Your Gym Wants Your New Year's Resolution To Fail. Here's Why

January 3rd 2015

ATTN: Staff

How can a gym that only fits 300 people at once have 6,500 members? What if everyone came on the same day? Wouldn't they be in trouble?

Gyms know this won't happen, as Planet Money reports. In fact, their business model depends on people not showing up. That's why gyms spend so much time marketing to people who won't use the gym very much. It didn't always used to be this way. At one time, gyms were viewed as a the domain of body builders and workout freaks. Today, they need casual people who will pay a monthly bill even if they never go to the gym.

"For the longest time, the design was around the sweat,", Rudy Fabiano, an architect who designs gyms all over the world, told Planet Money. "Twenty-five years ago...clubs could be very intimidating. Remember there were the baggy pants that everybody had and the bodybuilders would bring their own jug of water?"

Why is it so hard to keep the New Year's resolution to work out?

Although 40 percent of Americans make New Year's resolutions, only 8 percent keep them. It's particularly difficult for us to stick to adaptive resolutions, which requires us to change our daily behavior, versus technical resolutions, which involve accomplishing a specific goal. Becoming a gym rat requires an adaptive change because you need to change your routine. As a result, it's easy to fail at your resolution to work out more often. That's why so many people sign up for gym memberships in January yet stop going by March. Gold's Gym, for example, reported to ABC News that they see a 40% increase in foot traffic nationwide after January 1. 

"I notice a very large spike in customers around New Year's," said Tim Holt, a personal trainer in New York City. "Gyms often rely on December and January for most of their yearly business. More members equal more personal training sessions, which increases profit for the gym and trainers."

As Quartz points out, the average gym member would be better off paying a fee each time they worked out instead of the flat, monthly bill:

The average gym attendance ends up being lower than 4.8 times a month, according to a 2005 study by economists from Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley. This means for most users, paying the seemingly steeper price for one-time entry, or a monthly renewal, would be more convenient. Instead, the well-meaning couch potatoes subsidize the cost of memberships for people who actually attend the gym regularly....

So if you're planning on signing up for a gym this month, just know that each time you don't show up, you're just making it cheaper for this guy to work out:

Ronnie Coleman