New Year, New Goals: Twelve Months of Fitness

Working out more is a common New Year's resolution.
Soldiers lift weights at Dahl Gym in Fayetteville, N.C., after work on Jan. 9, 2012. Of the many New Year’s resolutions, working out, getting fit and losing weight appeared to be the most predominant. (Spc. David McCarthy/82nd Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade)

Here it is again. New Year's resolution time. 

Many people think this is the time to start a new life, break a bad habit, join a gym and start doing new tasks to reach various goals. Here are some recommendations that will guarantee you results if you progress each month into a new world of health and wellness. This article is for those of you who have failed in previous years with a goal of "getting healthy again" or "getting in shape this year."

Instead of overwhelming your mind and body this month with multiple simultaneous changes, try breaking up your goals into increases and changes that occur monthly. Trying to add fitness routines, eating healthy and breaking bad habits like smoking, eating fast food and drinking a lot can lead to a perfect storm of failure.  

Try these steps each month:

January: Just start moving. If you are new to fitness, set aside 20-30 minutes a day to exercise and add walking and stretching. If you like to lift or do calisthenics, add workouts every other day at a moderate level so you do not break yourself and experience excessive post-exercise pain. Walking 10 minutes after every meal is a start. That is progress. Check out the 45-Day Plan for alternatives.

February: Just add water. Add water throughout your day and start to replace the sugary drinks you normally consume (soda, juices, energy drinks, even diet soda). Get as natural as you can. If you need caffeine, get it from unsweetened tea or basic coffees with only a little sugar. Avoid the whipped creams, caramel, chocolates and other high-calorie additives. Replacing sugary drinks with water alone can help most people drop 20-25 pounds in a year.

March: Eat better. By now, your body will crave more fruits, vegetables and good proteins like lean meats, chicken, eggs or fish. Focus on avoiding fast food and processed foods this month. Eat real foods, nothing fried. Snack on nuts or berries instead of cookies and other sweets. Some options can be found in the Lean-Down Plan.

April: Learn to breathe. Breathing to reduce stress is easy to do and should be practiced throughout the year. Big inhales and big exhales while relaxing can slow your heart rate and help your body to de-stress from a difficult moment or long day. Deep breathing before sleeping also can help you fall asleep quicker and sounder. Learn to De-Stress.

May: Change it up a bit. If you are into moving more with your current fitness plan, consider new programming, like joining a gym with weight machines, dumbbells, TRX and cardio machines.  You will find the gym not as crowded as it was in January, and going in with a fitness foundation of a few months will give you more confidence to try new classes, weight equipment and cardio machines.  Adventure out this month.

June: Quit another bad habit. Look at your daily habits. What are you failing at each day? Smoking? Drinking sodas? Binge-drinking? Drop what is crushing your eating plan. Try to replace it with something else. Water or seltzer water with fruit, unsweetened teas, gum or others can help you handle the habit of constantly consuming harmful liquids or foods, or smoking.

July: Try to eliminate sugar. Sugar is one of the things in our lives that is killing us. You have played around with limiting sugar, white bread, cooking with flour, fried foods and simple grains. Now try to get rid of them. Give yourself a cheat day a week where you allow yourself a small portion of the things you may love like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (my joy). You will find by severely limiting or eliminating sugars, many of your health screening numbers will improve, and you'll have fewer cavities. Learn more about Insulin Resistance.

August: Get smarter. You should read some exercise books that will help you with your goals. Take a personal training class or seminar and learn what trainers and sports scientists are taught.  It is your body. You should know how it works and responds to different types of training protocols. Some ideas would be the National Strength and Conditioning Association or American College of Sports Medicine for certifications, online training or conferences you can attend.

September: Share your knowledge. Recruit a friend or family member. By now, you should be a completely different person than you were in January -- fitter, healthier, more confident and a strong fitness beginner. Help someone get over that hump. Set the example for others and get people you care about moving again. Remember, baby steps. Getting fit is about a daily commitment and lifestyle change. Help them with the first movement habit, and soon you will have a new workout partner.

October: Go shopping. You either will need new clothes that fit you, or you now can fit into clothes that you have not worn in years. Look for new tools you can add to your fitness backpack. Consider a TRX Suspension Trainer System, a weight vest, a set of dumbbells or a cardio machine for your home. 

November: Reflect. Assess your progress, or lack thereof. What could you have done better? Look at your weaknesses and strengths. Are there any injury issues that may cause you to rearrange your workout program with alternative lifts or non-impact cardio options? Do you need more energy to train if you are pushing your limits in performance? Any new goals? If so, start now. No need to wait for the New Year. November and December are tough on the diet and exercise schedule -- stay on top with these tips.

December: Consider your options. Now is a good time not only to keep working out, as the holidays can break good habits in a few weeks of parties, candies, travel and big meals. Take a look at where you want to go with your fitness. Do you want to try something new? Maybe enter a running race? A triathlon? Obstacle-course race? Or maybe even power-lifting.

Good luck this year. Consistency pays. 

Keep thinking, eating and moving your way to better health and performance every day of the year, not just January.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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