Fit or fat – the choice is yours

It s that time again. Time for many to make that dreaded decision – join the gym or resign yourself to buying a whole new wardrobe after the Christmas excess. January, the month of resolutions, is the most popular time for people to get down the gym. Howe

It's that time again. Time for many to make that dreaded decision - join the gym or resign yourself to buying a whole new wardrobe after the Christmas excess.

January, the month of resolutions, is the most popular time for people to get down the gym. However there is a difference between those that burn out and those that go the extra mile.

Matt Wells, general manager of Fitness First, Stevenage, said: "Between Christmas and New Year there was an influx of people - 104 people joined in December and we're expecting 204 new joiners in January."

Statistics gained from the Fitness First database show that the average new joiner will procrastinate for three years before they decide to join a club.

January figures also show that their average club member is 28 years old, with the ratio of men to women practically even. The average staying time has gone up to 14 months over the last period, a 25 per cent improvement, and the average member wants to lose around one-and-a-half stone this year.

Matt's aim is to make the gym the third most desirable place to be, after home and work, so training becomes habitual.

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He believes that media issues and images play a huge part in getting people into the club in the first place, but that it's about setting realistic goals rather than supporting the size zero debate.

He said: "If you disillusion people promising them fake dreams you under-deliver when satisfying members."

The gym has seen members who have lost 10 stone in a year, but Matt agrees that people have to be realistic: "You get 16 or 17-year-olds living on a diet of crisps and Coke who want to be beefcakes!"

Although the average age is in the late 20s Matt has seen an increase in elderly members who want to prolong their good health, and a dramatic increase in financially able teenage members joining over the past six months who are taking their health and careers more seriously.

He said: "At the gym there are a number of young lads who are trying to get into the police or fire brigade and females trying to become models, dancers or air hostesses where you have to be a certain size."

Chris Eames, 50, is a business manager at a Stevenage-based company and has been a Fitness First member for over three years.

He trains four times a week after he gave up playing football but wanted to stay fit and he believes the key to staying motivated is breaking up the routine.

Chris said: "If I was just doing the machines all the time I would get bored so it's the variety of activities that keeps me motivated. If you want to do it you will find the time"

James Hall, manager at Homebase in Stevenage, joined on New Year's Eve. The 46-year-old from High Street, Wrestlingworth, said: "I had a knee operation in October. The doctor recommended I shouldn't play any sports that involve impact on the knee so I decided coming to the gym would be good."

Hannah Walder, 28, of Fairfield Park, Stotfold, has been the Fitness First osteopath since it opened.

She said: "I did come before I got married then I lost the urge. However in August last year I decided I wanted to get thin and gorgeous again. I've lost two stone and I did a fun run last year to raise money for Breast Cancer Research."

She said: "I'm going to the Seychelles in February so I want to lose another one-and-a-half stone. I've decided I want to be fitter at 30 than I was in my 20s."

Hannah's personal trainer Stuart Monks agreed that although many start in January there are those that go it alone and those that need a helping hand after the first month is over. He said: "In February and March I get more clients coming in."

Hannah said: "You need to have the motivation of having booked a session; you turn up as you don't want to let them down."

Mark Jennings, manager of North Herts Leisure Centre in Letchworth GC, said: "About 30 people have joined in the four days since New Year's Day. It's their New Year's resolution to get fit after Christmas - one of the hardest resolutions of all!"

However, he also saw many more join since October than the previous year, after the gym was refurbished.

Mark, who believes that people need to be entertained to get motivated, said: "We have all the brand new techie equipment - watching TV on your bike is more fun than dragging yourself to the gym under normal circumstances."

Rita Devi, personal trainer and fitness instructor at R3 gym, soon to be Energise, in Stevenage, has some top tips for making that New Year's resolution come true:

* Classes get you motivated and are fun to do

* Kick yourself into action by getting a personal trainer - definitely get one if you don't like classes!

* One session with a personal trainer a week is enough to motivate you. R3 charge £25 a session, but if you pay up front it's usually cheaper

* Change your programme otherwise you will get bored of the same routine, your muscles will get used to it and you won't see the same results

* Mix up your cardio with weights

* Don't do too much straight away, just keep going two or three times a week

* Ask for advice on tailored fitness programmes

* Eat healthy, cut all the rubbish out, but don't do any faddy diets, just eat normal, basic food and you can still have the odd treat

* Eat lots of small meals a day rather than three large ones

* Go on a detox in the New Year, but don't kill yourself!

* Drink lots of water, two to three litres a day

* Don't give up too quickly if you don't see results straight away. It's your health, it's for life!