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5 ways to crush a fitness goal in 2018

Create a plan and stick to it

Want to get fit in 2018? Start here with one of these five challenges, or come up with your own.

Keith MacRae is the Wellness Director at the Family YMCA in Ankeny, Iowa.  

“Every year, we see an influx of people who join the gym. I’ve seen people make and meet some incredible goals. I’ve seen others fail. The main difference? Perseverance. It’s really a matter of keeping up the momentum over a length of time. You’ll have good days. You’ll have bad days. I’m constantly telling my clients, ‘baby steps.’ With weight loss, remember it didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t come off overnight.”

Goal 1: Fit in fitness daily

How to get there:

“For this goal, I recommend getting a fitness tracker and aiming for a realistic but challenging goal. For many people, shooting for 8,000 — 10,000 steps (4 – 5 miles) daily seems to work. Fitness trackers are a huge motivator, because they hold you accountable. Of course, they are not a necessity. But if you need motivation to get moving, it might be the ticket.”

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Why?

  • Regular cardiovascular exercise, like walking or running, can improve hypertension, assist glucose tolerance, aid in weight loss and improve circulation.
  • According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio per week (such as brisk walking or biking); or 75 minutes of intense cardio per week (such as running or racquetball).

Kick it up a notch

“Make it a little more challenging, and aim to ‘get breathless’ once a day,” says MacRae. “This means that in addition to getting in your steps, you’re also getting your heart rate up and establishing a higher level of cardiovascular fitness.”

Goal 2: Add resistance

How to get there, says MacRae:

“This can be a daunting goal for a lot of people, but it’s so important. It’s simple to modify resistance training for any level of fitness. There is a lot of reputable information online, but I recommend talking to a certified trainer at a gym. Ideally, you want someone to watch you and make sure you’re using proper form. You can use your own body weight to reach your goal: basic sit-ups, push-ups, or planks, for example, are effective. Resistance bands are also cheap and easy to use at home. Or, if you enjoy training with a group, check your gym for classes that incorporate weights."

Why?

  • Around age 40, the average person loses about a half pound of muscle mass each year. Resistance training will help prevent that, plus it revs up your metabolism and burns calories, even after your workout is done.
  • In addition to building muscle and connective tissue, weight training can also improve balance, cut your risk of injury, increase bone density and more. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio per week (such as brisk walking or biking); or 75 minutes of intense cardio per week (such as running or racquetball).

Kick it up a notch

“If you’re not doing any sort of resistance training now, some is better than none,” says MacRae. “Even a half hour, once a week, can be effective. To really improve your muscle strength and endurance, though, I recommend weight training 2–3 times a week.”

Goal 3: Walk or run a race

How to get there, says MacRae:

“Finish lines are motivating, so think about a realistic, but challenging, distance. Is it a 5k, a 10k, or a half or full marathon? If your goal is to walk or run an entire race, a consistent amount of practice can get you there, typically, in a few months. 

Looking for a race to kick your motivation into gear? Try the Grand Blue Mile External Site. The one-mile event in downtown Des Moines' Gateway Park is great for any fitness level — whether you're a marathoner, casual jogger or just getting active.  

Why?

  • Signing up for a race is a commitment. The preparation may bring out the competitor in you, drive you to train harder, or push you to beat a personal record.
  • Races build camaraderie. By signing up with a group, you can meet new friends or build on old friendships.
  • If you sign up for a charity race, you can also feel good when the registration fees go toward a worthy cause.

Kick it up a notch

Once you’ve finished one race, keep up the momentum by signing up for another. Adjust your goal to increase your speed or run a longer distance. Or, try something new altogether, like swimming or biking a portion of a triathlon.

Goal 4: Hold a plank

How to get there, says MacRae:

“You’ll find all kinds of challenges online for almost any exercise. The plank may be the most popular. Proceed with caution, as bad technique can cause injury. Start with a modified plank, if necessary, and time yourself for 15 – 20 seconds. Get to a certain point, and hold it for 5 seconds more, until you can do it every time without resting. Gradually work your way up to a minute or more.” Get started with these six plank exercises.

Why?

Planks are great for overall strength training but used primarily to strengthen your core. In aiming for an extended time period, you’ll gradually build strength and endurance.

Kick it up a notch

Once you’ve mastered the basic plank, incorporate a variety of planks. You can get a full body workout at home in just 20 minutes with different types of planks, including the side plank, plank jacks, mountain climbers and renegade rows.

Goal 5: Do a pull-up

How to get there, says MacRae:

“Pull-ups are difficult for most people. This is a great goal to shoot for if you are already pretty fit and want a challenge. Personally, I think the best way to practice this move is in a gym, on an assisted pull-up machine. Using the machine, you can easily adjust the amount of weight by small increments, until you meet your goal of lifting your own body weight. Ask a trainer for help when using the machine the first time, to be sure you’re using correct form. The move can also be done with various modifications using a traditional pull-up bar.”

Why?

A pull-up is a dynamic move that involves a large number of big and small muscles, including your back, core and biceps. Pull-ups are a sign of strength, for men and women alike. “When the weather warms up, you can join the kids on the monkey bars at the park,” says MacRae. “It’s just one of those moves that boosts your self-confidence.”

Kick it up a notch

“Getting the chin above the bar once is tough for most people,” says MacRae. “But when you can do more? Even better. There’s always room for growth.”

Always talk to your physician before you start a new fitness routine. Some of these goals may not be appropriate for people with certain types of injuries or health conditions.

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