah, so most good Mormons (who are BYU grads) either discount it or forget it.

  26. William Morris on January 2, 2005 at 10:56 pm

    Rosalynde:

    Feel free to borrow any of them. They’re not mine. I grabbed them out of the Zeitgeist.

    My only resolution this year is to finish one short piece of fiction and one essay (either personal or critical).

  27. Clark on January 2, 2005 at 11:49 pm

    I agree with Kim – the whole “New Year’s Goals” bit never made much sense to me. One ought always make goals when one needs. Having said that though I must confess there was always something breathtakingly fresh about the start of summer or the fall semester. It seemed like starting over without all the baggage of the time before. I think New Year’s is like that for many people. I’m just so used to thinking of September or May in those terms that I suppose it is just hard for me to appreciate January 1st.

    I think New Year cycles are like that. A kind of ritualized rebirth. Of course the old Jewish New Year and our odd beginning in the middle of the winter seem rather at odds.

    Ivan, I too never got a gym membership and so was stuck with the BYU facilities or jogging outdoors. Of course there weren’t really a lot of gyms around Provo back in ’91. There are an amazing number in the area right now. All things considered, I’d probably go back and pay the $29 or so as I think it would be worth it. Great socializing place too.

    The one thing I’ve noticed about working out and doing cardio – it improves so many other aspects of life. You sleep better. You feel better. It’s a great stress reliever. Well worth the effort.

  28. Melissa on January 3, 2005 at 12:17 pm

    Ivan,

    One extra shift a month at the MTC covered my membership fee at Gold’s. Clark is right about it being worth it.

    Clark,

    Like you, I’ve been a student for so long that September is the time of year when change and growth seems most possible to me.

    William Morris,

    Great phony list. Since your real goals don’t actually include using the bread machine, I won’t bore you with my recipes for bread, cinnamon rolls and pizza dough.

  29. Ben H on January 3, 2005 at 6:55 pm

    Ultimate Frisbee is fantastic! It requires a team, though. In Provo I had friends who would play consistently, and it was a lot of fun. Still, I don’t really have “a sport”. I generally enjoy whatever I have good opportunities for, often things that only require one companion. Depending on my friends it could be mountain biking, frisbee, rock climbing, hockey, or just long walks : ) My complaint about the gym is it is SO individualistic! It feels like I’m getting my exercise from a vending machine in an airport, like a bag of Fritos or something. It’s depressing. But I still do it when I can’t find anything better. It gets the job done, and it’s an important job.

  30. Clark on January 3, 2005 at 8:33 pm

    Ben, the individualistic nature of the gym is also its benefit. I don’t need to depend upon anyone else. Rain or shine I can go on my own terms. Minus that whole 4 – 11 madhouse when anyone going to the gym is an idiot. Of course I also found going to The Quarry was primarily individual for me. Although my wife and I hope to start going there climbing again when our baby gets old enough. (I’m still paying my fees – despite not having been able to go the last 8 months. What a waste of money)