10 Tips to Reach Your Fitness Goals

December 2014/January 2015 View more

iStock_000025435807Large_800pxRegardless of your fitness goals—big or small—now is the perfect time to start a new program. But with so many choices available, how can you decide which exercise program is right for you and how can you stay motivated, as the weeks and months go by?

“There is so much information circulating throughout the Internet, media, and magazines which can seem overwhelming to some and confusing to others,” admits Carol L. Teteak, AFAA, ACE certified personal trainer, fitness instructor, and fitness coordinator at Edward Health & Fitness Center at Seven Bridges, and with Edward Hospital in Naperville.

Whether your ultimate fitness choice is a personal trainer, a boot camp class, a gym membership, or the hottest DVD program to use at home, there are several things to consider that will ensure safer and more successful results:

Assess your fitness level

It is important to assess your fitness level with the help of a medical professional to determine if you are able to safely begin an exercise program. With such a variety of options from walking to high-intensity programs like Cross-fit, to old-school classics like body-weight training and yoga, it is essential to find a workout that matches your fitness level to avoid injury.

Make it a lifestyle

“Bottom line, your decision should be viewed as a lifestyle, not a quick fix or short-term band aid,” Teteak advises. Changes need to be ones you can live with to avoid the disillusionment that can happen when old habits just get added back in later.

Identify outcomes, not numbers

Want to run a 5K? Fit into that special dress? Have more energy to enjoy a vacation with the kids? Identifying these kinds of goals can be more motivating than choosing to lose a set number of inches, or a certain number of pounds.

Make it fun

Choose an activity you enjoy—often something that is a de-stressor—to increase the likelihood of sticking with it.


Small group classes are known to greatly increase motivation, thanks to the added benefits of friendship, encouragement, and group accountability.

Go pro

Even if you decide to train at home, it is a great idea to consult with a certified personal trainer who can assess your fitness level, listen to your goals, and walk you through a fitness plan. Be sure they are certified such as ACE or NASM. Ultimately, a good trainer can keep you motivated, ensure you are training safely, and keep your workouts varied and fun.

Start Slow

Creating and meeting realistic, attainable goals at the outset before increasing reps, weights, and duration of workouts, can help avoid injury or a painful, discouraging start.

Take care of yourself

Hydrate before, during, and after workouts, wear comfortable shoes and clothing, and be sure to warm-up and cool down with stretches to avoid injury and to maximize the benefits of exercise.

Keep activity varied

The best workouts include a variety of aerobic, strength training, flexibility and neuromotor (balance) activity. For a beginner, a good goal is 4-5 days per week and 30 minutes each day in one of these areas.

Schedule a regular time for your routine

Make activity part of your daily routine timed around your favorite TV program, or most convenient part of your day, to help ensure fitness fun for the long haul.

Whether it’s feeling better, preventing cardiovascular disease, cancer recovery, or just fitting into that size 8 dress, experts like Teteak agree that starting or returning to exercise may be one of the most important decisions you make in your life in the new year.