FRIDAY, Sept. 2, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Joining a gym is the first step for many people interested in losing weight or getting in better shape. But for many, joining is also the last step they take, said Drew Baker, general manager of the West Salem Courthouse Athletic Club in Salem, Ore.
Some come once or twice but quickly become discouraged by their lack of progress, Baker said. Others don't show up at all.
"There's an idea that if I start paying this bill, I'll start going," Baker said. "People feel a sense of relief when they sign that contract, but I don't think everyone knows the commitment it takes to get the results they're looking for."
Baker sees it as part of his job to find some way to motivate everyone who's paying good money to be a member of his club. Managing people's expectations, he said, is important in keeping them motivated.
"People sometimes overshoot and burn themselves out in a couple of weeks," Baker said. "We'd rather you start slow and set attainable early goals, with the understanding that those are not the end goal."
For example, a new member might walk a nine-minute mile on a treadmill on Monday and then shoot for an eight-minute mile on Wednesday, he said.
"We just want you to be here," Baker said. "Get a small win and build on that. A lot of people label themselves as overweight and tell themselves that they're not capable of some things. These small wins help redefine their identity."
Baker said he also urges new members to join group exercise activities, which include such things as step aerobics, spinning, water aerobics and kickboxing.
"They are a great way to stay motivated," he said. "You've got a crowd of people all going in the same direction, and that can be a big motivation for people. You don't want to let your friends down by not showing up for class. Or maybe you know someone in the class and try to keep up with them."
Baker's gym also tracks members' attendance, to help keep them honest. "We track everyone who comes through our doors," he said. "We won't stalk you or anything, but we will shoot you an email to see why you haven't come in for a while."
And to help people who do attend regularly, the club makes fitness coaches available so that people can change up their workout routine if it's growing stale or they're in danger of dropping out because of boredom.
"You've got somebody there to shoot ideas off of," he said. "A lot of people find that very valuable."
A companion article offers more on the health benefits of exercise.