NEWS- New Year's vows: Get fit-- for a month anyway

Lizzie Clark had to turn some folks away from Bikram Yoga Charlottesville.

While December is the busiest time for retailing, it's generally believed fitness-oriented businesses such as yoga studios and gyms do their biggest business in the new year. But do they?

In the four years that Michaela Curran Grubbs and Lizzie Clark have been teaching yoga downtown, they've seen class enrollments swell every January at their Bikram Yoga studio. While they've had to turn people away every January since they opened, 2008 was the first year they have had several maximum-capacity days, including one Saturday evening class were they "ended up turning away around 15 people," Clark says. 

Although Clark says that they "love" the increase in business every January, she adds that they do not plan the onslaught into their budget; rather, "the rush is a wonderful bonus that certainly makes things easier come February."

Many local companies benefit as people flock to shed holiday pounds and act on their resolutions to get fit and change their lifestyle. But while January seems to be a key time for some, Atlantic Coast Athletic Club (ACAC) sees people starting their resolutions as early as November.  According to membership director Kelly Kyriacopoulos, folks realizing they might gain as much as 10 pounds over the holidays often try to start fighting early. 

Mark Lorenzoni, owner of Ragged Mountain Running Shop and volunteer coach for the Charlottesville 10-Miler training program, agrees with Kyriacopoulos. October is one of the biggest months for training registration, with about 250 people signed up to train for the 10-mile race this March, but lately only 6 or 8 people a week have been coming in, Lorenzoni says. He dismisses the notion of a post-New Year's onslaught as a "myth."

But Marty Roddy of the Charlottesville Running Company says the store stays "Christmas busy" for several weeks after the holidays. And Francesca Conte, co-owner of the shop and organizer of upcoming races including the Charlottesville Marathon, says that in January her store experiences a "rush of entrants in the races, in the store, and in the 'yoga for runners' class."

At Studio 206, an exercise studio, owner Chris Friedman says that business increases in January, but she views it as more of a "gradual build" that carries through the spring.

But does everyone stick with it?

According to the folks at Bikram Yoga, only 648 exercisers showed up the first week of February, compared to 947 students who bounced in the last week of January.  The 299-student drop suggests that any New Year's bubble deflates– and quickly.

Where they were once turning away eager exercisers, Bikram's Clark explains that activity will "taper off once UVA students go on spring break."

ACAC's Kyriacopoulos, however, believes that this trend is not due to a change in commitment, but rather reflects a change in the weather.  "People want to be outside more as it gets warmer," she says.