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Realistic plan key to fitness success

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It's February, and across this beautiful, albeit frigid, country, countless health and fitness "newbies" (or repeat newbies, for that matter), have already folded away their gym clothes and pushed their bright new running shoes to the back of the closet. They have closed the book on their New Year's resolutions.

Statistics show that if you made such a goal, this is most likely you. One-third of you will have "failed" by the end of January, and apparently only eight per cent of those health-related promises are kept for the duration of the year.

Why? Was it harder than you thought? Perhaps you didn't see the results you wanted in the first four weeks and therefore decided it wasn't going to happen at all. The list of excuses goes on and on.

What this tells me is that you didn't start with a realistic plan, or any plan at all. As a youth I played hockey, and on our dressing room wall was painted: "The will to prepare is just as important as the will to (succeed)." I firmly believe that if you'd invested extra effort into planning your approach, you could have held on longer. So before you pack away your "fast" pants; consider the following points:

-- Progression fosters long-term results: If you dive head-first into your fitness routine with lofty expectations, you are setting yourself up to fail. In the world of athlete performance, we call this periodization, and it is based on the science that nobody can go all-out, all the time, right out of the gates. "Too much, too soon" can be as detrimental as "Too little, too late." The risk of injury is higher, and the probable lack of adherence to unrealistic goals may give you reason enough to quit. To avoid this pitfall, start with simple and attainable goals and plan to increase them gradually as you succeed.

-- Schedule smarter: If you schedule your workout into your day -- that is, make time for it and literally write it into your planner at a specific time -- you are more likely to complete it. This should not come as a surprise. But let's take scheduling one step further. Most of you are more likely to complete workouts on Monday as opposed to Thursday. So put the workout you hate (in my case, legs and cardio) early in the week and put the workouts you enjoy later in the week.

Keep in mind that many other factors may also come into play, so be sure to account for as many variables as possible when scheduling your week.

-- The boredom battle: Not everybody enjoys running or walking outside. The Canadian winter really does limit our fitness possibilities and can lull you into a rut of a routine. If you're going to continue fighting this fight indoors, try to make it a bit more enjoyable.

Gain support and motivation by working out with a friend. The gym can be a scary place, but not with your BFF beside you.

Be part of a facility that gives you many different options, in case you're easily bored. I don't feel that TRX class is the be-all end-all of fitness, but if it gets you to burn a few calories when your routine is stale, it's a successful tool in my books.

Try something slightly outside your comfort zone. You should see the eyes of a 70-year-old light up when you hand her a pair of boxing gloves and tell her to go buck wild (just remember, safety first).

-- The value of a good personal trainer: A trainer is not just someone to stand beside you and urge you to do one more rep. A good personal trainer is a planner. He or she has a university degree that has trained them to talk to you, come up with a plan, identify obstacles that may arise, and then put that plan into action. A good trainer is expertise, support and structure rolled into one, and they care about you and your goals.

Just remember that hiring the right trainer does not guarantee success: you still have to do the work.

So this winter, spend a bit more time planning your approach to your health and fitness goals and I promise you will be more effective.

What are you going to do this year?

Tim Shantz is a Certified Athletic Therapist (CAT(C)) at Eastman Therapy Centre in Steinbach and a Certified Personal Trainer at the Wellness Institute at Seven Oaks Hospital. He is also owner/head trainer at Threshold Conditioning, which focuses on sport-specific athlete training.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 12, 2013 D3

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