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365-Day Guide to Exercise
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365-Day Guide to Exercise

The best kind of exercise is the one that comes with a lifestyle change. Remember that your resolution to exercise more is supposed to last the whole year, not just for the next few weeks or months. Make a deal with yourself to keep your resolution all the way until it’s time to start making new ones.

Make Specific Goals
Set goals for your progress through the year to help you stay focused and motivated. It is best to pick things that are important to you, such as running a 5K, fitting into your old jeans or keeping up with your kids when you play basketball together. Use these goals as part of your overall commitment to a healthier lifestyle, but keep each goal in mind when planning your workouts.

Set Your Schedule
If you're like most people, you have trouble fitting exercise into your day. Instead of waiting until you have extra time (which may never come), set aside specific days and times to work out to help get you moving. Keep the appointments you make with yourself. Just joining a gym does not mean you'll exercise more -- you need to make a plan and stick with it. Make sure your plan is realistic and fun — that way, exercise becomes your hobby, not a chore.

Visualize Your New Self
Think about what you're working toward. Consider certain questions when building an exercise routine, such as, “How do I want to look? Am I able to do that exercise?” Part of planning your exercise is considering how you're trying to shape your body, because different exercises will shape your body in a particular way. For example, runners develop very strong legs and are generally very lean, especially in the upper body. If you're trying to develop upper-body strength, running may not be the best way to get there.

Mix It Up
Incorporate different types of exercise into your routine, including cardio, strength, balance and flexibility training. Plan your exercise for the week with alternating workouts, but try not to have two strength-training days in a row so that your muscles can recover. Variety will keep your workouts exciting and will give you an opportunity to find out what you like the most. Try biking, running, yoga, swimming, volleyball, racquetball or any other sport or activity offered near you. Make sure it’s an activity you can commit to.

Find a Workout Buddy
For many people, having a workout buddy helps boost motivation and accountability. It can also make your workout more enjoyable. So find a friend who has similar goals and interests and make plans to work out together. This keeps you both on track and makes it easier to stick to your goals on those days when you need a friendly push.

Get Your Gear
Make sure you have comfortable shoes, clothes and any other equipment you need during your exercise. You don’t want lingering blisters or lack of supplies to hinder your routine. Find equipment you like and that you want to use to keep the focus on staying active and healthy.

Manage Injuries
Take steps to prevent injuries, such as warming up before each workout and stretching regularly. If something is sore, ice it. If something is tight, gently stretch it. Watch your diet and drink plenty of water. Don’t let these minor setbacks keep you from reaching your goals.

Be Patient
Remember that this whole process is a lifestyle change and it requires patience and commitment. The first few weeks of working out are the most difficult because your body is getting used to exercise. The healthiest weight loss is the one that comes gradually. Keep the pace of losing about 1 to 2 pounds per week. While this may not seem like a lot, it adds up fast, and it's the kind of weight loss that is likely to stay off for good.

Revisit Your Goals
As you progress through the year, you might find you're not hitting your goals or that you're achieving your goals too easily. This is normal, and it just means it's time to pause and take another look at where you are and where you want to be. For example, you may discover that running is too high-impact for you, and that walking is a better choice for cardio. Adjust your plan so that you stay motivated and active.

Do Something
No matter how small or short your workout is, doing something is always better than doing nothing. Working out -- even if you need to cut it short or decrease intensity that day -- helps you keep the rhythm of your routine. As long as you're doing something active, you're helping your body and sticking with your goals. Restarting a workout plan after taking a week or two off is really tough; but if you're keeping your habit going, you can get back to your target intensity or distance more easily.

Congratulate Yourself
Make a point to recognize your success. Look back on how far you've come, whether it’s pounds lost, how much better you feel during the day or simply the fact that you’re not sitting on the couch anymore. Then, reward yourself by splurging on those expensive cross trainers, that fancy yoga mat bag or some trendy workout gear. Or, get a massage and brag to your friends. Remember that this should be a fun journey and not a rat race.