Few things inspire us to get in shape more than the New Year. It’s a time when we make commitments to ourselves, and often these commitments involve fitness. To make the changes stick, we must first exercise a little self awareness, then develop a plan.  As you commit to the best “new you” in 2011, I encourage you to grab a pen and paper and plan your strategy based on the following nine recommendations: 
Find what you love to do. What activity leaves your body feeling tired but your heart feeling full? There are challenging moments in any activity, but what activity challenges you in a positive way?
Make your goals official and attainable. With a calendar at hand, write down your monthly goals. Break those goals into smaller weekly goals. Share your goals with someone who will give you positive support.
Give yourself three dedicated weeks. The first three weeks are a pivotal part of your program. It takes this long for your body and mind to adapt to any new change.
Evaluate your environment. What potential setbacks do you face and how will you overcome them? You can easily identify what these things will be by evaluating previous failures. If you slip up, get right back on track. (If you accidentally run a stop sign, you don’t keep running stop signs the rest of the day because you made one mistake.) 
Get good gear. There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. If you exercise outside in January, you run a higher risk of injury if you aren’t adequately prepared with the correct shoes and clothing. 
Get help. If nutrition is a sticking point, enlist the help of a nutritionist. If you aren’t comfortable in the gym, hire a personal trainer to help you get acclimated. (I wouldn’t try to change my car’s oil without first being taught how to do it properly, and I expect my body to carry me a lot longer than my vehicle.)
Drink plenty of water. In the winter months we tend to drink less water because it’s cold. But if you’re starting a new workout routine, you actually need to drink more water. Plus, it will help curb your cravings. Divide your weight in half; this number is the number of ounces you should drink per day. 
Breathe. Sounds silly right? It isn’t. You are putting your body under stress during exercise. If the body isn’t used to it, it will “freak out” at certain moments, just as it does when you face any stressful life situation.  Take a few deep breaths, then move forward. Let this be your new mantra.  
Share the love! Tell people about your new lifestyle. Invite them to participate. Play with your children and develop healthy household habits like cooking together or going to the park. Make this more than a resolution – make it a lifestyle. 
Good luck to you in 2011, and may you be blessed with a healthy, happy life. 

Sarah Ayers (doing yoga) is president and head trainer of Inner Strength Fitness, a local fitness company that offers boot camps, personal training, yoga classes and more. For more information, visit