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This CAN be your year to get fit

10 tips for starting an exercise program

This will be the year. I'm finally getting that gym membership. Tomorrow, I'm waking up at 7 a.m. and starting a fitness routine. Now that I bought these running shoes, nothing can stop me.

And then: Reality. As we settle into the new year and our resolve to become physically fit fades and takes 'save more money,' 'drink less' and 'eat more vegetables' along with it, it can be tempting to throw up our arms, cuddle up on the couch, nurse a bag of chips and wait for 2009.

But Ryan Kesler, manager at Tualatin's 24-Hour Fitness, has 10 tips for choosing a gym and starting an exercise program, which may help remotivate and get you into peak condition. 2008 can be your year to get fit. His advice:

1. Start - 'The hardest part is getting in the door,' Kesler says.

This has nothing to do with physical aptitude and everything to do with mental roadblocks. Excuses and negotiations (I won't go today, but for sure tomorrow . . .) often prevent us from completing this crucial first step. But get in the door of the gym, Kesler advises, and the hardest part is over.

2. Ask for assistance - 'Statistically, we've found that people who come into the club and don't get started with some sort of professional assistance, some kind of guidance, they actually quit their membership within the first 30 to 90 days, whereas somebody who gets started with some sort of professional assistance or recommendation or kind of program will stay around from nine months to a lifetime,' Kesler says.

This can be as extensive as hiring a personal trainer or as simple as requesting a tutorial on the equipment the gym offers. Fitness professionals are there to assist and it is their job, Kesler says, to 'remove the guesswork' from working out.

3. Don't try to one-size it - 'Everybody's different,' he says. 'People are at different fitness levels and have different limitations.'

Kesler points out that some people work out seven days a week. For others, getting to the gym once a week is an accomplishment. Tailor your own workouts to your own needs.

4. Do something - Do anything. Anything at all. Often, we get so caught up in our all-or-nothing ideals that we let this next point pass us over: Something is better than nothing. Ten minutes is better than zero. One workout is better than none.

'Any kind of physical activity is good activity,' Kesler stresses.

5. If you can afford it, go deluxe - Personal trainers, Kesler says, are 'the best way to keep motivated.'

Trainers hold their clients accountable, keep them motivated and act as educators, explaining the hows and whys of working out. Additionally, they can offer assistance with nutrition and lifestyle changes, which will aid any workout program.

6. If you can't afford it, don't let that be an excuse - Kesler stresses that at his gym, they offer 'a wide variety of membership options' because they 'don't want money to be an upfront issue.' However, he concedes that for those who absolutely cannot afford a gym membership, there are always options.

'Do things outside, like walking or running,' he suggests. Again, something is better than nothing.

7. Set two goals - 'Make a short-term goal and a long-term goal for yourself,' Kesler advises.

He suggests specific goals with specific time frames. Instead of 'Lose weight,' think: 'Lose 10 to 15 pounds in two to three months.'

Kesler says that events, such as upcoming weddings or reunions, can be key in keeping to a specific timeline.

'Once you set that goal,' he says, 'then it's time to re-evaluate and make a new goal.'

8. Enlist a buddy - 'I work out every day,' Kesler says, 'but it's always great to have someone there, like a spotter or somebody you can meet up with on a regular basis, just so if you're not really feeling it one day, the other person can encourage you to come along.'

Again, like with a personal trainer, having a workout partner adds an extra level of accountability and motivation. Kesler recommends finding someone who's at a similar fitness level.

9. Do what feels right - When choosing a gym, Kesler says the single most important factor is 'making sure it's somewhere you feel comfortable working out.'

This may mean scoping out a private, more exclusive club. Some gyms are designed to be women-only. Others are senior-friendly. Some will cater to very specific physical needs. This may also mean scoping out a larger, more corporate gym, which often offer a vast array of amenities and have later hours.

If you enjoy swimming/playing racquetball/lifting weights/shooting hoops/running on the treadmill, then by all means, look for a gym that offers a pool/racquetball court/weight room/basketball court/cardio area.

10. Don't get discouraged - This goes back to the two most important points: The hardest part is getting in the door and something is better than nothing.

Remember those two points. Tackle those two points. And then really - really - 2008 can be your year to get fit.

(Kristen Forbes is a freelance writer living in Tigard. To view her blog, visit www.krissymick.blogspot.com .)