New Year, New You

Sticking to your New Year resolution with motivation from Never Give Up Training.
By Noel Bartocci
Photography By Alexa Nahas (


The closing months of a year are synonymous with many things — cooler weather, salted streets, and pumpkin spiced everything. But there’s another annual tradition looming just over the horizon, preparing to perk its little head up after all the holiday festivities fade away. More specifically, when you’re impressionable and ready to take on the world before any winter hangover sets in.

Of course, I’m referring to the dreaded promises many tend to make, but on which few follow through — New Year resolutions.

There’s something inherently hopeful about the end of a calendar year and the goals you set for yourself. Even the most skeptical of us tend to make a few promises on January 1. Sometimes, they’re about adding positivity, like eating healthier or learning to play an instrument. While other times, it’s about removing negativity, like quitting smoking or clearing bullies from your contacts list.

A more common goal is the desire to be a new, fitter you — a streamlined model that can ride that contiguous wave of the new year’s potential. We’re at our most willing and determined when the months cycle through and start anew, but far too often do we lose steam by the spring, sometimes falling back completely into destructive habits of old. If I’m being frank, it’s human nature to let behaviors lapse, especially if they’re difficult to adopt. So, how can you make this time different? How can you better sustain an encouraging mindset to greater effect?

For the staff at Never Give Up (NGU) Training, it’s all about staying engaged with your goals — be it engagement through personal interactions, new challenges, and/or technology. It’s all about whatever gets you to the figurative or literal finish line.

NGU is located at the corners of Cresson and Levering Streets. Owner, Ali Cook Jackson, founded it in 2012 as the next logical step for her burgeoning personal training services. Only a few shorts months later, the gym expanded to include a more motivating community.

In addition to personal training services, Never Give Up boasts at least seven different types of classes, including sport-specific training (triathlons or marathons, for example), as well as nutrition counseling. They take great pains in making sure they offer a full range of fitness training with every workout designed to accommodate every level of athleticism.

Not only can you sample their variety of classes, but because of the diverse groups, you’re also surrounded by teammates who can offer every type of perspective — from the class pro to the newbie. You’re all there, sweating together, feeding off of and learning from one another with routines meant to challenge everyone equally. It’s a setting that celebrates inclusivity and invites all comers.

This all encompassing, varietal workout experience is just one of the ways they keep their members motivated. We spoke with Ali and her manager, Macalla Curtis, (both certified personal trainers) about how they uniquely combat any naturally occurring human complacency in order to help people meet their goals.

During the course of our conversation, four key factors for success bubbled to the surface. These are four important realities one must keep in mind in order to help fortify your healthy progress against a mid-year relapse.

Which brings us to our first one:
1. Get comfortable enough to be uncomfortable
There are few things more intimidating than starting a new fitness class or routine. Stepping outside of one’s comfort zone (and staying there) is often the largest hurdle to climb when plotting out your fitness future. If you can find a place where you aren’t only comfortable enough to participate, but also comfortable enough to get UN-comfortable, then you’ve set yourself up for a better chance at success.

“NGU is a place we call a ‘home away from home,’” noted Ali. “We’re all on a first name basis with tons of love and energy around us. No class is over 10 people, therefore when you walk in, you’re motivated by those around you.”

That familiarity and support allows one to not only make it past that first hurdle, but every hurdle that comes next. With support and familiarity, you’re willing and more likely to keep pushing — to get a little uncomfortable beyond your perception of what you think you can accomplish because that’s what it takes to ultimately achieve your goals.

2. Stay engaged
“Everyone starts. The goal is to keep going,” Macalla so succinctly stated regarding the hard facts about creating a healthier lifestyle.

Drumming up the motivation to begin is ultimately easier than maintaining it for the long term. Ali added that you can measure success with a scale, “but what really gets the motivation going is how well you did in this class, that workout, or overall month. The question of ‘Where can I improve to reach my goals?’ is negated when you can see it right there in front of you — this is what makes a difference in our classes,” she said.

Ali is referring in part to MyZone, an activity belt and fitness tracking app that’s used in every class at NGU. With it, participants can see their activity status displayed on a monitor during each class in real time. This kind of visualization keeps people engaged in the workout. The app also maintains your data, showing metrics that allow you to see your progress over time. NGU re-purposes this technology as a motivator and a tool to keep people engaged, with individual challenges like beating your previous record for a specific class or gym-wide competitions like earning the most points over a period of time.
Current technology, fitness trackers, and wearable devices bring metrics to our daily lives. When you’re able to participate in your journey, in tangible and visual ways, it keeps one focused on continuing to participate, especially when the long road gets tiresome — which brings me to the next one…

3. Be patient with yourself
“Life is a balancing act and everyone has different priorities,” Ali implored, adding, “whether your goal is to lose 40 pounds, run a 5K, or simply do a push up, we will get you there. The key is to have balance between your social, professional, and personal lives so you don’t drive yourself nuts.”

Progress takes time. This shouldn’t be a surprise to read. In order to keep it going, you have to be prepared to find the right balance through trial and error, all the while reminding yourself why you started in the first place. Having the proper motivators, as well as interactive ways to engage you even when you aren’t at the gym, is clutch. The only other thing you need to make sure you do is…

4. Have fun
“The key is to have fun.” Ali said. “If you don’t have fun, you won’t do it well, or at all. That goes for anything in life, but especially workouts.” Macalla echoed Ali’s sentiment succinctly with, “You have to like what you’re doing.”

One can argue that this simple truism rings clearly for almost everything you’re required to work for. All the best things require effort, but there are no rules against tailoring that work around your sensibilities, making sure that you can have a better time overall.

The collective fitness goals in any give gym may be different from person to person, but the base commonality is that every one of you has them. Who’s to say that we can’t help each other achieve them as enjoyably as possible?

A healthier lifestyle has some universal dos and don’ts (avoid cheese fries, especially after midnight), but the road to get there will primarily be paved by you. There’s nothing to stop you from infusing some fun into your fitness — take dance classes, rock climb, try out new routines or machines — whatever it takes to keep it fresh and engaging. If you let yourself get bored, the probability of you succeeding diminishes rapidly.

Ultimately, successfully achieving your goals is going to be up to you and your team, which includes family and friends on top of fitness professionals and gym-mates, to figure out what works best. Transforming yourself is work, but there’s no rule stating that that work has to be tragic or doomed to fail.
You got this.