Start your spring fitness tune-up

Spring has sprung. The flowers are growing, and tight-shorts-and-bare-biceps season is around the corner.

Uh oh, it’s time for new growth, new beginnings, time to clean up your house, your bike and your act. It’s time to tune in to your highest and best self, and turn your attention to setting some healthy lifestyle goals that will carry you into the summer, looking and feeling calmer, trimmer and more energetic.

Goal-setting works. Spring is all about making a fresh start. Birds do it, trees do it, and so can you. Get a fresh notebook, and start your fitness journal today. Keeping a journal is a big help when it comes to setting goals and keeping track of your success.

What you write in your journal - how much you exercised, what you ate for breakfast, how you let go of your anger when your car was bumped from behind - isn’t nearly as important as the daily discipline of paying attention to your life.

Don’t let your journal-keeping feel like a chore. Keep it fun. Include jokes, poems, expressions of gratitude, silly things that make you smile. It’s a dialogue with yourself, so be honest. Begin your “Spring has Sprung” journal with one fitness goal to three personal fitness goals that are meaningful to you.

I can’t tell you what your personal fitness goals should be, but I can tell you to make them doable. If you’ve been dormant all winter, running a marathon in May isn’t realistic. Walking a 5K is. Dieting away 20 pounds in a month isn’t realistic. Dropping five pounds is.

Getting rid of all your stress isn’t possible. Taking 10 minutes a day to quiet your mind is. The point is, you want to experience success. That will keep you motivated. Ultimately, you have to take charge, set your own goals and believe in your ability to change.

I can’t resist making a few suggestions to get you moving in the right direction:

  • Stay positive. Always start where you are. If you’ve been a slug all winter and are weighing in at your highest ever, that’s OK. Today really is the beginning of the rest of your life.

Don’t dwell on the negative. Change isn’t linear. It’s two steps forward, one step back, and then forward again, knowing that the things you want for yourself - greater strength, more energy, size 6 jeans - are within your reach.

  • Exercise more. Like plants to the light, your body wants to be more active. It thrives on physical fun. You say you aren’t athletic and were a klutz as a kid? Too bad. Get over it.

There’s a sport for everyone. Find yours, and program it into your week, at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, at least 3 or 4 times a week. Yoga counts, dancing counts, so does walking, swimming and lifting weights.
You say you don’t have time? Make time. Make up your mind to be more active, and your body will be happy to follow.

If you’re already exercising regularly, congratulations. Use spring to crank your routine up a notch. Keep it fun, but keep challenging yourself.

  • Eat smart. Let spring 2006 mark the moment that you stop dieting. Forever. Diets don’t work. Diets are all about deprivation and denial. You go on a diet only to go off a diet and gain all the weight back. What does work is smart, clean eating based on your ability to educate yourself and understand what it means to eat satisfying and real - as in unprocessed - food in appropriate amounts.

It’s like driving a car. You must learn the rules of the road. Losing weight is no secret: calories in, calories out. There are no short cuts, no gimmicks. There are success stories. You can be one of them.

Be brave. Change can be scary. Living a healthier lifestyle means leaving some old habits behind. Eating better, exercising more and learning to alleviate your stress without booze or pills can help transform you into the person you want to be.

You have to be willing to let go, to grow, to change. That’s what spring is all about.

Whatever your sport, you will perform better, last longer and come away with fewer aches and pains if you learn to use your breath to unblock and energize your body. It’s a secret. Tell everyone you know.

Marilynn Preston is a fitness expert, personal trainer and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues. She welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to