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With the New Year right around the corner, many will soon flock to the gym in hopes of accomplishing (finally!) their health and fitness goals. To maximize the potential for success during this New Year’s resolution, some helpful tips are in order.

1.) Set REALISTIC goals – In order to avoid the primary pitfalls of most resolutions (ie quitting in early January, getting injured, etc.), one must set realistic goals. The key to a realistic goal is that it should be specific to individual needs and healthy outcomes. For example, a healthy rate of weight loss is approximately ~2% of one’s total body mass per month or ~10% in 6 months. So, to use myself as example, I weigh about 200 lbs. Therefore a healthy amount of weight for me to lose in January would be about 4 lbs. And over 6 months, ~20 lbs would be reasonable. Using this formula, and losing weight slow and steady (cliché but true), will help one to sustain the weight loss over time, instead of yo-yoing the weight on and off and getting discouraged.

2.) Start slow and build – Another common NYR mistake is to get all amped up about the potential this new year brings, and do too much too soon. One thinks, “This year, I’m REALLY gonna do it!”. But be careful. Starting an intense exercise regimen, especially if one’s body isn’t prepared for that kind of stressful training is likely to lead to quick injury and discouragement. My advice is start with low-load, long duration training (ie recumbent bike, cross trainers, elliptical, swimming, etc.) and progress to more challenging and stressful exercises such as treadmill walking, jogging and resistance training. And again, if one’s goal is lose weight, this will not only be safer, but more realistic in the “long run” (hey-oh!). Also, this approach will allow one to minimize the risk for injury that is likely if the exercise routine is simply more than the body is ready to handle. Plug warning! - Should you get injured though, Physical Therapy may be the next step.

3.) Keep yourself and others accountable – Let’s be honest.Quitting a new program is just as easy as starting. Especially when the “newness” wears off and life continues on as usual. One hint for keeping the ball rolling is to find ways stay accountable. Find a family member, friend, or someone at the gym, and keep each other motivated. If not actually going to the gym together, periodically chat about how things are going (ie what is going well and what isn’t, etc.). There will likely be overlap in each other’s experience and this connection can make or break one’s dedication to a program.

4.) Be selfish – With anything new, there is always a period of frustration, self-doubt, and discouragement. For many individuals, starting a new health and fitness routine brings about these feelings eventually. It is easy to ride the wave of something “new” for several weeks, but then ultimately get frustrated and quit when it seems that everyone else is meeting goals, looking/feeling good, and having success. This simply isn’t true. It is important to recognize that everyone starts out at their own place and progresses from there. My best advice is to actively decide not compare oneself to others. Check your ego at the door, and focus on where you (and you only) are now and ultimately will be. If one is constantly comparing oneself to others, frustration is inevitable as there will always be others a little more skinny, a little more strong, a little more whatever. So don’t make that mistake. It’s ok to be selfish when it comes to health and fitness. This is about you and your goals. So focus on that, and the likelihood of sustained motivation, noticeable progress and ultimate success is much greater.

Greg Dixon, PT, DPT

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