Resolved: To Succeed

{By Taylor Eckel}bicep curl

Who doesn’t make New Year’s Resolutions?

Or, if you didn’t actually make a list, I’ll bet you at least thought about it. Regardless of your specific fitness goals, here are a few ideas to maximize success.

– Balance realism and ambition

…by breaking down your long-term goals into short-term increments. This approach works for everything from healthy eating goals to distance running, and it also helps you combat discouragement.

– If you want an extra kick in the pants, find some external motivation.

Make a regular gym date with a girlfriend or sign up for a race. The key is to target your weakness. I have no trouble motivating myself to run, but when my schedule gets crazy I tend to neglect strength training, so instead of registering for a half marathon, I signed up for the Mid-Atlantic Tough Mudder race. The daunting prospect of crazy obstacles is more than enough incentive to keep me in the gym.

– Don’t shoot yourself in the foot!

Set yourself up for success by making your warm-up and cool-down just as important as your main workout. The benefits are two-fold: you’ll get more out of a workout when your body is prepared for action, and a good warm-up/cool-down routine will help prevent pesky injuries. Start your warm-up with gentle, dynamic stretching and save the static stretching for the end of your cool-down.

– Don’t forget to take a break!

If you’re doing strength training, don’t work the same muscle groups on consecutive days because muscles need time to rebuild their infrastructure (technically called the actin and myosin cross bridges). If you’re doing cardio, fight monotony with cross-training, and give yourself 1-2 rest days a week so your muscles can really replenish their glycogen (fuel) levels.

– Go natural.

I’ve mentioned before that free weights or resistance bands are better than weight machines, and I’d encourage you to forgo the treadmill or stationary bike in favor of the real deal. Mix things up and take your workout outside once a week. Check out this arms and abs workout that doesn’t require any equipment, hit your lower body with squats, lunges and box jumps, and boost the intensity of your workout with some jump roping.

– Picture Perfect.

No matter what you’re doing to exercise, proper posture and technique is crucial to prevent injuries and ensure you’re getting a good workout. The secret to good posture is a strong core. I absolutely love the Random Abs website that gives a different ab workout every day, complete with videos of the exercises. Best of all, it’s free, no account is necessary, and you can even get daily texts via their twitter.

– Don’t forget to have fun!

If working out is utter drudgery, it might be time to re-evaluate and try something new, and a new year is a great time to do that.