What’s a January Joiner? A JJ is someone who, well, joins the gym in January. I heard on NPR that approximately 50% of new gym memberships are sold in January alone. Crazy. As I wrote last year:
I’m always a little sad to hear healthy livin’ veterans complaining about the gym influx of JJs between January and March (when, sadly, most people give up on their goals). Sure, it sucks to have to wait for the treadmill and fight the crowds, but the truth is that everyone starts somewhere, and some of the JJs will stick around and become regulars… and a friendly atmosphere goes a long, long way.
Every year on HTP, I spotlight a few January Joiners who are looking to make big changes. I LOVE celebrating people who want to make big changes – it’s so inspiring. And to keep ‘em on their toes, I thought I’d follow up on last year’s JJs. Let’s see what happened to them… Did they reach their goals? Or did they fall off the wagon?
**Psst: Are you a January Joiner in 2013? Check out the end of the post!**
Jennifer was annoyed with feeling tired and rundown and wanted to get her energy back. She said, “In my mid-20s I succeeded as a JJ, dropping 45 lbs. Once mommyhood struck, I was never able to get back into the gym routine. As time passed, my work days got longer and family responsibilities grew. Sometimes it feels like my butt is planted in a chair 90% of the day!”
So – how did Jennifer do? She wrote me to say, “As far as 2012, you would not believe the year I had. On January 28th, the day after attending a funeral for my husband’s grandfather, I received a call that my father had been hospitalized and was being taken in for emergency surgery. During the surgery they found evidence of liver disease. Over the course of a couple of very painful months of nursing homes and hospital trips, he was eventually placed in hospice, and passed on April 9th, 72 days after his surgery. I’ll be honest…while I started out great with my resolutions, things got tough shortly in and I can honestly say that I am so thankful for those opportunities to get to the gym. Through all the insanity of being there for my father, working full-time, taking care of my family… sometimes those gym trips were my only chance to breathe. Even if all I could spare was 15 min on the tread, it was my lifeline in such a stressful time. I know that I could not have managed without that time for myself. Exactly one month after my fathers death, May 9th, I was in a car accident which broke my elbow and totaled my car. Gym trips were replaced with physical therapy for the summer. All the while I just kept thinking about how little time we have here.
In a way, my father’s death was a tipping point for me. My biggest source of stress for me has been my job, and by that I don’t just mean my employer, but my line of work entirely. What I really wanted was to change fields and get out of the cubicle! I hated my job. I hated what I had to face every morning when I got out of bed. I couldn’t keep facing every day with the thought that I could be in the ground 72 days from now. In July I quit my job, walked away from a sure thing. In September I went back to school, starting classes toward a second bachelors degree. Let me tell you that I am a new person! What a rollercoaster 2012 has been…. Yes, I still hit the gym, though honestly I am no gym rat. I go a few times a week when I can, but try to find cardio other ways (frisbee!). I find the gym boring but I know I must to something or my energy lags, my knee starts aching. I know that I need to do this in order to be successful. I haven’t really lost any weight, but I am still considering this a victory because I am better off than I was in 2011. I’ve also been working on learning new recipes and have recently started studying medicinal herbalism. Going into 2013? It’s so exciting how different life is now! This is my year!
I haven’t made any resolutions for this year because I feel like I am on the right path. My goals I guess are to keep going and keep growing. The gym is not my first love, and so I’m planning to learn to play racquetball and maybe do some inline skating. Maybe I’ll try a class (I’ve been too nervous to try one this year). I’m definitely going to keep working on the cooking and studying ways to improve my health, run a few experiments with herbs. I guess you could say my resolution is to be more healthy at the end of the year than I am right now. How am I going to get there? I’m not sure yet. The physical is surely important, but lets not neglect work on the spiritual, emotional and social aspects either. I suppose one comment I could make to all the gym-regulars who dare to judge the noobs: Just because someone isn’t a gym rat doesn’t mean that they aren’t actively working toward improving their health. The physical body is only one piece of self, and the gym is only one of many options.”
Remember Emily? After a high of 200 pounds, she wanted to drop the last fifteen. Her father had just been diagnosed with heart disease, and she really wanted to be healthier. So… how did she do in 2012?
Emily wrote me to say: “At the end of 2011, I received my BA and decided to move back in with my parents to save money until I found a job. Around the same time, I submitted to HTP about becoming a January Joiner – and while I didn’t join a gym, my parents had a treadmill in their basement and my Dad was cooking super healthy due to his recently diagnosed heart condition. I steadily grew healthier, spending some time walking and running both in and outdoors and was lucky enough to have healthy meals cooked for me at home. During the month of August, I accepted a full time position as an art teacher near my college town, and moved back. Luckily, in this town, there is a fantastic barefoot running store where I received a free running analysis and lesson (I know it sounds silly, but most people don’t run optimally!) and bought a fantastic minimalist pair of running shoes. This is also where I committed to my very first 5k, Freedom’s Run. This was a huge decision for me, I had never really run any distance before…I mean, you know the kid who walked the mile run in gym class every year? I was that kid.
