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5 ways to keep your new year's resolutions

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One of the busiest gym times of the year is January, when all the "resolutioners" are motivated to lose weight.  Unfortunately it's also become an ongoing joke when the "regulars" know that the resolutioners will drop off in a few weeks.

The beginning of a new year is an exciting time for goal-setting and making plans to start fresh for self-improvement.  Even seasoned gym rats catch the fever and set new goals in order to have a positive outlook going into the midwinter slump.

Of course, as with many good intentions they have a tendency to fall by the wayside, whether due to  unexpected events or simply taking on too big a challenge to maintain long-term.  Here are some ways to ensure you're still on the right path when the flowers start to bloom.

1.  Write it down.

It's easy to say you want to do this and that in 2010 but the only way to make it official is to write it down on a piece of paper.  Use the SMART method - your goals should be Specific, Motivational, Action-oriented, Relevant to your situation and Timely.  Don't list generalities; "I want to lose 20 pounds" is a wish, not a goal.  "I will commit to eating out only once a week for three months" or "I will do 10 minutes of aerobic activity everyday, as soon as I get up in the morning, for one month" are goals - concrete, measurable and adaptable.  You want to lose weight, but it's not enough to say it - you have to have a plan to get there. 

2.  Don't rush out of the gate.

The motivational upswing at the beginning of the year can feel like a drug.  A lot of people start working out hard every day of the week.  They want to run a marathon, go cold turkey on caffeine and try to live on celery sticks.  These plans ultimately cause burnout because they cannot be maintained over a long period of time.  Real change begins with actions that can be maintained each day without upending "normal" overnight.  Start slow, make changes measurable and the momentum will build as time goes on.

3.  Tell Somebody Else.

It's far too easy to get away with giving up on resolutions when the only person who knows about them is you.  Instead, tell a couple of friends and suggest asking them to help keep you accountable.  You'll quickly discover who your real friends are because they'll be the ones who will want to help you. Having a support system in place makes it much easier to stay motivated; if you have a bad day, they'll be your sounding board.  On great days, they'll be your cheerleader.  Possibly you'll find a workout buddy or a mentor, or you may begin a new, silent resolution - to distance yourself from the negative influences in your life. 

4.  Prepare Prepare Prepare.

Resolutions are all about the future.  Setting goals and creating a specific plan to achieve them is the blueprint to create that future.  Once you have a specific goal you can then have a plan of attack and plan your workouts and nutrition instead of just winging it.  Again, keep changes measurable and within the realm of doing them day-to-day.  If you can't possibly see how you can maintain whatever you're thinking about changing, step back and find a smaller piece of that change to serve as the starting point.  For example, if your resolution is to eat out only once a week, create a grocery list with plenty of staple items you can put together quickly for a meal.  That way, when you are tempted to swing through McDonald's, the excuse "I don't have anything to eat at home" does not hold water.  If you're looking to join a gym, choose one that is directly along a route that you drive/walk by every day.

5.  Get Help.

Doing it all by yourself can seem like the way to go because who really wants to ask for other people's help?  But getting a coach or a mentor to lead you through where they've already been will help you out in ways you can't even imagine.  Consult with a personal trainer, a nutritionist, a running coach, a training group - anyone who has been where you want to go - and share your goals with them.  They will help you create a plan that will keep that new year's resolution high lasting into February and beyond.  When you hit a stumbling block, or fall off the wagon, you have a network of people (including those folks you asked to hold you accountable) who will help you refocus and move forward.

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