2nd January 2017.  The beginning of a brand new year is here, and you know what that means ? everyone is starting to think about their resolutions into action. How often are they just some things you say half-heartedly while enjoying the New Year's Eve festivities, though? We've all either heard the stories or directly experienced what it's like to make fitness-based resolutions only to lose interest in them after just a few months, weeks or even days. How can you break out of this pattern rather than succumbing to it for yet another year? It takes thoughtful planning and real dedication, but it's doable. Making a choice to improve your fitness is seldom an overnight "Eureka!" moment. So if you know you want to make some exercise resolutions this year, now is the best time to start figuring out your game plan. Simply "winging it" and trying to play your physical progress by ear will result in the same failed resolutions with which you're already well familiar. That's why we're here to help you out; below, we'll lay out some steps and strategies for sticking to your resolutions. Throughout all your efforts, though, keep one thing in mind: you can do it! Set yourself up for success and then set your thoughts to succeeding and you'll come through the new year fitter and healthier.


Real fitness takes time: starting off slow


Just because you've resolved to improve your ability to exercise doesn't mean you're granted the magical powers to make it happen. It still takes a lot of sweat and effort! That's why so many people wash out in the first few weeks of their new efforts. As soon as the going gets tough, they go back to their old habits and routines. However, you can't let that happen. The key to avoiding this situation is to avoid jumping head-first into your new routine. Instead, you should build up gradually, increasing your level of activity over time. No one goes from couch potato to gym rat overnight. It's not just difficult; it's very physically taxing. You'll need to try some strategies for starting to exercise. Consider beginning with running or light jogging. You might even head to the gym to start practising using the treadmill or spin machine. Keep your initial workouts light; you just want to get a feel for how your body responds to exercise. Familiarise yourself with the concept of rest days, and build out an initial weekly schedule. Just because the activity is light doesn't mean you can slack off; consistent exercise is the key. After you get through the first month or two, you can begin to ramp up to more intensive cardio and training activities. However, there's no hard and fast rule that says how you have to exercise. So if you've struggled with sticking with it in the past, here's another tip: you need to pick activities you enjoy. Otherwise, how will you stay motivated?


Choose fitness activities you find fun and rewarding


Burnout is a real thing, and it's one of the biggest hurdles most people must clear on their way to a real, regular fitness routine. Perhaps one of the most common causes of burning out on exercise is boredom. You get tired of going out for a run; you don't want to climb onto the machines at the gym, and you certainly don't feel like sweating through something you don't enjoy. The solution is to incorporate activities that you enjoy. Remember, there are lots of effective ways to exercise. Why not pick up a team sport or a fun solo activity? Let's talk sports first. Basketball and football, for example, are excellent workouts. They deliver an intense cardio experience and work out several muscle groups, all without stepping inside a gym. Playing a couple of times a week can give your body the fitness boost it needs. Plus, you may even find that sports motivate you to improve yourself even more. As you play, you'll want to get better, and that requires better fitness. You won't have time to be bored when you're playing hard. There are excellent solo exercises, too. Consider swimming or taking up bike riding. Both of these allow you to go at your own pace while engaging your whole body. Cycling allows you to explore, and almost everyone enjoys swimming on its own! Turning these activities into a core part of your fitness routine will keep you on track through the year. When you have friends or team-mates to keep you accountable for doing your exercise, finding the motivation is much easier.


You'll have to transform your diet, too


There's more to it than just picking out fun exercise activities and making sure you can ease into your schedule. You'll need to fuel your body so you have the energy to burn, right? Well, you will need to institute some changes in your diet as well! Better exercise habits mean little if you're still consuming too many calories of junk food every day. Instead, it's time to refocus your efforts on nutrition. Don't worry ? eating right doesn't have to be boring. You don't need to pick up a fad diet or completely change the way you eat. Instead, approach dietary changes the same way you will handle exercise ? with a gradual approach. Slowly introduce more wholesome, unprocessed foods into your diet. Think about tasty, interesting ways to prepare healthy dishes. Read into what you should eat after exercising to give your body the nutrients it needs to rejuvenate your muscles and grow healthier. Try to cut down on your daily calories, too. Consider speaking to your doctor about how to determine your daily caloric needs. Knowing how many calories your body needs can help you to balance your meals more effectively so you don't have gaps in the day where you feel hungry. With the same kind of determination and slow approach you take to getting to the gym, you can begin to eat healthier. Your body will thank you for it. Don't be surprised when you find you have much more energy and feel better overall.


Setting milestones and dreaming up new goals


Finally, there's one more task critical to your success in the new year. Going slow, having fun, and eating right all sounds easy in practice, but you may know from experience it can be an uphill battle. That's why it's important to set milestones for yourself. Start small; even if it's just "exercise for one week straight," that's a goal you can attain. As you work towards meeting these milestones, come up with new challenges for yourself. Every week for the next year you should look to push your body a little harder than the week before. Over time, you may even want to set some truly lofty goals for yourself ? things which will take you months to complete. It might be "cycling for 5km continuously" or "compete in a local swim meet." Whatever your goals, they should inspire you to keep working hard. The overall purpose of setting goals is to give yourself something to think about when you're feeling discouraged. Knowing you can chart some progress towards a milestone can help get you off the couch when you feel like throwing in the towel. Once you have brainstorming ideas for goals, you should be able to start off strong. Involve your friends, too! Again, establish accountability. There's no underestimating the power of a friend's encouragement to keep on working out for better health.


Start getting excited to make changes!


If all of this sounds like a lot of work, that's because it is ? developing your fitness isn't always a breeze. There will be moments when you're challenged, and times when you?ll want to quit. However, those are the moments when you'll need to focus the most on powering forward. By sticking to your milestones and working towards goals every week, you'll find that the months pass by quickly. In no time at all, you'll start to see the gains created by your hard work. Once that happens, your fitness routine should be like a well-tuned engine: once it's started, it just keeps humming along by itself. We hope you'll carefully consider your plans for tackling your resolutions the next year. Remember, change starts from within ? so let's get started!