But I saw the race come through town the previous year and remembered being so inspired by all the runners in it together, that I wanted to be a part of it. So I trained for a couple months, and even though I wasn’t very fast (32:40), I completed the race, ran almost the entire time – and I didn’t even throw up! I felt so good about myself for completing a goal I never imagined I could, I was seriously beaming for a week. My parents even came to watch me run. Since the 5k in October, I’ve been active with my dance company, and still spend a little time at the gym, though I’ve fallen off the wagon in both diet and exercise due to the high demands of being a first year teacher. Recently, my doctor has noted that my cholesterol levels are high, most likely due to stress and heredity, so I’ve decided to make 2013 the year I work towards a healthy heart. My dad reversed his heart condition in the last year under a doctor’s care mainly using diet, and I hope to do the same. My goals are to explore new heart healthy recipes and use workouts as stress relief. After all – our lives literally depend on it.”
Rebekah was a January Joiner in 2011 and had a very successful year. She lost 35 pounds and ran her first Half Marathon. So, how did 2012 go for Rebekah?
She wrote me to say: “I wish I could say that 2012 went perfectly or at least ended perfectly; however, I can’t say that. You know how life goes. The first half of the year went really well and I was committed to my goals. I started a new job in July that left me very stressed out, I also started training to run a marathon then, planning to run the Rock and Roll Savannah in November. I was doing well until one very hot summer 13 miler broke my spirit and left me in tears just trying to get back home. I decided to put off the marathon idea and somehow my motivation for exercising in general just went out the door.
Without exercise on a regular basis, I fell into poor eating habits and with the holidays it just escalated. I stopped reading the blogs that were once my daily source of motivation, I stopped blogging myself. Of course this loss of commitment and drive left me feeling depressed which made me less inclined to do anything productive. That being said, I am not a January joiner this year but I am a January re-committer. Back to healthy eating, and by golly for all that is good in this world, back to the gym!”
Here’s Bethany’s update! If you remember, she had 20 – 25 pounds to lose and really wanted to get healthy in 2012. She emailed me to say that 2012 wasn’t quite the year she hoped, but in many ways, it was still a success!
She said, “I wish I had been more successful this past year with my weight loss, but I wasn’t. I am still in the same boat I was last year except I am now exercising regularly, and making better choices than I was. I ran my first half marathon in March and then my second in December! I PR’d in Dec by shaving 9 minutes off my time. I also PR’d during a 5k on Dec. 31 with a time of 30’52". I’m not where I want to be, but I am getting closer.”
Sara wanted to get healthy with her husband in 2012. How did they do? Well… their year ended in one big surprise!
She said, “We joined the gym after Christmas. My parents actually paid our joining fee as our Christmas gift last year. I also re-joined Weights Watchers online. I dropped a little weight (maybe 10 pounds and at least one pants size) but nothing too extreme, and my husband dropped maybe 25 pounds, but we were going to the gym and we were toning up and moving our bodies and that was mostly our goal, not so much the scale. My husband had his blood work checked in the spring and his cholesterol levels, which were high before, were back to normal! We were pleased so far.
My father-in-law was in the hospital for a month around April so we weren’t able to go to the gym as often as we wanted. After work we were always at the hospital. It was very tiring. So we didn’t do too much more than just walking during that time. After my father-in-law got patched up (he had to have a pacemaker and bypass surgery) we went back to the gym more regularly.
In early September I found out I was pregnant and about a week later I developed morning (and night) sickness like it was my job. Throwing up every day, it was awful. I was exhausted. I had a weird work schedule around this time too. So other than trying to walk as much as I can and stretch, I haven’t done much fitness-wise these last couple of months. I’m starting to finally feel better (I’m 19 1/2 weeks) and we’re hoping to go back to the gym at the end of this week to kick off 2013 the right way. My goals are just to use free weights, do some yoga at home and use the treadmill/elliptical at the gym. Nothing too strenuous but enough to keep me moving and active. I also plan to walk a lot throughout the rest of my pregnancy.
My goals for 2013 include having a healthy baby in May and to staying as active as I can. I also hope not to gain more weight than what is recommended (but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I just want my baby to be happy and food to stay down at this point). I’ll be on maternity leave this summer and I plan to do a lot of walking when I feel up to it and get back to the gym a few nights a week when I’m able, or use the equipment we have at work. My husband’s goal is to exercise and eat better. I think we can both do it!”
And last… but not least… Do you remember Stephanie?
Stephanie said that her goals for 2012 included: “running a marathon (I did a half marathon at the beginning of December), convincing more friends/family to try running with me, doing speed work at least once a week, and a 28-minute 5K!”" She did AWESOME! Stephanie wrote me to say, “I am actually running my first marathon in one and a half weeks (13th of Jan) and have lost a total of 50 pounds so far (but 20 in 2012). In preparation of my first full, I did two 10k’s, one 15k, three half marathons, and one 30k (18.6), plus my first Sprint Triathlon. Big fitness year for me and 2013 will be even bigger!!! My goals for 2013 are to do a half ironman in the fall and some sort of relay (like Ragnar) in the spring.”
Are you a January Joiner in 2013? Want to be featured on HTP? Send me your story, your goals, and your picture, and I’ll post it up for the world to see (or, um, the small percentage of the world that reads this blog). Here’s the catch – I WILL follow up with you in January 2014 to see how you did! Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.