Greg Demmink dreads going to the gym this time of year. In fact, between January and March, he does everything he can to avoid the throngs of people at The Punta Gorda Club who, like many Americans, have made it their New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get fit.
“I go as late as I can just to avoid that mess,” Demmink said. Mornings at the health club during the first quarter of the year, he said, look like the mall at Christmastime. “The place is packed. The parking lot is full. All the machines are taken. It’s nuts,” he said.
It’s not that the Punta Gorda man doesn’t like working out. Quite the contrary, he’s a bona fide gym rat. In fact, Demmink is what club manager Chris Wilson calls the “10 percent” — those dedicated souls who can be seen at the gym nearly every day of the year working up a sweat.
Then there’s the rest of us who resolve every Jan. 1 to lace up our sneakers, head to the local gym, and try to shed all the unwanted pounds gained during the holiday-eating frenzy.
Local gyms say they’ve had a flood of people in the first week of 2013, and traffic is likely to remain high for about the next 12 weeks — or until the fitness bug wears off.
“It’s the same thing every year,” Wilson said. “People are extra frustrated by how they feel between the end of November and now.”
And that bodes well for business, said Dan Bingham, general manager of the YouFit health club in Port Charlotte.
“(January) is definitely our most popular month,” he said.
Last year, the gym added 310 new memberships in January and 282 in February. The rest of the year, new memberships hover in the mid-200s. This year, Bingham hopes to top 350 new memberships. “January and February are the number-one sales (months) for the year, without a doubt,” Bingham said.
Ted Robedee, the manager of the Fitness Salon at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County in Port Charlotte, said new membership already is up 25 percent over the previous year.
Last week, his plate was overflowing with new-member orientations.
Among Robedee’s appointments was snowbird Reed Corson of Maine, who decided to join the gym even before driving down to Florida.
Corson said he was inspired to lose weight and get into shape after he began having difficulty breathing and noticed his waist expanding. The 70-year-old enlisted the help of his girlfriend, Donna Leland, 74, of Maine to help motivate him.
Leland has been exercising nearly every day for the last 30 years. As a young woman, she said, she was overweight, and when she decided to lose the weight, she resolved “never to go back.”
“I cannot begin to keep up with her,” Corson said. “She is way ahead of me in all forms of physical activity, believe me.”
“I’m an oldie but a goodie,” Leland said, giggling with a contagious schoolgirl exuberance.
“I call her my cougar,” Corson said with a devilish grin.
According to the American Heart Association, all people older than 18 should do some kind of physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day.
Fitness experts say the best way to stick with an exercise program is to use the buddy system. When people surround themselves with others who understand and support their weight loss and fitness goals, they are more likely to be successful.
“I always tell people, ‘Let everyone know what you’re doing,’” Robedee said. “It helps when you have a partner.”
Unfortunately, most people find it difficult to maintain the initial enthusiasm that gets them to the gym. About half of all new members that join The Punta Gorda Club in January or February quit by April, Wilson said.
“A new year brings a new vigor and a new energy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really last that long,” he said. “For most people, it lasts 30 to 90 days. By April, they’ve given up.”