Perhaps one of the most popular New Years resolutions is joining the gym and getting fit. Fueling that resolution and its timing is the over eating and drinking from the holidays just proceeding. The resolution is always made with the best of intentions. This is especially good news in the African-American community that tends to be rife with obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems. But just as in every community this resolution is the one that is failed most often. Though 80 percent of people join the gym in January, by February most of them have lost their way from the gym back to the buffet table. The gyms themselves are not encouraging their patrons to stick to their exercise and fitness resolutions because they have already signed them up for the year or two and will collect the fees regardless. In fact they will keep offering specials to bring in new members knowing that most will pay up and fall off.

This is really too bad and very sad because regular exercise not only benefits the body but also the mind. Regular exercise not only keeps us healthy and feeling young, but is also an incredible stress reducer. If I were president of the United States I would mandate every person who is physically able to get a few hours of exercise per week. In fact I would go further. As part of the health bill I would require insurance companies to pay all or part of reasonable gym memberships as a form of preventive and even curative health.

But in the meantime, there are many strategies and techniques to following through on your resolution of joining and actually working out in the gym on a long-term and regular basis. Here is what you can do:

1.Set reasonable goals and expectations as to weight loss and muscle gain. It may have taken you 30 years to wreck your body. Certainly you’re not going to resurrect it in 30 days. Moderation is the key here. Visit your doctor and together discuss reachable milestones to changing your body.

2.Set reasonable goals for attendance. Most of fitness experts agree that three times a week at the gym is plenty. If you go more than that, that’s okay too. At least you can put workout days in the bank, for those times that you are too busy to go. This will certainly reduce the amount of guilt you may experience. By the way guilt is good if missing a day here and there motivates you to return to the gym. Find a workout buddy who has similar goals and expectations and work out together as much as possible. Gym classes such as dance and spinning can be very fun and enjoyable. You can form a camaraderie with fellow classmates which will keep you coming back.

3.It’s always a good idea to know what the heck you are doing so you can work your body to the max and at the same time not hurt yourself. Therefore try to hook up with a trainer for the first few sessions. The gym itself should give you at least one session for free where they instruct you on proper form when using the equipment.
If you cannot afford a trainer, one will be provided by the courts… just kidding! If you cannot afford a trainer you can hook up with one or two other workout buddies and get group instruction.

4. Make the gym experience as convenient as possible. So join a gym that is easy to get to and therefore should be as close as possible to home, school or work.

5.Tell the world you were going to the gym. Now you will be even more committed because you’ll have those eyes on you. In addition, they will give you the emotional support you need.

6.Set up a reward system for yourself for when you reach your goal of attending a certain number of times in the week, or you attain a desired outcome. The caution here is that the reward system should be a smart one and not counter to your goals. In other words a small ice cream sundae at the end of the week might be okay, but a cup of frozen yogurt without the works might be better.

7.Finally, don’t feel like a failure and then quit if you have missed more than a few days at the gym, or you are not getting the results you desire as quickly as you want. You are only human and not perfect. Just reassess what may be going on in your life that is keeping you from reaching your exercise goals, and just get back into the gym. There should be no shame in your game. Don’t ever forget, the fact that you set foot in the gym in the first place is the first and most important part of changing your life for the better.

So take it easy, do your best, keep hitting the gym, keep working that body and take your time. Remember the tortoise always wins the race.