6 tips for getting through the January gym rush

“It was the best of times (January at the gym), it was the worst of times (January at the gym)” (with apologies to Charles Dickens).

Along with New Year’s Resolutions come busy gyms and over-packed group fitness classes. While I love the hustle and bustle of the January gym rush (new group participants! new clients! so many opportunities to share my passion for fitness with others!), I appreciate that not everyone enjoys queuing for a cardio machine or waiting for the squat rack.

Rather than let a crowded exercise space undermine your workout high, follow the tips below to get through the January gym rush.

  • Get out of the gym. If you really can’t stand the crowds, find something else to do. Hit the swimming pool or the local skating rink. Grab a friend and go for a run. Beg, borrow or buy an at-home exercise DVD or workout book (January’s a great time to build a better butt, hint, hint 😉 ). Quit your complaining and come back next month. The gym will still be here.
  • Switch up your schedule. Even in January, no gym is busy 24/7. Participant numbers are typically high first thing in the morning (the ‘before-work’ crowd), between 9 and 11 am (the ‘after-kiddrop-off’ crowd) and again, between 6 and 8 pm (the very busiest time at the gym where I work). Ask the weight room attendant at your gym when the quietest times of day are. Pick them for your workout for the remainder of the month. 
  • Switch up the order of your exercises. Ninety-percent of gym goers begin their workout on the cardio machines. Once cardio is done, they head over to the free-weights area or to the mirrors for core work and a stretch. Buck the trend and do your workout in reverse. Not only will you avoid the crush, you might just find yourself breaking through a few plateaus.
  • Create a flexible workout plan. Having a workout plan is crucial to a successful gym visit, but it’s also important to be flexible in your choice of exercises when the gym is busy. Being able to quickly substitute one exercise for another when you’re space or equipment-crunched will save you from having to wait out somebody else’s super long set without undermining your workout goals. Lat pull down machine busy? Grab a band, loop it over the chin up bar and practice assisted pull ups. Long line-up for the preacher curl? Barbell curls are your next best option.
January gym rush

For lots of free, realtime workouts videos you can do at home, check out my YouTube channel; http://youtube.com/user/fitknitchick

  • Keep it simple. Give me 3 sets of dumbbells, a stability ball and a yoga mat and I’ll give you a workout to challenge every muscle in your body. When there’s lots of competition for equipment, grab what you need and head to a corner of the room. No need to wait for a bench or the cable and pulley machine. No need to wade through the crowds. Think squats, pushups, ball crunches, chest and standing shoulder press, bicep curls and reverse flys. Save the complicated routines (and high-demand equipment) for February.
  • Change your perspective. Instead of viewing ‘newbies’ as a royal pain in the butt, think of them as future exercise buddies. People you can share your knowledge and passion with. People who may actually have something to teach YOU about being fit and healthy. Many a friendship (and romance) has started in the gym…

Are you a January gym ‘lover’ or ‘hater’?

Share your best tip for not letting the busy-ness of the new year’s crowd undermine your workout schedule.



  1. Great post. Love how a change of perspective can make such a powerful difference.
    Barbara recently posted…De-Cluttering: Clear Space Helps Clear The MindMy Profile

  2. Personally, the chaos overwhelms me and I steer clear. But, when I think about all the newbies my hope is they aren’t crushed by the chaos as well. It would be so easy to give up because it seems almost impossible to get equipment sometimes. If this is someone’s first gym experience, I cringe for them. Hopefully they’ll stick it out long enough to realize it’s not like that most of the time.
    Chrystal recently posted…Parenting Sucks!My Profile

    • Chrystal, it’s great that you know yourself well enough to do something else. At my gym, we try really hard to identify and help newcomers. I find that just reaching out to them makes it more likely that they’ll come back!

  3. It’s funny to me how people all rush to the gym in January but come March… Not so much. That being said, the increase of people at my gym hasn’t happened and I AM THRILLED – I really hate when there are so many people at the gym when I am there, TOO MUCH distraction!
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    • Ahh, I totally understand the distraction thing. I have a client who needs to work out with as little visual and auditory stimulation as possible. January is really tough for her. We aim for quiet times of the day, but it doesn’t always work out…

  4. I love January, because I get lots of new students, and I take it as my personal mission to make it fun enough for them to stay past the month!
    AlexandraFunFit recently posted…What’s the Best, Most Accurate Pedometer?My Profile

  5. since i go to the gym at 5:30 in the morning, i don’t usually have to deal with the usual january rush 🙂 it’d only annoy me if it prevented me from using equipment but kudos to everyone at the gym! 🙂
    Linz @ Itz Linz recently posted…Fit Gear for the New YearMy Profile

  6. Luckily I usually workout at home, but these tips are good for crowded hotel gyms when I travel.
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  7. Great post! I personally try to workout at home during this busy time: I do tabata training, dance workouts, etc. And when I go to the gym, it’s just to get my cardio done.

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    • I’m so impressed with people who can work out at home. I am NOT one of them! I thrive on the energy and motivation of my fellow gym goers and don’t really mind if there are lots of them there! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  8. LOVE THIS! Especially the last one. I work at a gym, so I personally love the January rush, but I can see it frustrating some of our members…I’ve even heard the term “resos” (say: re-zohs) thrown around with a bit of annoyance to describe those newbies that come in because of New Year’s resolutions. Months later, they’re all friends anyway. Can’t they all just hug up front in the name of fitness and health?! 🙂

    • I too find a busy gym energizing! And hope that all of those newbies translate into new clients and class participants!

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  10. Being flexible is the easiest tip for most of us. Learn a couple of new ways to work each muscle group and you’ll never been foiled by a busy gym again!


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