Give yourself a chance and start warming up for New Year's resolutions now

I have been a gym member and regular gym goer for three years. I pretty much hate the month of January at the gym, because all of a sudden, the place is packed with all the people who make New Year's resolutions to lose weight. I have to wait in line to use the machines, and some newbie misplaced the free weights again.

It's okay, though, because I know that come February, about 99% of those new folks will have lost their determination and the facility will be back to its normal population of regulars. Maybe the throbbing crowds of one-month wonders have a lot to do with all the people that drop their fitness plans. They don't like the crowds, so they stop coming to the gym, telling themselves they'll just work out at home. They buy some weights, a yoga mat, and some workout DVDs, use all these things at most one time before they stuff them in a closet only to come out again the same time next January. A lot of money gets wasted on failed fitness resolutions.

Instead of joining the mass of people full of false determination who will invest hundreds in a gym membership they won't use after January 20th, why don't you give yourself a real chance this year? Before you hand over your credit card to the bodybuilder behind the counter at your local gym, test yourself to see if you really have the resolve to get your money's worth out of such an investment.

January 1, 2009 is approximately six weeks away. That's about the amount of time it takes to form a real habit or routine. If you want to make weight loss or fitness your New Year's resolution, start now. Instead of diving head first into the gym, take baby steps to change your routine. Maybe start with a workout video that you can do at home (I like Louise Solomon's Yogalates series and the Walk Away The Pounds DVDs). This is an inexpensive way to get started, whereas fitness clubs often charge a hefty signup fee along with at least a year-long membership commitment. Mix in at-home workouts with light cardio like walking or jogging with friends, or challenge yourself to something new.

However you choose to begin your new fitness regime, make sure you are doing something you enjoy. Starting slow and enjoying yourself is the best way to ensure you'll actually stick with it. Six weeks from now, when January 1st rolls around, you'll already know if this is a good habit you can keep up. If you've failed to find 30 minutes of time a few times a week for a quick workout DVD, you'll know that a gym membership would be a waste of money.

Gym regulars need new fitness goals, too, and I typically abandon mine pretty early in the process, too. This year I'm taking my own advice and starting to amp up my workouts now, before the resolution crowds drive me out of the gym. My brother and I challenged each other to the One Hundred Pushups program, which is conveniently broken down into six weeks of training. And just in case he punks out on me, I've challenged all my Facebook friends to the same thing. And now I've posted it here for all the WalletPop readers to see, so I expect that will be enough to keep me honest.

Once you've got your new good habits in order -- give it six weeks, though, to make sure it sticks -- you're ready to invest in the fitness club membership. Don't let the January crowds psych you out, though. They'll be gone in a few weeks.

Happy holidays and good luck.
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