New year's resolutions bring crowds to gyms

Doug Gulasy
| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 8:58 p.m.

Eileen DiIanni works out six days a week at PA Fitness West in Imperial.

She has noticed a fuller gym since the calendar turned to 2013.

“Basically, the regulars on the equipment look around (and say), ‘What do you think?'” said DiIanni, 55, of Imperial. “‘Well, it'll be over in a couple of weeks.' ”

With New Year's Day comes an influx of new memberships and more crowds at Western Pennsylvania gyms because of fitness resolutions. A December 2012 Harris Poll of more than 3,000 American adults identified weight loss as the top goal for 2013.

As DiIanni said, however, those crowds at gyms tend to disappear pretty quickly.

Glen Getz, a neuropsychologist at West Penn Allegheny Health System, noticed that when he and his family joined a YMCA last January. He said it was “packed” when the family signed up but emptied out as February rolled around.

Why the lack of commitment?

“Goal-setting research basically suggests that the best way to achieve a goal is to take a SMART approach,” Getz said. “That's just an acronym for having goals be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. It's likely that people don't follow that rule.”

People can doom themselves when they set their goals, fitness professionals say.

Tim Schilcher, owner of the online Myofitness personal training service, said people tell themselves they'll add fitness to their routine by getting up early in the morning before work and going to the gym.

That doesn't last for long.

“I tell people you've got to do what fits in your schedule,” said Schilcher, who is also fitness partner at The Club Sport & Health in Monroeville and Alexander's Athletic Club in Harmarville.

“If you're not a morning person, you're not going to continue going in the morning. Maybe try going at lunch for half an hour or in the evening.”

The same logic applies to other faulty goals, Schilcher said. People shouldn't go from being sedentary to working out every day because that can lead to overuse injuries, and they shouldn't expect to lose a lot of weight right away.

“(People) read a few magazines or something like that, and they think they're just going to go in, go at it like crazy and the weight's just going to fall off,” Schilcher said. “But it doesn't, and people have no stick-to-it-iveness. You have to have discipline.”

While gym owners know they can't stop the post-January exodus entirely, they're doing their best to keep as many clients as they can.

PA Fitness West, which just celebrated its second anniversary following the merger of two smaller gyms, held a group exercise marathon on Jan. 5 to introduce new members and the community to some classes it offers.

The gym is also offering a discount to new members who join with a friend.

“I think that if you have somebody who's going to work out with you, there's a lot more motivation not only with you but with the other person,” said manager Chris Batyko.

National women's fitness company Curves launched a program Jan. 1 called Curves Complete. The program combines a 30-minute workout with a weight management program that includes menu planning and work with a personal coach.

“A lot of ladies are interested because they know that it works,” said Jan Alechnewith, owner of the Curves in Ross. “We've had other programs at Curves — diet programs and things — but this one goes a little bit further.”

Alechnewith said Curves doesn't usually have the same amount of turnover as other gyms, and she thinks the all-female atmosphere contributes to that.

“They feel comfortable coming in here,” she said. “They feel comfortable coming in knowing their hair doesn't have to be perfect, their makeup doesn't have to be perfect.”

Getz said people who resolve to improve in the new year need to be willing to change their routines.

“People think it's a clean slate — ‘I'm going to turn my life around and do things healthier and better for myself,'” he said. “But they don't always think it through because old habits are hard to die. Our brains are hard-wired in terms of the behaviors we do.

“So if you're going to break patterns and routines and do healthier ones, you need to have structure to it and it needs to be realistic.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527 or

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