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Bil Lepp: 'January People' welcome -- with these rules

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "January People" is a somewhat derisive term thrown around at the YMCA, and maybe other gyms, to describe the hordes of folks who show up in January to pursue their new year's resolution to finally get fit.

These People get branded "January People" because that is about as long as they last. Some make it to mid-February, but "January to Mid-February People" is a cumbersome thing to say.

I'm pretty certain the YMCA does not officially sanction the term "January People." In this day and age, it is most likely politically incorrect to refer to someone based upon the month in which they began or ceased to do something, but I've got nothing better.

The reason regulars at the Y have developed a slightly derisive term for these people is mostly because they take up all the good parking spots, use the equipment without signing up for a time slot, and ... Hmmm, it might just be those two reasons. Treadmilling on a machine for which someone else has registered is tantamount to sitting in someone else's pew, or one country claiming the moon for itself. It is not done.

The regulars do not personally dislike January People. We applaud the effort. Many of us were once January People. The thing is, January People are kind of like the "new guy" in a war movie. The old vets don't want to waste time building a personal relationship with the new guy because they know he probably won't be around very long. And because the new guy is all the time taking the good parking spot and getting on the treadmill when somebody else has signed up for it.

Here's the thing: I want you to succeed at your resolution to get fit. I also understand why it can be discouraging to try and get fit, and why so many folks give up so quickly. For more than a year now, I have been trying to develop a "six-pack" in my abs region.

Currently I'd settle for a two-pack. I am beginning to think that everybody with six-pack abs is just an illusion. They aren't real.

On the other hand, I take solace in an article I read that said everybody probably already has six-pack abs underneath their abdominal fat. So, instead of searching for abs I think I'm just going to start believing in abs the same way I believe in God. If I flex my faith really hard I can feel God. If I flex my stomach really hard, I can feel something.

Anyway, please, those considering getting fit, please come to the Y -- or any other gym. But don't give up. It takes time to shed pounds and even longer to get fit. It certainly takes more than a month.

Make a goal, but don't make that goal unreal. Don't look at a photo of a professional athlete or a buff movie star and think, "I want to look like that!" First, those people aren't real. Second, they get paid to be fit. They make loads of money, have lots of free time and hire the best trainers. You are poor and have next to no free time. If you are lucky, you get an hour in the gym a couple of times a week. Be realistic about it.

Don't look around the gym, either. Don't look at the pretty young buff girl or the super-muscled guy. They have been at it for a long, long time. They live this workout crap.

Don't be embarrassed that you are bigger than other people at the gym. The gym is for people who want to get thinner the same way the church is for sinners. Every church has its group of nasty little self-righteous ninnies who say, "Why is she in church? This is no place for the likes of her." But just as there would be no need for religion if everyone were perfect, so there would be no need for the gym if everyone was in shape.

This isn't "The Biggest Loser." You don't get to go to a resort and be under the eye of an expensive personal trainer. You will have to invoke your own inner Jillian. Furthermore, the only person who can vote you out of the gym is your nasty little inner ninny. Don't let lazy you win.

It took longer than a month to get out of shape. It is going to take you longer than a month to get skinny.  

Oh, and it hurts. It hurts a lot at the beginning. Those platitudey shirts that say "Pain is just weakness leaving the body" are wrong. Pain is just pain, and it hurts.

I would love it, and have proposed the idea with no success, if the Y would give out January Person T-shirts to everybody who joins at the start of the new year. I think if new folks wore those shirts they would be met not with derision or shame, but with encouragement and enthusiasm by the old vets in the gym.

We would say, "Glad you are here. You have to commit to the long haul. I'll answer any questions."

Of course, we vets would also say, "Don't take my parking spot, and make sure you sign up for the machines," but that's just because we are ninnies.

Copyright 2012 by Bil Lepp. Lepp, of Charleston, is a full-time professional storyteller and the author of four books and nine audio collections. He may be contacted through his website www.leppstorytelling.com.


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