misfits banner

Fitness experts offer tips for fulfilling resolutions to get more exercise

Thursday, January 7, 2010

January is the best and worst of times for anyone in the fitness industry. Aerobics classes suddenly have waiting lists, yoga mats seem to peek out of every other person's bag and not a single dumbbell feels ignored. But every year, the river of sweat turns to a trickle by March. "You just have that one month of craziness," says Amy Richardson, the Washington area YMCA's director of wellness programs and group exercise.

Here are tips to help you stay on track:

Be specific The problem, as we all know, is that resolutions can seem brilliant until you realize you haven't really thought them out. The classic example is, "I'm going to lose weight." Great. But how are you going to do it? Richardson wants to know: "Are you going to work out more? Change your routine? Try to build more muscle?" You're more likely to slim down if you have a plan of attack.

Be realistic Another common pitfall is setting the bar too high. Just because you've never run a mile doesn't mean you won't one day complete a marathon, but picking that as your first finish line can backfire.

"Start by jogging 10 minutes," advises Katie Rubio, fitness director at Tenleytown's Sport & Health Club. "You're going to be more successful if you break it down."

Taking it easy at the beginning doesn't make you a slacker. It makes you more likely to go the distance, adds Richardson. "You don't need to stay for a whole spinning class. Leave after 20 minutes and work your way up. Instructors won't be offended; they want you to come back," she says.

Find motivation To stay on track, Rubio likes to write down her resolution (this year, that's to compete in a sprint triathlon) and look at it every day as a reminder. And both recommend finding someone -- a family member, friend, co-worker, trainer -- to be on your team and keep you accountable.

-- V.H.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company