JANUARY is the month for new beginnings, fresh challenges and of course, the obligatory New Year’s resolutions.
Thousands of people across the country have already flocked to their local gym in a bid to shed their festive pounds, but how many of them will survive even the first month?
The key to being able to stick to the most popular of all resolutions – losing weight and getting fit – is, according to fitness experts, enjoyment, which is why training in a gym or going for a jog is not everyone’s cup of tea.
Having fun while making a new circle of friends is one of the top ways of making sure a new resolution gets off the starting blocks, they say. And finding physical activities which deviate from the norm is a great place to start.
Irish dancing guru Dianne Newman believes her hobby is the perfect way for people to lose weight, get fit, and more importantly, stick at it.
She has been dancing since she was four years old, and has been running her Absolutely Legless classes in the Capital since 1997.
“Going to the gym or going for a run is quite lonely,” she says. “But while you may come to my classes on your own, you certainly won’t be on your own for long.”
Mrs Newman, 46, runs three classes, including a new one for beginners at Dancemasters Studios on Restalrig Drive.
“Over Christmas and New Year you get a lot of people looking to join,” Mrs Newman says.
“I had an email the other day from a lady who did Irish dancing as a child and left and now it’s one of her New Year resolutions to get back into it again.
“It’s a great way of building your stamina and toning your body, especially the bottom half of your body.
“You can take it at your own pace too.
“People see Riverdance and think they would never be able to do that, but it’s perfectly feasible that you can do it, even if you have never danced before.”
Musselburgh resident Mrs Newman says the most important part of her classes is making sure everyone has fun and makes friends because they are more likely to come back.
“A lot of people want to do something that’s a bit sociable,” she explains.
“One of the things that I’m strict on is that it’s inclusive for everyone. I recognise that maybe if you’re a bit older or overweight, you may feel self-conscious about it, but it doesn’t matter what size, shape, age or background you’re from, it’s for everyone.
“We have 16-year-olds dancing with 60-year-olds, it’s great. It’s a fun way to get fit and they adore it.
“People tell me they enjoy it because it’s an opportunity to perform, an opportunity to get back into fitness, and an opportunity to make friends.
“It’s about having fun and having a laugh.”
Of course dancing is not everyone’s cup of tea, and for those looking to find a more extreme brand of fitness regime an increasingly popular alternative to pumping iron in the gym is to brave the great outdoors and join the growing band of British Military Fitness (BMF) members.
This is no easy option – members not only have gruelling training sessions run by ex-army instructors to contend with, but they also have to do it in all weathers and in full view of the public.
But Kieron Ross, Scotland area manager, says BMF’s challenges are also its appeal.
Edinburgh has 500 BMF members who train in the Meadows, Holyrood Park and Inverleith Park. A lunchtime session also takes place at the Edinburgh Business Park two days a week.
Mr Ross, from Stockbridge, says: “I was a member of a gym and my friend introduced me to British Military Fitness and loved it.
“My fitness really improved from the word go.”
After a year of being a member, Mr Ross, a former physical training instructor with the army, asked whether he could become an instructor and after just six months of doing that job, he became the regional manager for Scotland.
He says January is the busiest time of year for new members signing up, and he is expecting the number of members in the Capital to increase by around ten per cent this month alone.
“January is definitely the month where our website gets the most hits and we get the most new members,” explains 37-year-old Mr Ross.
“It is the biggest month of the year for the fitness industry.
“A lot of people will be joining a gym this month but after three months, they are going to be pretending, and after six months, most of them will have left altogether.
“Where BMF is different is that we try to hold on to our members for longer and retain their fitness for longer.”
Holding on to members is easy, according to Mr Ross, because of the vibrant social scene open to BMF members, who regularly meet for nights out or adventure days.
“For a lot of people, it’s about the social side of things as well because it’s group training,” he says.
“A lot of people come along to meet other people. All my friends now are BMF members or instructors.
“I’m a firm believer in the social side of it because to keep someone engaged in fitness, they have to enjoy it.
“We have a lot of nights out and special events like hill walking or orienteering up at the Pentlands.
“Each park has a Facebook community as well. It helps retention for us.”
He adds: “The group training aspect also makes you push yourself a bit more.
“There’s usually about 15 people in a class, so when you have another 14 people training with you, you don’t want to let the side down.
As with Mrs Newman’s Irish dancing classes, Mr Ross says BMF is open to anyone, of all fitness abilities.
“People have a lot of preconceptions about it being too difficult and they think you have to be fit before you come along.
“But we have three distinct groups – beginner, intermediate and advanced – so you can turn up, whatever fitness level you are at, and there will be people there the same as you.”