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Ways to kick-start your exercise routine

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Simple, realistic steps to success

The new year is here and you have made the resolution to get into better shape in 2009. Now, how will you keep the momentum going through the first week and month? True resolution success takes more than just good intent - it takes planning.

Simple, realistic steps to success

I can't tell you how many years I made this resolution myself - only to fail utterly. I failed because I expected too much too quickly, became discouraged, and quit. Maybe you know that feeling, too. What changed for me is what I expected to achieve, and therefore what I expected of myself. Strangely enough, expecting less meant I was able to do and achieve more. When my goal became to get outside and long walks at least twice a week, it was far more achievable - and the walks evolved into longer walks, then runs, then more physical activity - and before the year was up, I was in better shape.

Get a checkup

So many diet and exercise plans say this, and it is important. If you haven't had a regular physical in sometime, make an appointment to do so. Know your baseline numbers - BMI, LDL, HDL, blood pressure, and so on - so you can have some true number goals as well as that fit feeling goal. Also, if you have any issues that might impede or slow down your goals, you can discuss strategies with your health care provider.

Ask your partner for buy-in

When I am trying to meet an exercise goal, having the buy-in of my husband has been critical to my success. Talk to your partner about your goals and how your partner can help you achieve it - and how you can help your partner achieve their goals. Helping one another reach such goals not only is good for your health, it's good for your partnership!

On Saturday mornings, for example, my husband and I discuss what needs to be accomplished that day, from kid activities to house chores. It includes each of our exercise goals for the day. We then prioritize and structure our day accordingly, juggling kids and chores to make all - or most - of it happen. The same goes for weekday exercise. This mutual respect and encouragement has gone a long way for both of us being healthier in the last couple of years - and happier as individuals and closer as a couple.

Set small goals - and rewards

Big resolutions really are made up of much smaller, incremental goals. When you recognize this, you can set expectations as such and the greater goal is much more achievable.

Set weekly exercise goals. Use your calendar to plan which days you will do what - truly make them a part of your daily schedule. As you meet your weekly goals, move on to monthly goals, and so on.

Don't forget to reward yourself for meeting your goals - but reward yourself in healthy manner. When I reach my goals, I reward myself with a favorite juice smoothie or, for bigger goals, a new workout top. Maybe a new DVD for workouts is what will do it for you, or the promise of a night out with your sweetie. Whatever it is, make it realistic and worth-while.

Get an exercise buddy

Enlist a friend who also wants to get in better shape for mutual support and encouragement. This is a particularly great way to keep things moving! When you hit a rut, you and your friend have one another to turn to for support and encouragement - and when you reach your goals, you have one another for cheering, celebration and shared rewards.

Your exercise buddy could be someone local (in which case, actually exercising with them once a week helps keep you on schedule) or far away (in which case support happens by email and phone). My exercise buddy and I meet once a week for a long walk and we are planning a triathlon together later in the year. We don't want to - and won't - let one another down.

Whatever your new year goals, breaking them down into smaller goals and strategizing for success make them much more likely to be achieved. With some foresight, buy-in, mutual encouragement and planning, this could be your healthiest year ever.

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