Christmas is behind us, and as the last of our extended family and friends depart for whatever normal was back before we dragged a tree into our house and started living off of butter cookies and eggnog, we only have one significant fitness obstacle of 2017 left ahead of us: the trailing end of the holiday season we lovingly refer to as New Years.

Of course, by the time you read this, there’s a good chance that you’ve already made it through the festivities of New Year’s Eve, and if you’re lucky, you either woke up without a hangover or you’ve already tempered the worst parts of it.  How do I know that?  Come on guys, this is a fitness column… not even I am enough of a gym masochist to read one hungover.

So, the holidays are behind you, the hangover has subsided, what’s next?  Well, in the fitness world, January 1st is an awfully divisive date… it’s the one day a year that leaves everyone with a pair of running shoes stuck in one of two equally reprehensible groups: the “New Year, New Me” motivators, and the “new year’s resolutions are for chumps” counter-camp.  Full disclosure right from the get go, my inherent cynicism and year-round workout regime doesn’t just place me in the anti-resolution group, it secures me a senior position therein.

Throughout most of my twenties, when body fat was a thing I heard about on TV and I could get up in the morning without sounding like a bag of popcorn in the microwave, I’d strut my way into the gym on January 1st awash in a sea of New Year’s Resolution newbs.  I’d look down on the middle aged man with a spare tire as he tried to figure out how to turn on the stair master and I’d chuckle to myself as skinny armed businessmen added weight to the bar, only to give up two reps in and pull weight off once they realized they weren’t as strong as they thought.  In my mind, these guys didn’t belong there – the gym is for Alpha males, not these tourists that were lying to themselves about what they could accomplish, or how far they could go with a sail full of New Year’s naivete and a belly full of N.O. Explode.

I was an asshole.  Well, to be fair, I still am, but back then, I was an asshole that was also wrong.

Assholes or not, my friends and I had incredible New Year’s fashion sense.

If you’re a regular at your local gym, you’ll undoubtedly see a slew of new faces throughout the next month.  Gyms know this, and they’ll have extra trainers on staff to accommodate the influx of beginners with delusions of muscular grandeur… but here’s the thing, intermixed with those guys that promised each other they’d get back into high school shape together, that group of moms that are really only looking for a child-free place to complain about work, and the dudes that (for some reason) think jeans, work boots and a tank top are appropriate workout gear… there’s that guy, that girl that’s just starting a new chapter in his or her life.  For every dozen short timers, there’s that person that’s been waiting for a chance to convince themselves to get up off the couch and find out what they’re capable of.  For every gym full of newbs, there are a few people that’ll give you a run for your money in a few weeks, months or years.

Those are the people I root for on January 1st.  I get it, fitness isn’t important to all of us, but for some of us, we just need a chance to see how important it can be.  I’m not a natural athlete – in fact, back before I was a football player, a rugger, a fighter or a Marine, I remember standing awkwardly on the sidelines, convincing myself I didn’t care about sports because I knew I wasn’t any good at them.  It’s easy now, decades later, to pretend I’ve always been the Alpha Male flipping tractor tires and pounding protein shakes… but the truth is, I spent a good chunk of my childhood being afraid of that guy.  I was so worried about what the big guys would think of me if I tried, that I simply opted not to try at all.

I know, I know… it’s hard to believe THIS guy wasn’t just born an athlete, right?

I’m not the big, fit dude I was in my twenties now either.  It might be more appropriate to compare my thirty-something physique to an active lumberjack with an affinity for cookies (not all that far from the truth), but I do have a couple of things on 25-year-old me.  That guy may have had a six pack, but he also wore dumb clothes, slathered his head in hair gel and carried with him an undeserved sense of self satisfaction.  I don’t think I’d be friends with 25-year-old me, but if I was, I’d have one more thing on him too: I’m a hell of a lot stronger now.