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!**


E5Jennifer 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? 

Photo on 10-13-12 at 10.41 AM #2

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.”


340803_10100226929019476_25506222_45805933_346534713_oSara 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?


Steph picStephanie 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 caitlinjboyle@gmail.com.



  • Kelly January 3, 2013, 8:44 pm

    You have definitely helped me have a new attitude about January joiners! 🙂 Sure I may have to wait longer for a workout machine but at least I can see the benefit of the January joiners now.

  • Stephanie@nowirun.com January 3, 2013, 9:06 pm

    What an amazing post… I love that you followed up with those who wanted to make a change the year before. It’s always good for us to be reminded that while life gets in the way sometimes we can work through things a little bit at a time.

    My “new year” started in March and I am looking forward in March 2013 to reflecting on all of the goals I set, met and adjusted throughout the year. 🙂

  • Katie @ Talk Less, Say More January 3, 2013, 9:17 pm

    LOVE this! Such great stories! These are the kind of stories I try to remind myself of when I get frustrated with the crowds at the gym.

  • Alli January 3, 2013, 9:20 pm

    In a sense I am a JJ because I’ve always prided myself on not joining a gym, instead choosing to battle the harsh Ohio winters outside instead. This year, though, being 5 months pregnant and not nearly as silly, my husband and I joined a gym so I could have a safe and warm place to work up a small sweat!

    • Molly @RDexposed January 3, 2013, 10:39 pm

      Same here except the pregnant part!

  • Amber K January 3, 2013, 9:29 pm

    I was technically a “February Joiner” in 2007. But I can admit to getting irritated each year when the gym is PACKED with people who don’t understand basic gym etiquette. But it is awesome whenever someone decides to take control of their life and feel better!

  • Diana January 3, 2013, 9:46 pm

    I totally agree with you about January Joiners! I think it’s great that people are getting out there and exercising. I even see more people running around my ‘hood and I’m so happy for them!

  • laura January 3, 2013, 10:01 pm

    Awwww, I love this post. Everyone needs encouragement.

    I am not a January joiner. I will never be a gym goer. I’ve come to terms with it. I am a yoga addict. And I’ve been practicing intensely 5 to 7 days a week for ten years now. But every January I do look at what I’m doing, and resolve to work harder, more seriously, be more careful with SOMETHING I’m putting into my body. I have ups and downs like anyone, and I always hope there’ll be people around to shore up my confidence and help me be gentle with myself when I don’t follow through the way I’d like.

    The way I look at it, come one, come all. Without joiners, all our favorite activities/passions/groups might wither and become obsolete.

  • Jamie January 3, 2013, 10:54 pm

    Good work ladies!!!!!!!! And Stephanie–good luck with the half ironman. That’s a goal of mine as well but probably for 2014 or 2015. Need to find a gym with a pool and purchase road bike first!

    • Stephanie January 4, 2013, 7:05 pm

      Thank you! I am terrified! Haha.

      Thanks Caitlin for featuring me again. 🙂

  • Verlin January 3, 2013, 11:52 pm

    How great that you took the time to follow up with these people. You are a generous blogger. Wishing you a fabulous 2013!

  • Amy Q January 4, 2013, 7:21 am

    While I enjoyed each story, the first (Jennifer’s) was proof that we write our OWN stories, no matter what life throws at us! SO inspirational, Jennifer!!!!!

  • Maggie January 4, 2013, 9:41 am

    These are some really inspiring stories! I am so impressed with all these ladies.

    I’ll admit I’m one of those people that sometimes complains about the JJ’s, but I tend to get more annoyed at the gyms for lacking an orderly system to distinguish who gets the next machine. Maybe some gyms have this, but none of the ones I’ve belonged to ever had and it drives me crazy and makes me anxious about going to the gym when I know it’s going to be crowded.

  • Vikki January 4, 2013, 10:01 am

    Bethany’s story is totally my story. I wasn’t a January Joiner, I was a June joiner. In June 2010, I walked up a flight of stairs and I was out of breath. This freaked me out. Here I was, a former high school tennis player and runner and walking up a flight of stairs made me out of breath. I got scared so that afternoon, I went and I joined a gym, determined to get in better shape. I became a regular at Body Pump and on the treadmills. I even got a trainer. I was working out an hour and a half 4 days a week and 30 minutes to an hour the other two days. Didn’t lose a pound. I was really disappointed, but I decided to focus on how much more I could that I couldn’t do before. And quite frankly, while I didn’t lose weight, my body shape had changed. I wasn’t quite as fluffy (if that makes sense.) I let my gym membership lapse back in June. I’m doing more outside the gym things these days. This month I’m doing a hooping 30/30. For 30 minutes every day this month (with the exception of New Year’s Day), I will hula hoop. It is an annual challenge put on by my favorite hoop dance blog/news site. I also have a goal to do a under 40 minute 5K by May that I’m training for. I still haven’t lost any weight, but I FEEL so much better than I did before.

  • Katie @ Soulshine and Sassafras January 4, 2013, 10:31 am

    Love this! I agree, JJs are awesome! Maybe they don’t all stick with it, but some of them do, and trying is so much better than not trying.

  • Dory January 4, 2013, 10:45 am

    Caitlin, I have to say it is stories like today’s that really set your blog apart. These are amazing, real accounts of life. Inspiring and thought provoking. Yesterday in my hot yoga class that I regularly attend there were 29 participants (a full house) instead of the normal 8-10 yogis we usually have. At first I wanted to gripe about the very little space I had around my mat, but as soon as I sat down I thought of how amazing it is that all of these people are making a decision to do something for themselves. I saw people struggling and remembered being there, I gave them words of encouragement and thanked them for being there along side me! I hope that the more regular gym goers can encourage the people who have just made the decision to start and hopefully build a community of support. Because at one point we were all just starting.

    • Abby January 4, 2013, 3:04 pm

      I totally agree, this does set your blog apart! Thank you!

  • Katy January 4, 2013, 11:00 am

    What motivation! I get so angry when people discourage others who are TRYING. My mother was severely overweight when I was in my teens, and she made a commitment to lose weight. She started by riding her bike. A group of pre-teen boys followed her calling out insults about how fat she was, and how she shouldn’t be on a bike. I’ve never been more livid, or more proud that she kept going! I hope we can all remember to be supportive of others, no matter when or how they start.

  • Liz @ I Heart Vegetables January 4, 2013, 11:12 am

    This is a great post!! And you’re so right, a friendly atmosphere goes a LONG way! We should be encouraging people to keep coming, rather than get frustrated at their resolutions!

  • Michelle @ Lifewithacrazypup January 4, 2013, 11:21 am

    Omgish! I love these stories! So moving and inspirational. And you know what, it reminds you that we ALL have little trials and tribulations going on in our own lives and reinforces to take it easy on others AND yourself! You never know what the next person is going through. Thanks, Caitlin. Love this post 🙂

  • Michelle January 4, 2013, 11:32 am

    To everyone seeing an influx of JJ’s at their gym who want to take up the HTP mentality of creating a welcoming atmosphere to help give the JJ’s a better chance at success, I’ve got an idea….. ITS POST IT TIME! Stick a couple of Operation Beautiful style post it notes welcoming and encouraging them!

  • Sara January 4, 2013, 2:09 pm

    Yay! Loved reading all of these stories. I felt like maybe I didn’t do quite as much in 2012 as I had hoped, but once I sent Caitlin my follow-up and then reading how everyone else’s year went, I think we all did some remarkable things! Here’s to a healthy 2013!

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