In October 2010, my friend Angela finally coaxed me to go to Zumba with her after months of asking (read: borderline harassing) me to go. It was a special night for her: she had her Weight Watchers meeting that evening before Zumba class, and that night she achieved her goal of 100lbs lost. Because I knew she was close to the milestone, I went with her that night to cheer her on. What I didn’t anticipate was that I would immediately fall in love with Zumba – so much so that I did back-to-back classes that night. I’ve been doing some sort of dance fitness ever since.
It’s January, and for a lot of people that means New Year’s resolutions. This can be evidenced by the once-empty parking lots at gyms that are now packed with cars and the influx of new faces in workout classes. The gym I belong to is pretty well-attended no matter what time of year it is, but even I have seen an increase in class sizes when I go to dance. And it’s easy to gripe about having to park farther away, or needing to arrive earlier, to accommodate these new people who may not even stick around into mid-February…but instead, I think it’s a good idea to be welcoming to those people and to be excited that there are new people who are doing good things for themselves to kick off the new year.
Part of the reason I stuck with Zumba is because I received a warm welcome and a ton of support from the class regulars. Had I been treated like an outsider, I probably wouldn’t have lasted very long. And the same idea goes for new gym members. They deserve to be in the gym and in classes, just as much as we regulars do. They paid the fee to be there, they are looking for what we’ve found – a way to get exercise that they can commit to, that doesn’t fill them with hate and dread. So don’t be an asshole to new people at the gym. Show them kindness. Make room for them in classes. Show them that they’re welcome. It’ll help them become regulars themselves.