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The Daily Tar Heel

For the new year, focus on getting ?t

You might have gone to the gym on the first day after Winter Break. If you did, then we probably bumped into one another on the track. It was packed in there.

When I got to Rams Head Recreation Center, I was sure that I had actually stumbled onto the set of a National Geographic special.

I slowly lumbered around the track like the proverbial elephant at a watering hole, and the swift, predatory runners wove in and out of the masses in an attempt to keep their heart rates up.

I have to assume that at least some of these people were here because of their New Year’s resolutions.

If you’ve missed out on the last century of American culture, perhaps you haven’t heard about New Year’s resolutions.

But chances are that you know what they are, and you might have even made a few for 2010.

You might have decided to get better grades, or to budget more effectively. But one resolution that pops up for many people year after year is fitness. People will frequently resolve to exercise more.

The holidays come with desserts, large family gatherings and general lethargy, so often the New Year is seen as a new chance to rededicate oneself to pursuing a fitter lifestyle.

The sad truth is that though all these students are crammed into the gym on the first day after break, attendance will wane as the semester progresses.

But you and I don’t have to follow that trend. Instead of letting your exercise habits fall to the wayside, think about these tips from the American Heart Association.

They fall into a few general categories:

Turn exercise into something habitual. You can do this by setting a time when you always plan on going, and fitting it into your schedule. Successful exercisers I’ve talked to treat going to the gym just like another class. Getting into a rhythm will ensure that you actually get there.

Start slowly. You aren’t helping yourself by working out so strenuously in the first week that you burn out for a month. If you just manage to do moderate activity, that’s better than nothing at all.

That sounds like a platitude, but I’ve been stopped from exercising because I was worried it wouldn’t be “serious” exercise.

Enjoy what you do to stay fit. Use music or fun activities and get excited about your upcoming run. Go to a place that doesn’t stress you out, and choose exercises you’ll want to complete.

Get your friends to help you out. Being responsible to other people has worked for team sports for centuries, and it will work for you as well.

Stack the deck in your favor and choose workout buddies who will keep you on track.

Sometimes we love that our friends will let us off the hook easily, but lax expectations won’t help you here. The best gym partners strike a balance between supportive coach and stern taskmaster.

In Chapel Hill, you can look around on any given day and see happy people jogging through the streets. Even if you’re not marathon-ready, you’ll release some endorphins, move your body and have a good time.

In this episode of National Geographic, you can be the elephant that never forgets to exercise, or you can be the cheetah sprinting around the track. Just make sure to choose the role that fits you best.

Reed Watson is a junior philosophy and psychology major from Raleigh. Contact Reed at

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