Anyone making a New Year's resolution to get into shape might want to follow John Earl's lead.
In a nearly empty Elite Health and Fitness gym on New Year's Eve, Earl squeezed a strength-training workout into his lunch hour. Earl wore a black tank top that did not hide his toned physique. He said he works out five to six times a week. In his 50s, Earl is in as a good a shape as ever, he said.
It's not like Earl was born a workout fanatic -- he didn't even start going to a gym regularly until he turned 40. And it's not like Earl loves every second he spends working out, either. Exercising is just something he has committed to because he realized being physically fit could improve his quality of life.
"No matter what walk of life you're in, you can be better at what you do if you are in shape," Earl Said. "It's in your mind. It's a decision you have to make. If health is a number one priority, then you should take care of that."
Earl said he got into working out through circuit training three times a week.
Angie Brennan, a personal trainer at The Fitness Place, said those trying to develop a workout routine should not overdo it in the beginning.
"Take baby steps. Get a trainer and plan it out," Brennan said. "Some people come in and start working out for two hours a day every day for three weeks. Then they quit because their body can't take it. You have to ease into it."
She said the treadmill is a good machine with which to begin. Brennan also said classes are a good way to ease into a routine and lessen that feeling of intimidation.
"It makes it more social and can make you feel more comfortable in the gym," Brennan said.
Many local gyms offer membership specials around the new year to encourage people thinking about starting an exercise routine to actually do it.
Alice Bitterich, recreation supervisor at the Kenai Recreation Center, estimated that membership increases by 10 percent to 15 percent in January. Likewise, Elite Fitness owner Kamichia Kinzie said her club sees a 15 to 20 percent increase in use around the new year.
"Membership has definitely picked up," said The Fitness Place front desk attendant Stephanie McGahan. "People who have never worked out ever are starting to come."
The people who already work out say they notice the influx of new exercisers that arrive with a new calendar.
"It's swamped in here right after New Year's for about two weeks," said Bryan Powers, 24, as he warmed up on an elliptical before a weight lifting routine.
Powers said he has been a gym regular since high school. "But then it starts to thin out and by February it's pretty much back to normal."
Some gyms offer programs to help people to get past the initial weeks and into a routine that can last a lifetime. Among others, The Fitness Place holds strength and fitness competitions. Elite Fitness has a boot camp program that begins in the middle of January, and it also offers personal training.
"We provide a place where people can change their lives," Kinzie said.
With commitment and some encouragement, Brennan said anyone can go from using this New Year's as motivation to begin working out to using the 2011 New Year's as reason to start training harder.
The key thing to remember, she said, is to go at your own pace.
At Elite Fitness, Karen Ellis was wiping herself down after a hearty cardio workout. She said she comes to the gym once or twice a week just to stay active. She looked across the gym at Earl, who curled a dumbbell.
"He works till he's dead," Ellis said. "I work until I'm a little sweaty."
Reporter Andrew Waite can be reached at email@example.com.
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