Great health, fitness starts with adjusting your lifestyle

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Many of you have spent the first few weeks of 2014 getting back to the gym, or starting a new diet and/or fitness program. Getting a jump-start with health and fitness in the new year can be daunting.

Here are a few basic guidelines you can follow to make 2014 successful for your health and fitness.

The most important part of getting your health and fitness back is changing your overall lifestyle - everything from how you view life to what you eat, cutting back on additive behaviors, how often you should workout, what type of activity to do, etc. The one sure-fire way to fail right out of the gate is to try and change everything all at once. It took years for most of you to develop the habits, gain the weight and generally become less healthy and fit than you want to be.

So to master better health and fitness, you need to know where to start.

Let's start with 10 basic starting points:

1. Time. Start with goals based on 30 days, then 60 days, then 90 days following through to the end of year. Remember, health and fitness does not stop after a few weeks. It is ongoing and should be built into your long-term lifestyle.

2. A support network of friends and family. You must receive encouragement from the people closest to you.

3. Change your attitude to one that views each day as a gift, not a challenge. A simple shift in seeing each day as an adventure and finding small bits of joy and happiness can be one of the biggest assets to your health and fitness success.

4. Become aware of what you eat. Many processed foods are designed to drive the urge to eat. Discover what is good and what is bad. Read the labels and avoid things like high fructose corn syrup, for example.

5. Start with small changes to your diet. Eat smaller portions and drink more water instead of soda. Reduce sugar intake gradually, but again be aware of what and how much you are eating, and track the changes.

6. Ease into your workouts. Do too much too soon and you will get injured, become discouraged or just burn out quickly.

7. Take an exercise class. Working out with a group can make it fun. Work with your local gyms or hire a trainer to get started. Seek some basic instruction to get started correctly. This can make all the difference in long-term successful results.

8. You must set realistic goals, both short-term and long-term. Make them easy ones to get started, then push yourself harder as you see results. Goal-setting is huge, and without it, you will not get where you want to be.

9. Track your progress. Keep a journal of your eating, log your exercise and heart rate. Do not weigh yourself every day. Instead, do it twice a week and log your progress. Remember, muscle weighs more than fat, so you may not see weight drop very quickly. Your clothes will tell the tale better as you see inches drop away.

10. Get a checkup from your doctor to be sure you're healthy enough to start an exercise program. Do not overdo it, and get plenty of rest. Building up your conditioning needs to be a gradual process.

Remember to maintain daily goals and keep them simple and easy to reach. Do not just make it about weight loss. It should be a well-rounded overall health and fitness program. This is just the beginning of lifestyle changes to look, feel and be much healthier.

Each day, challenge your mind and stay positive, relax, enjoy the adventure. Surround yourself with positive people who will encourage you and celebrate your successes.

Be aware of what you eat, when you eat and how much you eat. Every day, work on your flexibility; be sure to do stretching, maybe try yoga and/or Pilates-type exercises.

Finally, plan and track your workouts. Gradually increase your cardio and strength routines. If it becomes too difficult, just change up your program. Seek advice or help from a fitness professional. Reach out, just do not give up.

The aspect that you will notice as you go is that it just gets easier the farther down the health and fitness road you go. Stay focused on the journey, not the destination.

Judd Jones is a director for the Hagadone Corporation.

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