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My New Year's Resolution Was to Quit the Gym

Photograph by Twenty20

It's a new year, a traditional time to make resolutions for self-improvement. In a reverse move to many, I am marking the new year by quitting my gym.

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 67 percent of Americans with gym memberships never use them. And it's not just in the U.S.: in the U.K., of those who sign up with gyms at the start of the new year, 59 percent of men and 15 percent of woman quit before January is over.

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I have been a member of my gym since it opened about seven years ago. I used to really enjoy it, when I could go in the evenings and take my time post-workout, lingering in the sauna. I paused my membership during my three pregnancies, each time resolving to get right back to it post-delivery.

Another thing I have less time for these days is socializing.

But with children there is no lingering—anywhere—so the gym became something less relaxing. My gym has a daycare, but its space and hours are limited and getting three children into one time slot is nearly impossible. Rushing to the gym after dinner and getting back in time to put children to bed just made it a stressful hassle.

Conclusion: gyms just aren't for me. I don't really avail myself of classes, because they never seem to suit my schedule. I went to Pilates for a while, but it was at 9 p.m. on Monday nights, which is not when I want to be heading for the gym. I did a spinning class once. The results were humiliating.

I'm mostly on the treadmill, because I like the solitude of running, the time with my iPod, the flexibility of the schedule, the simplicity of the equipment required and the mental space it gives me to think.

But it's exactly the flexibility of it that makes me put off doing it. Basically, if something is not scheduled in my day, it is unlikely to happen. Anything not firmly on my to-do list is optional. And if it's something I don't enjoy anyway—like running on a treadmill indoors, vs. outside in nature—it doesn't stand a chance.

The main thing is I no longer have a two-hour daily block of time to give to something like a gym. So this year, my only resolution is to find a way to make exercising fun and also to fold it into my life in a way that is manageable and sustainable.

So I am resolved to stay out of the gym in 2016 and to make exercise something I look forward to doing rather than feel obligated to get done.

Another thing I have less time for these days is socializing. I have many conversations about how a friend and I need to get together for dinner or a drink. But it's hard to make it happen and comes with the additional anti-fitness consequence of wine calories when it does.

I don't have a lot of time and, at the risk of sounding overly pragmatic, it helps a lot if my activities follow the Ikea furniture model of serving more than one purpose. I want to exercise, and I want to see my friends. So this year, I'm attempting to combine these.

I've made plans for weekly runs with one friend and morning walks with another. Getting outside, even when it's cold, is invigorating and an enormous incentive. And two nights a week, I've been doing an evening trampoline boot camp with a couple of friends. It's very effective and really fun.

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So I am resolved to stay out of the gym in 2016 and to make exercise something I look forward to doing rather than feel obligated to get done. Like any fitness plan, it still hangs on discipline and commitment.

But knowing it's also social makes my odds of sticking to it that much higher.

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