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How not to quit the gym

The digital clock on the nightstand reads 3:45 as the alarm pierces the early morning darkness. Marc Croteau, a graphic designer by trade and a fitness guru by passion, drops his feet to the floor and rises from bed. His wife and daughter, and the entire neighborhood, for that matter, are deep asleep. For Croteau, a former competitive bodybuilder, fitness is second nature and it’s time to hit the gym. He doesn’t see 4 a.m. workouts as some sort of medieval torture; they are, he says, his favorite way to start the day.

“I’ve been working out for so long and I see how good it makes me feel, so I can’t imagine not working out,” Croteau said. “That’s not even an option for me.”

With the new year comes the inevitable list of resolutions and, at the top of many lists is some version of “get in shape.” Whether that means joining a gym, hiring a personal trainer, or signing up for classes at the local yoga studio, one thing is clear: Fitness resolutions rarely stick. One study conducted by the University of Scranton found that just eight percent of people follow-through with their New Year’s resolutions.

So how do you get to the point where, like Croteau, you can’t live without exercise—even when it comes at some sacrifice? We asked a personal trainer, a yoga instructor and Croteau himself for advice on how to make 2019 the year you conquer the mountain.

Put your mind to it

Make no mistake: The battle of the bulge can often be won (or lost) before you ever set foot in the gym. Our experts say there is plenty of psychology behind successfully reaching your fitness goals.

“When you decide to make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, or get in better shape, most people are taking the approach of viewing themselves as an out-of-shape-person trying to work out,” Croteau says. “So in their mind, they are out of shape. Then, the first time they struggle at the gym, they quit because they saw themselves as that person.”

His advice: See yourself for who you want to be, even if you aren’t there yet. Call it positive visualization, or affirmations, but Croteau says picturing yourself as a fit and healthy person will get you through the tough days early on.

“When you think of yourself as an unhealthy person, believe it or not, your subconscious will do everything it can to keep the identity you have,” he says. “To be successful, you have to decide you are a fitness person, and believe it. Then it isn’t a temporary effort, it is a new lifestyle.”

If you count yourself among the many people whose mind is filled with negative thoughts associated with working out, Nancy Maisano has some advice. Maisano, a certified yoga instructor with Buffalo-based Yogis in Service, says she encourages her clients to engage in meditation on a daily basis as part of not just their fitness routines, but as part of their lives.

“It all starts with mindfulness, to start each day being still, clearing your mind to reflect and feel gratitude,” she said. “People focus on what they want to look like, or the dress they want to fit into, but for me, it all begins with inside, and when you take care of the inside, the outside falls into place.”

Do your homework

January will bombard you with advertisements for gym memberships. No money down! First month free! Only $10 per month! Note, however, that all three of our experts warned against price shopping for a gym.

“I’ve known people who join a big gym, for example, and it just isn’t for them—they prefer a small studio,” said Kelly Tomlinson, the owner of Brierwood Training and Wellness Center in Hamburg. “So, my advice is to find a place where you are going to be comfortable.”

Many gyms—large and small—offer free trial classes or limited memberships, so it’s easier than ever to try before you buy.

**Related read: How gym memberships (and their prices) differ

Make fitness fun

If you hate to run, stay away from the treadmill. If bikes aren’t your thing, skip the spin class. Following through is less about what you are doing and more that you are doing something.
“Find something that is interesting to you and that makes you want to go,” Tomlinson says.

Among the interesting options in Buffalo is an increasingly free number of yoga classes, many offered outdoors in the summer months. Class Pass is another new option—a membership service that enables you to try out a variety of workout classes and studios each month.

**Related read: Yoga with goats

Pace yourself

The fastest way to ensure failure is to go from the couch to trying to run five miles on a treadmill on day one.

“If you aren’t working out, and you’re eating poorly, and suddenly you decide you are going to the gym five to six days a week, that isn’t going to work,” Tomlinson says. “We always say take baby steps. So, if you’re not working out at all, maybe start with one or two classes a week and slowly build yourself up.”

Walk the walk

If you want to succeed in 2019, our experts all agree, fitness is more than an hour marked on a calendar. It is a lifestyle change.

“Getting healthy doesn’t end when you walk out the front door of the gym,” Croteau says. “Especially as you get older, and your body changes, it becomes even more important to eat well, to get the right amount of sleep and do all of the other things to stay healthy beyond exercise.”

The fallout from failing to walk the walk will extend beyond your own physical body.

“If you’re not loving and taking care of yourself,” Maisano says, “you won’t have anything to give to the other people in your life.”

**Related read: Self care tips with a local twist

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