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Members of Life Time in Eden Prairie take part in a water aerobics class. Life Time and other fitness centers have a surge in memberships and attendance in January.

Exercise more. Eat better. Lose weight. Besides being general advice from your family doctor, those three goals are also the most common New Year's resolutions, according to a poll by NPR and The Marist Poll in 2018. That makes sense to Angie Thompson, the owner of Vault Fitness in Eden Prairie.

"It affects so many parts of our lives," including energy level, mood, and physical ability, she said. "In the end, that's what everybody wants, a better quality of life."

All those people resolving to take better care of their bodies makes January a busy month at gyms and fitness centers in Eden Prairie. The owners and managers of three Eden Prairie workout hubs − Vault Fitness, Life Time and the Eden Prairie Community Center − said the key to capitalizing on that New Year energy is more work than just signing up new members, though.

"When we see an increase in membership, we always set up new members with a trainer for a goal setting session," Thompson said. That helps people who are returning from a workout routine or starting for the first time focus on realistic goals rather than an unfeasible resolution.

"Even when they know what to do, life gets busy. It's easier when you have that trainer waiting for that training session," she explained.

There's a similar strategy at play at Life Time, said Ryan Deshler, the general manager of Life Time Fitness in Eden Prairie. Each new member has an hour-long meeting with a staff member to discuss their exercise history, fitness goals and nutrition when they join Life Time.

New Year's resolutions are often aspirational, which is great in theory but can be difficult to achieve, Deshler said. Instead, Life Time encourages members to think of "one positive action" they can take, like committing to one workout a week rather than six, to work toward their goal.

"That thing hanging over their head might deter them from coming into the club," he added. By dividing the journey into smaller steps, "you're essentially laying a foundation for the house of your resolution, and you can build on that."

Valerie Verley, the Eden Prairie Community Center's manager, sees that in action. While the Community Center's fitness center sees an uptick in activity and memberships in January − so much that a back-office membership employee starts helping out at the front desk to assist new members − it's back to its regular levels a few months on.

"People's resolutions sometimes don't last that long," Verley said.

Thompson agreed.

"Most gyms, by March, April, start to see a decline in memberships," she said.

That trend is less pronounced at Vault, in part because of its 34 contract trainers who are bringing in clients year-round, she added.

Having trainers guide new members also helps lessen the divide between the "gym-educated" members, who have established workouts and know their way around the weight room, and people who are new to exercise and may be intimidated by the new surroundings.

"I think that takes away from the anxiety about the busyness of the gym at the beginning of the year," Thompson said. "Our gym is a very good depiction of how we don't have that."

The Eden Prairie Community Center has another strategy for keeping its members coming back: Catering to the whole family, from birth to 100. A busy parent might not be able to find time in their schedule for a group fitness class or a quick workout, Verley explained, but the Community Center offers child care for children ages 6 months to 7 years for up to two hours, which gives a caretaker time to work out without worrying about their charges wandering into the path of a zumba move.

"We're trying to make it less of a well-kept secret," Verley said. "We have something for everybody."

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