Gym Dandy

It's New Year's resolution time again, and now we have to revisit the same goals we set last year. Our personal favorite is to lose weight, and we've succeeded--and failed, and succeeded again, and failed again. Oddly enough, though, we never could yo-yo for real. But maybe you understand our plight. Does any of this sound familiar? You've fought the battle of the bulge so long you can't remember what started the war. (Hint: It probably was dipped in chocolate.) You've tried every diet (more than once). And you've counted carbs for such a long time that you've started listing Dr. Atkins as your family physician.

So what's going on? Why aren't the pounds dropping as promised? Could it be that you've turned being a couch potato into an art form and you haven't seen the inside of a gym since before everybody loved Raymond? C'mon, you know that laughing at bad sitcoms doesn't even burn enough calories to work off a garden salad with low-fat dressing. If it did, we wouldn't be eating garden salads.

Well, unhand that remote control. It's time to get moving. And 24 Hour Fitness has an offer that could give you a jump-start to cultivating a whole new you--or it could be just another project you start but never finish. If you don't mind dealing with crowds, waiting in long lines, observing the mating ritual that seems to be the goal of many gym-goers and constantly comparing your body with the extra-buff laser-hair-removal mavens who frequent such establishments, then 24 Hour Fitness' Free Fitness Days could be the answer you've been looking for. Beginning December 30 and continuing through January 1, 24 Hour Fitness is opening all 300 of its locations nationwide to the public. That means you can work out for free. No fees. No memberships. No excuses. Not that you can turn your life around in three days, but hey, it's free, and maybe, just maybe, the spandex-clad masses will provide the motivation you've been craving.

Free Fitness Days offer access to all of the clubs' facilities, including free-weights, cardiovascular machines and group exercise classes. But if you're a newcomer to the gym, all these amenities could be a little overwhelming. So the first thing you need to do, says Dr. Kevin Steele, vice president of sports marketing for 24 Hour Fitness, is introduce yourself to a trainer and state your goals and objectives. The trainer can then lead you down the appropriate path, depending on whether you want to lose weight, build upper-body strength, etc. But your workout should be fun, too. "The key to starting an exercise program is to find something you enjoy doing," Steele says.

The California-based health club, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, offers Free Fitness Days annually. And Steele says the reason for the promotion is to get people excited and interested in a healthy lifestyle. "We recognize that there is a growing concern about obesity and diabetes in this country, and we want to help address that..." Which is incredibly nice of 24 Hour Fitness. Silly, cynical us--we thought it was just a way to build profits by attracting new business. Thanks, 24 Hour Fitness. And Merry Christmas to you, too.