For the next two weeks, your local gym is likely to be packed.  Heck, you might even be among this madding crowd, pushing and pulling on those Nautilus machine cords as if your life depended on it.  Because it does, doesn’t it? All of your marathoning and CrossFitting and Tough Mudder-ing friends likely never tire of reminding you of this fact, even if those reminders seem to be offered more for their sake than for yours.

The year 2015, like 2014 and 2013 before it, will be different.  When it’s over, you won’t be the same old you anymore.  Your love life will be much improved. You’ll go out more yet still manage to eat less and save money. You’ll pay off those student loans.  You’ll update your wardrobe. You’ll win friends and influence people.  You’ll climb the corporate hierarchy. You’ll find the job of your dreams. You’ll lease the apartment of your dreams. You’ll be elected president of your World of Warcraft guild.  When the sun sets on December 31, 2015, you’ll be able to rest assured that you’ve beaten the odds, the evens, and most of the imaginary numbers.

Maybe gyms aren’t actually about fitness—maybe they’re just big imagination domes where our superhero alter egos live.

But it all starts in the gym. The iron, as singer-songwriter Henry Rollins never tires of reminding us, holds the key to our reinvention.  If the love-handled slob staring back at you in the mirror stays the same, can you really believe you’re different? Without any superficial and highly visible changes in your physiognomy, how will others learn about the inner beauty you’ve begun cultivating?

So you make the trek to Planet Fitness or Anytime Fitness or 24 Hour Fitness or some other all-hours fitness facility.  The gym…on your schedule!  Want to run on the treadmill at 2 a.m.?  Sure, you’ve never run on it at 5 p.m. or 9 p.m. or any other hour fit for man or diurnal beast, but now’s the time.  For $20 to $40 a month, you can procure some hope.

The statistics, alas, tell us that hope is all you’re going to get.  Gyms profit by maintaining sizeable rosters of inactive members who nonetheless continue to pay their monthly dues; chances are you’re unlikely to be the exception to that rule.  But maybe that’s not the point.  Maybe gyms, a friend of mine remarked, aren’t actually about fitness—maybe they’re just big imagination domes where our superhero alter egos live in a faraway future that never is but just might…if only.  If only.

For those seven or eight months you remain an entry on your gym’s balance sheet, you have a chance.  It’s like when I began writing this article:  it could’ve been so good; it could’ve been anything! I might have written the best article you’d ever seen.  But as soon as a single world was committed to the project, it was too late.  This article won’t be the best, but just one more among millions, a concatenation of half-clever claims and spurious insights that you’ve assuredly seen (and skimmed) before.

The fear of finality is the reason we keep making resolutions.

And the same goes for the gym. Those illustrations of genital-free naked guys with highlighted muscle groups that are plastered on each Nautilus workout station represent an ideal that stays within your grasp until your first tug on the resistance cord. Once pulled, it’s done:  you know that you’ll never be that Barbie doll-crotched bodybuilder.  The game was over the minute it began, but take heart:  you can’t lose until you start playing.  Before you swing the bat or start the Street Fighter match, you just might be the best player in the world. Who could say for sure? And who would know the difference?

I believe this fear of finality is the reason we keep making resolutions. We make resolutions because we can’t deal with the aspects of our lives that are already resolved.  Perhaps we’re not beautiful, perhaps we are.  Perhaps we drink too much, perhaps we drink too little.  But these are the hard facts of life, and the new year, with all of the inflated credit card balances owing to months of holiday splurging and inflated waistlines owing to months of holiday gorging, is no time to face up to those.  No, it’s better by far to sign up for a gym and, in the words of Simpsons space alien and erstwhile presidential candidate Kang, “keep moving forward, not upward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling toward freedom!”

(Main image: Everett Collection/Shutterstock)