It commonly said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. And yet, in spite of decades of gym-going experience every December I find myself tut-tutting at all those lame “new year’s resolutioners” memes and snarky posts to forums and Facebook groups. Every year I tell myself that this phenomenon is exagerated, it’s not really a “thing”. After all, human beings aren’t lemmings and human behaviour, even group dynamics, is often far from being predictable. Finally, and this is probably the biggest reason, I find it hard to believe that somebody would wait until January 1 to do anything. I’ve started, and failed, quite a few good resolutions in my time but never have I waited for an arbitrary date to do so.
So I felt supremely vindicated from January 1st to 5th, as I trained away at the Globo gym near my work. All the “usuals” were there, as as we always are, week after week but there was no tsunami of Gymshark-clad noobs. “Yaaassss”, I thought, “people are rational, idependent minded beings after all”. We aren’t swallows going back to Capistrano or salmon swimming upstream driven by some antediluvian instinct.
Then I went to the gym on Monday after work. Or should I say, I spent 15 minutes trying to find a parking space any where remotely close to my gym (there are 2 other gyms within a 3 block radius as well) before giving up and parking far, far away. As I battled my way past the front door the scene that presented itself was part Lord of the Flies, part Star Wars bar scene and part outtake of a “Black Friday riot at the Tulsa Walmart” youtube video. Everybody and their actual grandmother was there, resplendent in fresh from under the Christmas tree gym-wear. Heck, even the Prime Minister was there…Ok, to be honest, he’s a semi-regular so his presence was far less remarkable than the sheer mass of humanity that managed to pack itself into the gym that night. No joke, I began to wonder if we hadn’t attained the building’s occupancy limit.
Unfortunately, it was my night to train bench press and yes, it was Monday (aka International Chest Day) so the six flat benches were all taken by the time I got there. Luckily, it didn’t take long for a bench to free up because, as is always the case in this scenario, the following happens: Noob approaches the bench, doesn’t think a second about warming up with, say, just the bar… and slaps on what he thinks is a good working weight but is actually much closer to his 1RM. The young gent (feet up on the bench, of course, never planted firmly on the floor) then attempts to bang out a set but barely manages to get the bar off of his chest for 1 rep. He then reduces the weight, but not enough, and manages to squeeze 2 or 3 more reps before deciding that the Pec Deck looks more inviting.
Back, however, to the subject at hand. So, yes, a crowded gym in January is not just a cliche or urban legend. It’s a fact of life, in the same way that airports are crowded just before Christmas. It’s also true that by Febuary things will be right back to normal. Aside from the glaringly obvious (guilt over holiday excesses, corny resolutions, promotional deals by gym owners) I honestly don’t why it is such a thing. Gym training, like running, is not seasonal. And speaking of running, the sidewalks aren’t suddenly clogged with joggers in January. So, what gives?
In the end, I suppose, who cares? I’m glad they are there, whatever their motivation. It’s nice seeing some new faces and, quite frankly, I’m hoping that as gym going becomes more and more the norm, the market will mature and prices will drop in the country where I live. I pay extortionate rates at my Globo gym and (considering the amazing value) very reasonable rates at the Powerlifting club. And finally, as somebody who is considering entering the industry at a future date, it’s comforting to know there is an absolutely reliable annual cash cow.