Why you should start your new fitness program before the New Year

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If you’re looking to start or restart a fitness habit in the new year, here’s the best advice you’ll get all month: start now. Yes, now, in the midst of the holiday season and year-end chaos. Yes, now that no one else is on it. Yes, now, although you may not even have decided exactly what you want to do or how to do it. It’s perfect now.

Starting now lets you figure out what you want

Even if you think of January as the time when you start fresh in fitness and life, you can think of December as your sandbox, the place where you test out ideas and think about what you really want.

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If you haven’t been to the gym in a while, go now. Explore the place, try out the machines, take a look at the class schedule. Heck, take a course or two without promising yourself if you think you’ll be back. If you haven’t been to the gym yet, visit a few different ones and don’t rush to make a decision.

Experimentation is valuable; it teaches you about yourself and for what you do. Maybe you thought you were going to start couch-to-5K training in the new year, but now you’ve fallen in love with the exercise bike. Maybe you were going to do a beginner routine on the machines at your gym, but you picked up the barbell and now you’re thinking you might want to spend some time learning to use the squat rack instead.

You’ll appreciate the mental health benefits

December is a stressful time for many of us, whether it’s good stress, bad stress, or a combination. I spend the last month of the year constantly slapping myself on the forehead and saying “Oh well, I have to this too!” where “it” is choosing a health insurance plan, or completing a project for a year-end deadline, or attending a children’s holiday concert. I know I’m not the only one.

At first, it may seem like incorporating multiple workouts each week will add to the stress. But training is actually the easiest thing to put on your calendar: there’s no prep and no homework. You just have to show up and do something. Literally schedule it if needed and keep that appointment with you. Exercise is a stress reliever, and establishing an exercise routine likely will decrease the general stress you experience in your life.

Starting your routine when you are busy will also keep you honest. Are you really are you going to drive to that gym across town? If you can make it through December, you know the routine is a keeper. On the other hand, if you find yourself skipping the drive to go jogging in your neighborhood or doing push-ups and kettlebell swings at home, then maybe you can stick with it in the future.

You will beat the rush

Gyms are busy in January; it is simply one of the natural rhythms of the world. Instead of trying to get a treadmill when everyone else wants it too, why not start while you have the space to yourself? Learn how to navigate the gym when it’s just you and a few regulars.

Then when it starts to get crowded after New Years, you’ll already know what’s up. Instead of wondering if there’s a pair of 2.5-pound plates somewhere, you’ll know that the gym has two pairs and that you can usually find one of them on the last bench in the row.

Plus, by then you’ll have figured out your routine and preferences. You know which classes you want to sign up for since you’ve tried them all; you know what to wear for cold weather because you’ve been through a few. You know it’s not the end of the world if you get a cold and have to miss a workout because you’ve got a few weeks of consistency under your belt and you know you’ll be back. You’ll get things done with confidence, and that’s because you started this process a whole month ago. Or, in other words, now.

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