It is New Year’s resolution time which for most people includes improving or establishing personal fitness goals. Whether your goal is to lose weight, gain muscles mass, train for an upcoming competition; the start is always the most challenging part.

To most people who commit to improving their fitness, the most difficult portion of this New Year’s fitness resolution is to develop a path to that goal. It is important to start early in planning how you are going to accomplish your fitness goals in the upcoming year. Once you have a plan on how you plan to proceed, then you can begin with confidence on the road to success.

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Here are 6 strategies that you can incorporate into the planning of your fitness goals for the New Year

1. Create a fitness plan. All effective fitness plans starts with setting your goals. Know your goals and have a plan organized around on getting them will help start you on the path to success. One way to simplify this process is to use the SMART goal setting method. This is an acronym which each letter in SMART stands for a way to organize your goals:

a. Specific: What is your goal? Is it:lose weight, become stronger, increase flexibility, prepare for an athletic event, decrease minor body aches, or increase your daily energy? Whatever your goals is. Write it down and start to plan a road map to accomplish that.

b. Measureable: all goals need a way to document what your progress is in accomplishing your goals. A way to measure whether or not you are making good progress toward the goal is to have a way to measure it. This could come in the form of a scale, a tape measure, or a stopwatch (i.e. if your goal is to increase speed as a runner). It is important to make a journal and write these numbers down so that you can compare them from the time you started your fitness journey(i.e. baseline) to a future time when you want to check them (i.e. in a month, 2 months, 3 months etc…)Setting Goals for the New Year_2c. Attainable: Are you able to put the time and effort to making these goals a reality? In any fitness plan, it is important to be able to set aside enough time during the course of the day to be able to work on your fitness goals towards completing them.

d. Realistic: Make sure that your goals are realistic enough for you to obtain them. Things may be slow in the beginning as you ease your way into a routine of working out. Expect some setbacks as life gets busy and you may need to defer a couple of days to the “busy-ness of your life” before resuming your goals.

Obtaining major gains such as losing 5-10 pounds and increasing muscle strength takes time. Do not assume that you will be able to accomplish this overnight. Make your goals small and reachable and then work on subsequent goals after you accomplish the first small goals.

e. Time: with all goals, there must be a time limit that needs to be established before you start. This will help you stay on track and will keep your commitment true to the goal. Make sure that you put enough time in to accomplishing your goal as well as make time limit relatively short term so that stay the course to accomplishing the goals.

2. Start Slow. When you have established your SMART goals as well as established when you are ready to begin, it is important not to go overboard in the beginning. Returning to a workout regime needs to be taken slow and steady. It is important to take each day and each workout step by step.

Do not attempt to do too much too soon or you will be susceptible to an injury. Most common injuries sustained when people return to the gym after being absent for a period of > 6 months is tendonitis. Tendonitis is caused by overuse of the muscles/tendons by continuously working a joint or joints repetitively without adequate rest.

3. Research the gym before joining it. It is important to know the gym before you join it. You want to choose a gym that fits your needs and schedule. Before getting sucked into a “New Year’s Fitness deal” advertised by the fitness club; you need to know what to look for. Tour the gym and look at the quality of the cardio equipment and weight machines.

Most gyms should have an adequate amount of machines available for use for its members. The machines should be newer (no more than 7 years old) modern, easy to use (with pictures on them depicting how the machine works) and should be clean. Beware of gyms that have more than 5 machines that are “down for maintenance”.

The gym should be a comfortable place for you to work out in. If you find the gym to be too crowed or intimating because of the members there, chances are this is the wrong gym for you. Remember, at the end of the day; your goal is to be successful at accomplishing your fitness goals.

4. Ask! If you do not know how to use a machine; Ask for help! Most fitness facilities have fitness personal that are there to help you work with the machines. It is better to seek help on the proper operation of the machine or weights versus trying to figure it out yourself. If you are weary of just asking “anyone” for help, then hiring a fitness trainer may be a better option for you.

5. Research your potential Fitness Trainer. Before hiring your personal trainer to help you tackle your fitness goals for your new year’s resolution, it is important that you do your homework. Not all fitness trainers are created equal. There are trainers that have specialized education, experience and skills that will be the difference between goal success and failure.

Before forking over your gift certificate you got at Christmas for a personal trainer, find out what the personal trainer’s education and experience is. Just as you would research a doctor to perform a surgery on you; the same is true when searching for a health and fitness professional. You want to search for the most credentialed and experienced fitness professional that is available.

Make sure your fitness trainer has at least a bachelor’s or masters degree, and is properly certified as a fitness trainer (if you have special needs or if you are an athlete, your trainer should hold advanced certifications into those fields).

The most prestigious organizations that certify health and fitness as well as advanced healthcare professionals are the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

6. Flexibility is often forgotten but is most important. As you are finishing up your workout, do not forget to stretch. Many people believe often forget to stretch or chose not to stretch because they do not have time. Flexibility is just as important as the workout itself. When working out, the muscles that are being trained are under tension and stress. Physiologically this is how a muscle becomes stronger and denser.

After prolonged tension the muscle becomes more efficient at movement and has an increased capability of carrying out more tasks (burning fat, increase endurance through ADLs, improve posture etc…). As with any muscle that is exposed to prolonged tension, you must relieve that tension by stretching the muscle when the workout is complete. This will keep your joints and muscles moving efficiently and reduce the chances on becoming injured.

In conclusion

Having an organized plan is one of the ways you can ensure success. Developing your SMART goals early, visiting the potential gym and researching a credentialed and experienced health and fitness professional will help you get the most out of your efforts.

At the end of the day, the results of your effort should be apparent in your appearance, the feel of your waistline and the compliments from your family and friends. This will make all of this preliminary work worth every bit of its time as you have accomplished what you have set out to do; obtain your fitness goals.

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