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Tips for starting and maintaining a fitness program

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Let's face it - if New Year resolutions actually worked, we wouldn't be making the same ones year after year, and largely, we do. In fact, more than 40 percent of the population makes resolutions, and on a grand scale, the top 10 resolutions are the same from year to year, with two of them consistently involving exercise and getting fit.


Perhaps the high failure rate of resolutions, estimated at 97 percent, is not because the resolution, itself, was unreasonable, but because hardly anyone takes resolutions seriously enough to conceive a plan for real change.


Here are some tips for creating an effective plan for a healthy lifestyle change:


* Determine your health/fitness goal. Call it a resolution if you wish, but don't limit yourself to trying it only on Jan. 1, and don't make it a goal that's frankly just too boring to keep. A goal of losing 10 pounds is a lot less exciting than an alternative goal to get fit and have fun while doing it.


* Make your plan of reaching your goal a simple one. Start with a list of fun activities that keep you headed in the right direction. Also, don't list activities that are nearly impossible to do or a huge drain on your time - they're way too frustrating, and likely to leave you overwhelmed and uncommitted.


A beginner's goal of running one mile a day every day might be too daunting, but an alternative goal of walking for 30 minutes a day after work with a friend allows added fun and social time.


* Schedule the time. You want exercise to be a priority in your life, and you're well aware of the benefits, but you're stretched way too thin as it is and are having a hard time fitting it in. Despite any resolution you make, it's unlikely that any of those other priorities in your life will suddenly go away. The answer? Scheduling. A plan is simply your list of activities (from above) paired with your calendar. When making your plan, seriously consider when you're going to fit in your activities. Review your calendar weekly, and don't be afraid to move things around in order to find what works best for you.


* Start. Every journey begins with just one step, as daunting as that step might be. If you haven't exercised in a while, and you're intimidated about getting started again, the best thing to do is just to start. (You should always consult your physician before beginning any new exercise routine.) Kick off by taking a long walk by yourself in the great outdoors for clarity of thought, or go with your spouse or best friend while you catch up on life's happenings.


* Measure your successes and optimize your workout. Whether you are just starting out or have been in your routine for a while, some measurement tools might come in handy to help you get the most from your efforts. To measure your speed, distance and calories burned with over 95 percent accuracy, try a Tech4o Accelerator fitness watch. Available in several fashionable colors in both men's and women's styles for $69.99, you don't have to make a huge investment for measurement's sake. You can feel good about your purchase, too, as a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each women's model are donated to the Breast Cancer Fund, a national organization dedicated to breast cancer prevention.


As you become more fit, you may want to include a heart rate monitor (HRM) in your routine that will signal when you are exercising within your target heart rate zone for optimal results. In addition to heart rate and zone training alarms, the Tech4o Heartbeat is a HRM that boasts calorie and fat burn, a female-specific size and fit, easy-to-read angled face, and coded transmission between the comfort-contoured chest strap and wrist watch display so there is no "cross talk" interference when used at the gym. The monitor is $89.99 at www.tech4o.com.


* Keep going. By all means, accept that just like any other appointment on your calendar, you won't be able to complete every workout activity as you had planned. Some days, commitments will get in the way; other days, you just won't feel up to it. That's fine, there's no resolution failure as long as you simply accept your missed workout and keep going with the next one on your calendar.

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