New Year’s Day has come and gone. Perhaps you resolved to make some changes in your life:

"I want to get into shape."
"I want to eat better."
"I want to reduce my stress."

Such resolutions are stated with the intent to follow through. However, sticking to these goals is challenging because they have no real direction. Achieving any goal is not an easy straight path, and generalities are definitely not very motivating.

The individuals who make general resolutions are usually "beginners" in terms of experience and success in fitness and lifestyle changes. They may have tried and tried to start a program, but did not construct a realistic plan.

Using the example "I want to get in shape this year," let's build a plan that will work.

1) Define "get in shape." Do you want to have muscles that are defined? Do you want to lose 25 pounds? Do you want to play tag with your grandchildren without gasping for air? Do you want to lift more than your body weight? Do you want to walk a mile in 15 minutes?

Select one specific "in shape" goal you want to achieve.

2) "I want to walk a mile in 15 minutes."

If you are a beginner to regular exercise it will take you about 4 months to reach this goal. You can plan short term goals to gradually increase your walking.

Month 1 - The first goal is to commit to a walking schedule.

"I will walk 30 minutes 3 days a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 5:30 – 6:00 pm."

During these walks, notice the distance that you walk. Continue to walk according to your schedule for 4 weeks, always noticing if you have walked further than previous walks.

Month 2 - After the first month, increase your goal to either:

"I will walk 45 minutes three days a week," or "I will walk 30 minutes four days a week".

Either increase will challenge and train your legs further. Continue to notice the distance you walk.

Month 3 - This month you should determine a distance of one mile. After walking moderately for 5-10 minutes to warm-up, take a baseline test and walk the mile you measured as fast as you can, timing yourself. Note the time it takes, and continue your regular walking sessions.

During your regular walking, you can alternate between walking fast and slower, as you need to. This Interval Training will help you increase both your speed and stamina.

At least once a week repeat the mile walk to measure any change in speed.

Month 4 - As you continue to train you will notice yourself getting closer to your goal of walking a mile in 15 minutes. When you reach your goal take time to celebrate your success! Brag about it.

3) After 4 months, you may also notice that:

You have muscle definition, especially in your legs.
You have probably lost some weight.
You could play tag with anybody’s children and not gasp for air.
Your leg strength has increased.

In other words, you have achieved definition of the general resolution to "get in shape." You can continue with your walking routine as you desire or you may want to try new activities, such as training with weights, taking fitness classes, playing a sport, and so on.

The steps outlined in this example can work for any kind of goal.

1) Form a specific definition of the goal.
2) Break the goal down into smaller goals.
3) Monitor your progress.
4) Celebrate your success.

By building specific, easy to do goals from your resolution, your whole year will be new!

Author's Bio: 

Pam Germain has been a fitness instructor and personal trainer since 1989. She directs the National Association for Fitness Certification (NAFC) which offers training, certification, and continuing education for personal trainers, group/aerobics instructors, and wellness consultants. Visit