I wrote this article 7 years ago now (7 years!) and at the time it got a lot of reaction. For some reason I like to dig it up every year and reminisce. It is kind of like looking at my debs photos, I cringe, laugh and almost sympathetically look back at them thinking, I really didn’t have a clue.
This is the first year that I have read that article and mainly just winced and cringed. Like I said, it got a lot of reaction – obviously very mixed. I had irate people that I didn’t know email me and accuse me of being arrogant and self righteous. I had other people get in contact to THANK me for writing the article. Admittedly almost all of the people that got in touch to like, share and pat me on the back were other gym owners.
There was a lot going on when I wrote this. For full transparency, at the time I was frustrated with where I was at but I was mainly scared. Actually, I was absolutely shitting myself. That was my first year going out on my own and I was dealing with now familiar cycle of a significant chunk of members pausing / cancelling their membership for a month as the Christmas festivities became their priority. That particular year I was completely broke. Embarrassingly I had no money to buy presents for anyone (thankfully I was single!) but I couldn’t even treat my family, who were a great support to me when I was trying to get the gym up and running.
I see it every Christmas on social media, various gyms using numerous strategies to try and keep their members in the gym or offering vouchers to get a little cash flow to offset the yearly dip in their income when it seems like the rest of the world are getting a bonus. And it really reminded me about my own article when I saw one gym owner posting a particularly angry reminder not to drop training for the next few weeks. I cringed when I read it, then I remembered my classic Christmas hit, and cringed harder.
My stance hasn’t particularly changed now but how I would deliver that message has. Also this pattern is unfortunately something that won’t go away and from a problem solving point of view, I am figuring out ways how to limit the damage for everyone. I still feel the various emotions of frustration and annoyance when I get emails telling me that people are gone for a few weeks but then this is quickly replaced by thoughts of how to set people up to return having done the least amount to damage their own goals as possible.
Don’t get me wrong, I will absolutely go out for drinks over Christmas and will eat my bodyweight in junk before the New Year but I will do what I can to limit the damage – one easy thing will be to train consistently through this period and just stay active.
The purpose of this post is not to guilt people or vent, it is as much to say that all of us gym owners are very much human and invest a lot more than just time into making everyone that walks through our doors better. We are human. We get upset, hurt, offended when we invest a lot only for people to break the ties in a heartbeat but that is also business and at the end of the day, no matter how much we love what we do and feel as though it is our calling – if we don’t treat it like a business, we won’t be able to help as many people as we could.
Also for the sake of gratitude, I also want to thank all of the amazing gym members out there where the thought of skipping a week, let alone a month hasn’t crossed your minds. Many of you guys have helped my own business stay afloat in the early days and for that I will be forever grateful.
In terms of keeping things on track / limiting damage / whatever way you want to look at it… there are a few things that will help. As with a lot advice on this stuff – especially nutrition, it is contextual.
- Move more. I have written about this before but it is a good idea to increase your daily activity if you are going to be consuming more calories or not getting to the gym to workout.
- Use a calorie tracker. I know the new thing is to hate Myfitnesspal but I don’t really give a shit. Right now it is a good idea to keep an eye on just how many calories are going in and if you are hitting Guinness Book of Records – style numbers, maybe use a bit or restraint.
- On the above, if you have a big party or an event coming up that you know you will be drinking daily caloric totals, maybe go lighter on food throughout the day.
- If you are going on a session, I feel it is the responsible thing at the very least to suggest that you should maybe have a glass of water between drinks. No one does this and I am waiting for someone to produce the pictures of me drinking a pitcher of beer at our party…
- Fasted cardio. I know I know… it has been scientifically debunked BUT bodybuilders have been doing this for years and getting good results. Maybe skip breakfast and walk to work or go for a walk or LIGHT jog on an empty stomach first thing.
Some other seasonal considerations …
Enjoy time with family. I know some folks have done depressing audits working out just how much time they have left with parents etc. Especially if you live away or don’t get to see family regularly, enjoy the time with them.
Something I am trying to do this year too – pick a few old friends that you have lost touch with and arrange to meet them for a coffee or lunch. I think we are all guilty of losing tough and getting caught up in the pace of life. Use the Christmas season as an opportunity to catch up. It is way more important and fulfilling than just watching someone else’s life through the lens of Instagram.
Finally, and I don’t want people thinking I have gone completely soft!! Generally the folks that do disappear ‘to live a little’ and come back in January / February are the ones that are living a little every weekend of the year. If people have family commitments or other things have popped up then deal with them guilt free – I am not judging anyone at all, these are observations from 15 years in the game. If you are getting triggered, ask yourself why. I am here to help and getting people to stay accountable and ask the difficult questions is part of that, trust me, I don’t let myself off the hook there either. None of us are perfect.
If you are in a cycle where you find yourself every January on the back foot and desperate to lose holiday weight, you should probably have that awkward discussion with yourself.
Much like scenarios where I have seen people in a caloric deficit Monday to Friday and then go apeshit on a Saturday night and throw them into a SURPLUS for the week, I have seen people do the same thing in a year.
If you are thinking about it in terms of money – is saving a months gym membership really saving it if you have undone all of the time and money invested into training in the months leading up to December?
And one of the harsh realities of life is that – that I am discovering first hand, if you are in your 30s as opposed to your 20’s, you could well be looking at up to Easter to get back to where you were at, you won’t bounce back in a month. Well, you might but if you are taking a month off training to go on the lash, you probably aren’t the type of personality to do that in the time required.
Thankfully I am in a situation where I don’t feel the pinch like I used to and I would welcome some down time of my own but the gym here is open thought Christmas and the New Year (as I am sure most gyms are) and really there is no reason not to get a few training sessions in during a week. That was one of the reasons why we posted up our Christmas workouts – a way to get a sweat going and burn a few extra calories to battle the extra coming in. Even if you are not a member here, you can follow these workouts on our facebook and instagram pages.
We want folks to enjoy their holidays – WE want to enjoy our own holidays. I understand how difficult this time of year can be for people to stay on track but I always come back to this, it is a case of consistency over perfection. If you have been training hard and eating well for the majority of the year than you have more wiggle room now, if not then it is your call but you can start to build habits now to take into 2019. If you are genuinely struggling to make changes, I would recommend this book.
Also, if you are away for the Christmas break, enjoy it. We will be here in January and waiting for your return.