UI CRWC staff encourage healthy, small wellness-based goals after the new year

New Year’s Resolutions are often geared towards nutrition and fitness, but going to the gym to lose weight can be ineffective.


Matthew Hsieh

The sign in front of the University of Iowa Campus Recreation and Wellness Center on Monday Sept. 14, 2020. Students and the University of Iowa have had to adapt routines and procedures during the COVID-19 Pandemic to ensure student safety while maintaining fitness levels.

Madeleine Willis, News Reporter

While University of Iowa gyms see a spike in patrons around the new year, administrators at the UI Campus Recreation and Wellness Center say the number of gym-goers generally decreases by the end of February.

“In February, we see things fall off,” UI director of Recreational Services JT Timmons said. “We are intentional with support and positive reinforcement.”

Mallory Valentine, University of Iowa Campus Recreation and Wellness Center assistant director of strategic initiatives said student attendance from 2021 showed a gradual decrease from February to March. Attendance numbers dropped from 3,145 patrons on Feb. 1 to 2,961 on March 24 of 2021.

Valentine said the numbers continue to drop from around 2,900 in April to under 2,700 in May. At the beginning of the spring semester this year, the Rec had 5,247 visitors on Jan. 18.

Gymgoers who flooded the CRWC this January may be motivated by New Year’s resolutions, but quick resolutions geared toward nutrition and fitness may be ineffective. If a New Year’s resolution this year is to start exercising to lose weight, it may backfire if not approached correctly.

“There are many different ways of well-being. It is so much more than the objective of physical health. There are resiliency exercises, coping with stress,” Timmons said. “Everything needs to work in harmony, eating right, getting good sleep to establish overall well-being.”

He said the goal is to have people make healthy choices into healthy habits, leading to healthy lifestyles.

“It is too bad that now, so much has been placed on weight and body image, that what you see on TV is what you strive for,” Timmons said.

While it is OK for goals to change, Timmons said consistency is important in approaching wellness goals.

“When you have a big staircase to climb, you take it one step at a time,” Timmons said.

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Timmons said he believes preparation leading up to the goal is key to success. Another asset that is critical to the success of goals is when a person has someone to nudge them in the right direction.

“As a society, we need to help each other in order to be well,” he said.

Valentine said she encourages students and community members to continue being active all year round.

“As a department, our mission is to provide diverse recreational experiences that encourage active lifestyles,” Valentine said.

The UI Campus Recreation and Wellness Center offers athletic activities for student-centered lifestyles, including intramural sports and classes for weightlifting, yoga, and cycling, she said.

“We suggest people simply become healthier and happier versions of themselves,” Valentine said. “We want people to experience opportunities on campus and create an opportunity for people to be healthier.”

Haley Hines, UI Student Wellness behavioral health consultant and fitness specialist, encouraged better goal-setting processes in place of New Year’s resolutions. She said resolutions should resemble regular goals.

Regular goals are typically smaller, she noted, while New Year’s resolutions typically leave people burned out. People often go from doing nothing at all to asking a lot of themselves, she said.

Hines said goals should also be motivated by intrinsic factors, meaning nothing about physical appearance or based on the size of clothing should be a part of resolutions. Exercise, she added, shouldn’t be for extrinsic purposes.

Intrinsic motivations include feeling stronger and more confident, she said. Goals that are more enjoyable and are individualized are easier to stick with. She said everyone begins their journeys at different points, and fitness can affect everyone a little differently.

“Two people can follow the exact same fitness program and have completely different results, there’s a lot of other external factors that affect us,” she said. “Bodies come in all unique shapes and sizes which are based a lot upon genetics.”

A struggle for students is having a healthy relationship with exercise that can be maintained for a long time, Hines said.

“One thing that is really important is to be aware of fad diets and exercise trends that aren’t healthy,” she said. “For example, exercises that show drastic changes in short amounts of time. Too much exercise too fast damages our relationship with both food and exercise.”

There are different ideas of what health means, Hines said, but most stem from how one feels.

“Health goes far behind diet and exercise, during the new year we get wrapped up in nutrition and exercise, but there are so many ways to care for health,” she said.