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Staying committed to your fitness goals takes planning and determination. Beginning a program is easy in comparison to sticking with it over time. Studies show that half of all people quit within six to eight weeks, and another quarter within a few months. Having the mindset that fitness is life-long and making adjustments in your plan over time will help you continue healthy habits. Your plan for fitness may require some thought and preparation to get you on the right track.

Real changes start on the inside. Create your list of desired changes/goals, and why you want to see these changes. When you decide to make changes, and you know your reasons, your desire to make it happen is that much stronger. Be as specific as you can. An example would be "to lower blood pressure because my doctor advised me" or "lose 10 more pounds to get into a special pair of jeans." Only you know the real reasons for why you want to see these changes. This list may help you down the road when you need to be motivated.

Focus on your future vision and be open to new ideas. Think of what you would like to achieve in a specific period of time, and transform those into goals by giving them a deadline and a way to measure results. It is much more motivating when we have something specific to focus on. For example, if you are preparing for a trip that will include a lot of walking, you may commit to several weeks on a walking program that includes three days of walking hills for 30-45 minutes. When you return from your trip, you will need to establish new goals to take your fitness to the next level. An accomplishment of one goal is the starting point of another stage of progress, growth and adventure.

Along the way there are obstacles that slow down our momentum. It may be an injury that makes it difficult to exercise, or an issue with family or work that causes us to lose focus. Straying off course often takes considerable energy to get back on track, so staying on track is extremely important. Ask yourself "How can I make this work for me rather than against me?" If you pulled a muscle in your leg, maybe you take the next two weeks to focus on strengthening your upper body and maintain your cardio with walking instead of running. Dealing with adversity, and making a positive out of a negative can help you gain inner strength that transfers into all areas of your life.

Having the right attitude also can help us deal with many of the frustrations and setbacks we sometimes encounter when working toward a goal. Often, those closest to us can be the most critical, so be careful not to allow any negativity to seep in and destroy your energy and momentum.

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Focus on progress instead of perfection to build your confidence. Having confidence creates more energy, which is important in continuing that momentum of working toward your goal. Making positive life changes that enhance your health will affect more than just your physical state, they will carry over into all areas of your life.

Shelly Greenfield of Rochester is a certified personal trainer. Your questions may be e-mailed to lifestyle@postbulletin.com or mailed to Lifestyle, Post-Bulletin, 18 First Ave. S.E., Rochester, Minn. 55904.

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