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How to set and stick to fitness goals

| Sunday, July 20, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Although some people agree that goal-setting is necessary, the real problem is not setting the goal, but sticking with it. Talk is cheap, and if you want to achieve your goals this summer — fitness or otherwise — you need a plan. To help you get it right this summer, here are seven habits of highly fit people:

Write it down. Some wise person once said “failing to plan is planning to fail.” Write down every single thing you would like to accomplish to improve your health, diet and workouts. You are far more likely to reach your goals if you write them down.

Avoid portion distortion. Many people mistakenly think that working out is a license to eat not only whatever they want, but also unlimited quantities. With or without exercise, if you consume more calories than you burn each day you will gain weight. If you're aiming for a six-pack, guess what — it starts in the kitchen. At the minimum, diet is 80 percent of the equation and exercise is 20 percent.

Make fitness a priority. These days, everyone is sleep-deprived and working 60 or more hours a week. At least, those are some of the excuses people give for not exercising. If you plan to get fit you must make fitness a priority and plan a daily date at the gym, your basement or bedroom for a workout. You're more likely to get it in if you do it in the morning. Besides, when you prioritize your fitness first, you are making an inve stment in your most significant asset — you.

Be prepared. Preparation is 90 percent of your success. Get organized, prepare your meals, buy your gear. In short, leave no room for failure or excuses. Buy what you need, prepare the night before, pack your lunch and leave your gym bag at the front door.

Exercise effectively. It's not enough to simply go through the motions, you want to be sure you are exercising and eating correctly. If you are not getting the results you want, then it is likely time to increase either the speed, length or the intensity of your training program, and/or to shake up your diet. So, look at your routine and decide which training variables you need to change.

Set realistic goals. Don't expect to lose 50 pounds in five weeks or expect to look like an elite athlete after only four weeks of training. Losing one to two pounds a week is not just acceptable, but a rather lofty goal. Two pounds is the equivalent of 7,000 calories, and that's no joke. Focus on the tangibles, like preparing healthy meals, getting stronger, increasing stamina, getting more muscle and losing body fat. Looking good and feeling great are the rewards for your efforts.

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