& opinion

Not for Sussex, reports James Charles. It's time to shape up.

The definition of a New Yearís resolution is a plan or a goal which you announce to friends, usually in the pub on a guilty Sunday night, which is unachievable or totally forgettable. I thought joining the gym was the perfect example. I always thought, like learning a language, helping a charity or trying to shrink those mobile bills, that the gym is one resolution thatís born to be broken.

Joining the gym is the embodiment of all that makes up a New Yearís resolution, because it involves long-term commitment in both time and money and will lead to eventual self improvement. Signing that gym membership form will make you fitter, healthier and more attractive.

My friends were clearly focusing on this sexy healthy thing when they cancelled coffee to go on their gym inductions last week. ĎYou should come along too, itís not that expensive, and youíll feel greatí. My gut reaction was to give them my supportive though sympathetic smile (which can, on a bad day Iím told, hint at constipation). Like Jordan trying to find that touch of class, I really thought my friends going to the gym regularly was never going to happen.

During Christmas the rules all change, and we are all allowed, even encouraged, to eat and drink more than we could have possibly imagined in an attempt to survive a week with the family. But this binge eating and drinking leaves us all with one hell of a hangover which can only be shifted with months of sweating it out with MTV and a rowing machine.

The big question is whether anyone will still be going after a couple more weeks or if this year could be another failure. ĎJanuary and February are the busiest times of the year because of post Christmas and New Yearís Resolutionsí confirmed a spokesperson from David Lloyd. But this year, they assured me, things may be different. Firstly, my friends arenít the only members of our prestigious University who are getting serious about their fitness. A highly scientific campus survey conducted last Monday reveals 25 per cent of Sussex students are planning on joining a gym this year (who havenít already). The campus gym alone was visited over 25,000 times last year. That must include the odd Afras dread-head who, Iím guessing, should be repulsed by the idea of running up an imaginary hill when you could be eating quiche and saving Palestine.

Itís not as though we donít have options once we decide to sign up. David Lloyd, the most expensive gym in Brighton, says that 20 per cent of their members are now students, and although the biggest, David Lloyd is only one of 22 gyms in Brighton that offer student rates, all competing to get you through their doors. Even Iím feeling this annoying flicker of guilt every time my flatmate trundles off to his big shiny marina health complex, although heís been going for years so in my mind doesnít count. Should I start spending seven hours every day pumping imaginary weights to get a better body? Iíd thank myself come next Christmas when I can fill out the scrumptious Marks and Spencer check knitted jumper, always in large, that my dad feels somehow obliged to give me.

This then could be the year to tear up the rule book, or at least where the gym is concerned. If this is true, and everyone is now pumping weights for serious, for more than just an excuse to shift that Christmas guilt, whatís changed? It looks like the shallow appearance-obsessed culture that we live in has finally got the better of us, and all the boys want to look like Eminem (especially with brown hair), and all the girls want to look like Holly Valance (definitely without the brown hair - nasty). Itís not what you think that counts, its how good you look thinking it. As one friend put it, ĎIíve got a trampolining competition in a few weeks and I want to look good in a leotardí.

The rush to join the gym might even be part of an overall attempt by Sussex students to get serious. For those in the second year, weíre facing up to the fact that we really arenít in the first year any more. Last term was like the first year, only more guilt - there was the added stress of the occasional lecture to attend, but it was hardly a priority. This term thereís actually work to be done, reading to discuss and deadlines that matter. Students are realising up and down the arts block (and in all those dark, mysterious science buildings on the Ďother sideí) that itís time to raise the stakes, and like another friend told me, the gymís great before coming to uni because all the exercise helps concentration (the enthusiastic nature of this comment made my stomach turn, but she might have a point).

For all of you who have already joined the gym, Good Luck, but the odds are against you. Iíll give you two months and a few heavy nights, and if youíre still going through March Iíll buy a carrot juice to celebrate. But for everyone whoís not, lie back in your chair safe in the knowledge that although your friends are putting themselves through all the stress and strain in an effort to improve themselves, the chances are theyíll be back next to you within a month, only with the extra guilt of having paid and not shown up. Joining the gym could still be the one resolution thatís born to be broken, and it might not get you today, it might not get you tomorrow, but February is a killing field for gym members, and if you can get through that you might really be on the road to being that Eminem or Britney look-alike you always dreamed of.