I've been a member of a gym (er ... fitness center) for 31 years. Outside of a bout with pneumonia in 2001 and a dislocated elbow in 1989, I've never missed any extended period of time.
The sociological phenomenon that is the influx of new gym members I see on January 2 still amazes me. That either shows that I'm a slow learner or have a short memory.
It happens every year at every gym I've attended. Since the place is closed on New Year's Day, if you lost your calendar or your watch stopped, the day you suddenly noticed five times the number of people in the place as you saw the day before would be January 2.
At some point around Christmas, thousands of people suddenly decide that their pants don't fit and if they look directly downward they cannot tell if their shoes match. They make a proclamation and decide that the new year will bring a new ... them.
The sociology part of it is that it's the changing of the calendar that makes people realize the sudden need to change, and not merely being 75 pounds overweight or the sudden inability to climb a flight of stairs. Humans associate the beginning of a new calendar year with some sort of necessity to make a life-changing decision like quitting smoking or finding a soul mate.
The problem with using the calendar to help make those decisions is that the calendar is relentless and the decisions are not. The days go onward, and bad habits are just as difficult to break on January 2 as they are in July, which is why most of the people that swarmed the gym tonight will be gone by President's Day. They lose track of the motivation that made them look at themselves and the last page on their calendar with a sense of purpose.
Fitness Centers make a huge amount of money off of people who sign monthly contracts and don't show up. Imagine renting a house to someone who paid for utilities and never moved in. The rent they paid would be profit for the landlord, as well as a really bad investment for the tenant. The same calendar that makes people decide to change their life makes them spend a lot of money on something they will almost never use. These are the same people who would yell at their kids for buying an expensive jacket they never wear.
Over the course of 31 years, I've seen them come and go - mostly go - and I can deal with the short-term inconvenience and, in a way, thank them for providing enough money for the gym to continue to operate in their absence. I take solace and pride in knowing that I'll out-last them. I suppose it's the same feeling that retailers have when they are forced to deal with holiday shoppers.
Maybe gym owners should call this month Black January?