Since Thanksgiving, most folks have been shoveling seasonal goodies down their gullets faster than local contractors have been pulling dirt out of the ground to install sewers and update infrastructure along U.S. 1. If you’re expanding waistline is battling against your tight budget – and resulting in a limit on purchasing an entirely new wardrobe – why not concentrate on small steps to change the bigger picture in 2011…instead of falling off the resolution bandwagon in less than two weeks?

The most common New Year’s resolutions revolve around conditioning: shedding pounds, becoming more fiscally fit and kicking bad habits like smoking. These goals are very broad and general; they require attainable, measurable goals in order to be successful. Conditioning, just like strength training for a sport in high school or studying in advance of a particularly important exam, also require regularly commitment.

As the calendar pages turn into the New Year, with extra workloads, more volunteer meetings, school obligations and social functions, make the commitment simple and as easy to integrate into your daily as your morning cup of coffee.

Common statistics show that approximately 75 percent of resolution-makers remain persistent past the first week; just under half of those who set realistic goals are still committed past June.

It’s so easy to say, “I’m going to start working out again!” So, with new running shoes and pricey new workout gear packed in our gym bags, we head with a renewed sense of energy to the gym and pay for a membership. Only, that shiny new membership card remains buried at the bottom of our purses, briefcases or wallets until it’s bursting seams demand a cleaning and we pull it out, wondering, “What in the world is this?”

“Saying, ‘I want to lose weight’ is not a goal; it’s a vision,” said personal trainer Peter Vanicky. “If you get a membership and just walk through the door with no direction, within a couple of weeks, you will lose interest. Resolutions are an idea, not a concept. If you say to yourself, ‘I want to lose 15 pounds in three months,’ then you have a goal, and you will stick to a plan.”

In order for a workout to, well, work, it must be fun and something about which we can be excited. There are so many more fun and engaging ways to burn calories these days, even in the Keys, than simply hitting the gym.

Take a dance class. From ballroom to tap, jazz or ballet, there are studios throughout the Keys offering a variety of classes and packages well within your budget.

Find a friend. Going at it alone is the guaranteed way to ensure you’ll be hitting the snooze alarm or heading straight to Happy Hour from the office and completely skipping your workout altogether. Find someone with common goals and interests to help keep you accountable…to yourself.

Scout your social networks. Though we might all be experts at sitting around a plate of appetizers and imbibing in libations, there are plenty of free novice group workouts (think Boot Camp® for beginners) in which everyone around is functioning at the same capacity. Being intimidated by bodybuilders at the gym is no longer an excuse. Also, check the bulletin board at your favorite health and wellness stores. Individual instructors who don’t have huge advertising budgets coordinate many small classes. From yoga and meditation to bike races and kayak adventures, there’s bound to be something that provides the perfect balance of exercise and entertainment.

If you don’t see what you want, ask for it! Privately owned gyms are filled with knowledgeable people who have the basic fitness training to help coordinate and lead the latest in exercise classes.

Kicking a bad habit like smoking may seem an insurmountable goal, but universities research and develop programs for rural communities like ours to help create baby steps in order for you to achieve success.

Florida Keys Area Health Education Coalition (AHEC) is comprised of local folks, funded by grants and federal entities, which have developed programs based on Monroe County demographics (and geographic challenges!) that have a proven track record of success. Check out for ideas, testimonials and a program schedule in your neighborhood.

Check out our article also in this edition on simple ideas for financial fitness in 2011.

Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself, and remember to count your blessings. This year, with growing unemployment rates and the newly coined “Great Recession,” if you’re reading this, then you still have something, for which to be thankful.

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