The alarm's shrill blare startles me into consciousness. I could get up and turn it off, but, hey, the clock's closer to my wife's side of the bed. Let her deal with it. I'm too comfortable to move — odd, since I'm twisted into a position that's half fetal, half crippled. This is because my dog has managed to curl up at the foot of the bed, stealing most of my space and part of the blanket.

Even though I haven't opened my eyes yet, my two cats sense I'm awake. Thus begins the morning ritual of purring and head-butting, as the fully alert felines nudge me. They're telling me that I'd better give them some attention. They're also reminding me that they run the house. I just live here.

Welcome to my bedroom. It's 5:30 a.m. on any given weekday — the time of day when the good intentions of the previous night are put to the test.

You see, I like going to the gym in the morning. Every night, I turn in at a reasonable hour so I can get up early the next day and squeeze in a workout before heading to the office.

It's a great plan, until the alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. When it's dark outside. And cold. And I'm cozy in bed.

Don't get me wrong. On many a morning, I manage to fend off the cats and climb over the dog. A quick shave, some workout clothes, a baseball cap to conceal the hair that stands up in defiance of the laws of gravity, and I'm out the door. I'll exercise for 30 to 60 minutes, head home, get ready for work, and drive to the office.

Still, I'd be a liar if I said I jumped out of bed every morning with a smile and a song. I don't seem to have the motivation. What could possibly help?

Well, according to a new study from Ohio State University, I might be more motivated if I woke up next to a guy.

Yikes.

OK, the study didn't actually suggest that I switch teams (not that there is anything wrong with that). But it did find that men rely on other men to help them to exercise.

After surveying 937 randomly selected students, university researchers discovered that the men who exercised regularly (i.e., 39 percent of the male respondents) had high social support from their friends. On the other hand, the 27 percent who didn't exercise got little support.

The study also showed that family, not friends, played a key role in motivating women to exercise. Specifically, the 26 percent of the women who exercised regularly credited family support for their dedication to physical fitness. In contrast, the inactive women (37 percent) claimed that their families didn't show enthusiasm about exercise.

This study demonstrates that, when it comes to exercise, men and women rely on different forms of motivation. So consider these retention ideas.

To motivate your male members, put together a buddy system that teams up guys as workout partners. You can accomplish this by leaving a sign-up sheet at your front desk. With this support system in place, men will have more reason to stick with their workouts — and with your club.

For the ladies, try a family night. Invite women to bring in loved ones for a tour or an exercise class. Once the families see what's going on, they'll be able to encourage the women to adhere to their fitness routines. Maybe you'll even end up selling a family membership. You'll certainly help your female members remain motivated.

Use the Ohio State study to strike a chord with your members. It's already struck a chord with me. I now have an excuse for skipping workouts. As a woman, my wife can't possibly give me the support necessary to exercise. So when I'm too lazy to get up, it's all her fault.

Just don't tell her I said that.

Best regards,

Jerry Janda