Valentine’s Day has come and gone, which makes lots of gym rats very happy.

It’s not because they scored a good box of chocolates to savor. No, it’s because they know that the passage of that holiday means so many of the newbies who been crowding their gyms since Jan. 1 start to slack off right now.

You know how since New Year’s all the machines and every class have been packed with new faces? Go into the gym this week and you will notice that so many of them aren’t there anymore. True story, folks. Happens every year. Anyone who’s been a gym regular knows how real this is.

If you were one of the many who joined a gym Jan. 1, I have two words for you:  keep going! Buck the yearly trend. Here’s why that happens and what you can do to make sure you won’t be among the missing:

Impatience. Why, six weeks have gone by, and yet you don’t have the body of Jillian Michaels?! Of course not. It took a while to get out of shape. It is going to take more than six weeks to really change that body situation. Keep going!

Unrealistic goals. And by the way, unless you are really killing it and continue to work out that way for a long, long time, it is highly unlikely you will develop the body of Jillian Michaels. But remember, that perfect body is is an integral part of Jillian’s job. (BTW, Jillian, despite the way she is portrayed on TV, is so nice; I’ve interviewed her three times and she always was friendly, helpful and polite. But I digress.) What do YOU really need? Your work clothes not to feel so tight? Enough energy to chase the kids around the yard? Figure out what your realistic goals are. If you have been going regularly the last six weeks, you’re probably already experiencing changes in your body and energy level.

Bored. Exercise has to capture your interest. That is the only way you will want to make it a priority and a regular part of your life. Don’t just hop on the treadmill because that’s how your best friend stays in shape. Check out your gym’s other equipment and classes. Do a couple different things for exercise, not the same thing each time. And try something outside your comfort zone; often the newness will be enough to capture your interest.

Pain. If you come home every day aching and barely able to move, the chances are slim you will stick with exercise. Some minor aching as a reminder you worked out is one thing; extreme pain is not doing you any good. Newbies often overdo it in their zeal to get in better shape. Too much is no good. Better to take it back a bit, work on your form and endurance and then do more or work out harder.

Not enough time. If your New Year’s resolution was to go to gym  an hour every day, maybe that schedule is too much with your family and work commitments. Cut back to three days a week. On your off days, go for a walk or work out with an exercise DVD at home. Or, if you feel you must go daily, have a couple days when you’re only there 30 minutes, but make your time there count.

Make some adjustments, but whatever you do, keep working out!