Getting fit in 2014

John Brannen
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Health-based New Years resolutions have local fitness centres expecting surge in attendance

As many in the county paused to reflect on what the year 2013 had brought, others began the often dreaded New Years resolution list for 2014.

For some, achieving a good level of heath and fitness tops the list. It’s a phenomenon that’s been observed by nearly every fitness centre and gym in the county over the years.

“There’s always a surge after New Years and that goes for every health facility,” said Dave MacIntyre, chief executive officer of the Pictou County YMCA.

In his experience, any given January sees an increase in attendance by about 10 to 15 per cent. In some cases, the attendance surge consists of relapsed and new members.

Pictou County YMCA Membership & Marketing Manager Paul Atta noted that some January programming is geared toward this new influx of people looking to get in shape.

“Our 12-week Resolution Solution program consists of workout plans, tutorials on equipment and health and nutrition info,” he said. “For us it goes back to the health of the body, mind and spirit. You see a lot of camaraderie you see a lot of members team up and start supporting each other.”

At East River GoodLife Fitness in New Glasgow, club manager Ruthie Burns said that by mid-January, you couldn’t help but notice a surge in membership.

“Every year it increases with tons of new members and current members who decide to recommit,” she said. “January is our Super Bowl month.”

Steve Currie at Pictou County Yoga has been practising for about 10 years, teaching for three. Increases in attendance have been much more marked.

“My experience over the last number of years helping with the business side is that we see about a 35 per cent increase in overall attendance in the first few weeks,” he said. “The experience levels vary, some are new, but some yogis are recommitting to a previously established practice that they may have drifted away from.”

Often it’s a friend or family member who is the impetus for taking those first steps out the door and onto the yoga mat.

“If you really listen and provide a safe space, you may find that many are hearing of the improvements to emotional well being,” said Currie. “In a recent class held for men from the area, there were a surprising number of guys who shared quietly with me afterwards that they were primarily interested in training to quiet their minds because of their frenetic work/life imbalances.”

The aim to help people wherever they’re at in their fitness and health journey is a common theme to health facilities in the county.

“My biggest thing is ask them what they’re goals are,” said Branden O’Brien, manager at True Potential Fitness in Pictou. “The biggest problem is that people set unrealistic goals, either too far out of reach or without enough time to accomplish it.”

The family-run gym offers three free orientation passes to teach potential gym members how to use the fitness machine and the gym equipment. O’Brien said he strives to make the atmosphere relaxed and not at all intimidating.

“Never be shy about coming,” he said. “We try to make it fun, we joke around a lot.”

It’s an inviting and non-judgmental atmosphere that is key to retention of the New Years resolution surge. It’s especially true for those to whom Burns refers to as “fragile eggs.”

“It’s those who’ve never worked out before,” she said. “With any new member, we sit down with them because they’re here for a reason. We match a plan to fit their goals.”

Despite the initial increase, MacIntyre sees a three to five per cent drop off around February.

“But as long as there are lots of options and they seek help, many press on and stay.”

He believes people who stop coming are often those who don’t ask for help and try to do it on their own. O’Brien agrees.

“We never want people to keep doing the same thing over and over. That’s why we’re there, to help and assist with different options.”

Currie believes even something like an occasional change of scenery is enough to keep people coming back to yoga.

“Of the 35 per cent, we will maintain over time about 20 per cent of those clients,” he said. “What is really unique about this studio is the stunning rooftop yoga studio as well. In the summer, when clients tend to fall away, we keep them because we hold classes in the 2nd studio which is outside.”

Regardless of where individuals in Pictou County decide to get healthy, MacIntyre noted that any goal for fitness is a great start.

“A New Years resolution shouldn’t just be about the gym. Whether you go to just get a start or stick with a gym, staying active here in Pictou County is important.”



PEP TALK: Advice from the experts 

“The key is patience. Never give up when you’re body’s just getting started. You’ll feel changes right away but seeing them may take time.”

Branden O’Brien, True Potential Fitness


“We often quip that saying you are not flexible enough to try yoga is akin to saying you are too dirty to take a bath. We don't expect you to be flexible, the practice is about growing flexibility of both mind and body.”

Steve Currie, Pictou County Yoga


“It doesn’t matter what facility you belong to, your resolution has to be reasonable. Take baby steps, make short-term goals. Keep in mind you have to do something 14 times before it becomes a habit.”

Dave MacIntyre, Pictou County YMCA


“Fitness isn’t instant gratification, it takes about three months to really see a difference so stick with it and we’ll help you out.”

Ruthie Burns, GoodLife Fitness, East River

Organizations: YMCA, Pictou County YMCA Membership, Pictou County Yoga

Geographic location: Pictou County, New Years, New Glasgow East River

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