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A Familiar Exercise : Health Clubs Brace for Annual Onslaught of New Year's Resolutioners


It happens every year, as certain as death and taxes and the swallows returning to Capistrano. Vast multitudes of the hard-bodily-challenged will put down the chips and beer, switch off the tube, haul themselves off their couches and try to make good on that New Year's resolution to finally, finally get in shape.

They're called "resolutioners," and at health clubs across the Westside employees and patrons alike are bracing themselves for the onslaught of the thundering, flabby herd.

"It happens like clockwork," says Michael Neitzke, general manager of the Spectrum Club in Santa Monica, an upscale, pastels-and-chrome fitness center. "In January, club utilization will be up almost 50% more than what you usually see."

"All the health clubs are busy this time of year," says Rene Van Sauter, manager of L.A. Fitness in Marina del Rey. "It's a part of the business. You try to go to almost any club, especially the cheaper ones, and they'll be packed."

The annual post-New Year stampede to the health clubs is either bitter or sweet, depending on your perspective. It's sweet for health club owners, who collect new membership or "initiation" fees of up to $300 or more from the resolutioners, and/or monthly dues of $14 to $55 or more.

For the already hard-bodied veteran fitness club members, however, resolutioners are a pain in the taut, perfectly-shaped gluteus maximus. Especially in the 5 to 8 p.m. "prime time" hours, swarming resolutioners will tie up the treadmills, loiter on the exercise bikes, dally over the weight machines and in general make it tough to get an hour's workout in anything under an hour and a half.

"Oh yeah, it's a lot more crowded this time of year," says Susan Molina-Beck, 30, of Malibu, a sales representative for a medical supply company who works out two hours every day--that's right, two hours--at the Santa Monica Spectrum Club. "All the treadmills are full, you have to share all the machines. You can always spot (the resolutioners). They're the ones whose faces are all red and who can barely breathe."

"I usually try to (work out) early in the morning" to avoid the resolutioner crush, says Charlene Solomon, 44, a Cheviot Hills writer and veteran health clubber. "It's a lot more crowded now than usual."


Most of the veterans insist that, despite the hassle, they wish the resolutioners well. Still, within the health club world the term "resolutioner" has assumed such pejorative overtones that these days no one will ever admit to being one.

One exception, sort of, is Santa Monica lawyer Mike Zweig.

"Yeah, I'm a resolutioner," says Zweig, 41, as he reads a newspaper while pedaling an exercise bike at the Spectrum Club. But he quickly adds, "Every year I resolve to keep going." Zweig, it turns out, has been working out for years.

If there is an upside to the annual resolutioner invasion, it is that lurking in the back of every health club veteran's mind is the certain knowledge that it will not last. Everyone knows that long before the flowers bloom in the spring, the majority, perhaps the vast majority, of resolutioners will be out of the clubs and snugly re-ensconsed on their couches.

"It'll taper off by the end of the month," 33-year-old hospital administrator and veteran health clubber Annie Orders predicts confidently. "It always happens that way."

Most veteran health club patrons say the resolutioner dropout rate is near 90%. Health club managers, perhaps predictably, are more optimistic.

"It used to be you'd have a 90% dropout rate," says Van Sauter of L.A. Fitness. "But these days, with people becoming more health conscious, I would say that probably 50% to 60% will stay with it. Our job is to make sure they stay."

Although the dropout estimates vary, everyone agrees that the soft-bodied stand no chance of firming up if they don't get off the couch. So if you made a New Year's resolution to get in shape, maybe you should head for the health club.

On second thought, maybe you should wait until, say, March.

It'll be a lot less crowded then.

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