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Realistic Resolutions

There’s a thing about resolutions: we make them and ultimately break them every year. Although we start off January with the best intentions to lose weight and get healthy, most of the time our motivation peters out before Valentine’s Day and we’re left taking out our frustrations on a box of heart-shaped candy.

“Motivation is probably the number one thing and people want that quick fix,” says Kristy Brewer, MS, exercise physiologist for Erlanger. “When most people start, they haven’t exercised in years. If they start off gung-ho, they’re going to be sore and quit.”

Rather than perpetuating the cycle of going at the New Year guns blazing, here are 13 tips from Brewer for making realistic fitness goals (and actually keeping them).

  1. Set realistic goals. Be specific, and once you reach one goal, you can set new goals. You want to set short- and long-term goals for yourself so you can celebrate small victories and stay motivated to be able to reach larger ones.
  2. Add variety to your workout. Keep your body guessing by frequently altering your workout. By adding variety to your fitness routine, you will keep yourself from getting bored, but will also keep your body from hitting a plateau. “Your body kind of adapts to each workout so you need to change it up,” says Brewer.
  3. Work out with a friend. Accountability is oftentimes a great motivator. Knowing that your friend will be there at the gym for your 5:30 a.m. workout can make you get out of bed much faster. “I like to work out with a partner,” says Brewer. “It’s always nice to be held accountable and they can be your competition. If you have someone with you, you’re more likely to push yourself harder.”
  4. Remind yourself why. Put up sticky notes on your mirror or leave an inspirational quote on your fridge to remind yourself daily of what you want to accomplish and why you are exercising.
  5. Make an exercise appointment. Lack of time is almost always an excuse people make when it comes to not exercising. “No one has time,” says Brewer. “If you can set it up as an appointment, like going to the dentist, you’ll know it’s on your schedule. Because a workout is the first thing you’re going to cancel to fit in something else.”
  6. Keep an exercise journal. Note your accomplishments, big and small, so you can visually see yourself meeting your goals. If you have a difficult day, you can look back over them to boost your self-confidence.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s okay to turn to a fitness trainer or a group class if you don’t know what to do. Rather than becoming overwhelmed and giving up, look to a professional for some advice on the best way to get your body in shape.
  8. Reward yourself. Did you meet a goal? Great job. Reward yourself with a new workout outfit or maybe a trip to the movies. As a treat for completing your long-term goals, consider planning a well-deserved vacation.
  9. Find exercise that you like doing. “If you like to dance, do zumba, or if you like tennis, play tennis — but find something you enjoy,” says Brewer. People are more likely to stick with an exercise if it feels a little more like fun. If you hate running, then don’t force it. Try an elliptical or aerobics instead.
  10. Be flexible with yourself. Things will come up and interfere with your exercise. Just keep going with it the next day.
  11. Don’t overdo it. Start slow and progress gradually. “You can’t start out like you did 30 years ago,” says Brewer.
  12. Keep it convenient. If you feel better working out at lunchtime or during the evening, tweak your schedule to make it work. Don’t force yourself to go to that early morning yoga class if you’re a night owl.
  13. Keep your eyes on the prize. Stay focused and don’t forget why you made your resolutions in the first place.