It’s tradition to make New Years resolutions, and some of the most popular yearly promises are health-related. People vow to eat healthier food, practice stress management techniques, and get into a regular exercise routine.

Health clubs fill to capacity for the first week or two of January. Unfortunately, they empty out by February 1st as the once enthusiastic New Year’s crowd drops out when they realize that fitness is hard work.

How can you get back on track if you feel yourself slipping? These three suggestions will help you keep your exercise resolution and reap the rewards when you’re fitter, healthier, and happier by the end of the year:

1) Make Your Exercise Time Non-Negotiable

You wouldn’t blow off an important meeting with your boss, would you? If you were taking a college class, would you simply stop attending? Would you decide not to bother with a doctor or dentist appointment? Would you turn off the alarm clock, roll over, and skip church?

Your exercise time is just as important as all those commitments. You’ve probably familiar with this Bible verse: 

Or don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have from God? You are not your own. —1 Corinthians 6:19.

As you can see, your physical health is important, not only for yourself but because of your body’s link to God. It deserves just as much respect as the other important aspects of your life. Set an appointment with yourself for 60 to 90 minutes, at least three days a week, which is the recommended amount of exercise from the USDA. Write it on the calendar, set a reminder on your smart phone, and, most important, keep it.

2) Use Slip-ups as Motivation

Why do people who start strong with their exercise programs drop out so fast? Many slip out of their routine and miss a day or two of exercise or go a little wild at a buffet and suddenly get demotivated. They let one or two mistakes destroy their entire exercise resolution.

There’s no reason to throw away your progress just because of a slip-up. God knows all too well that we’re human and make mistakes. He forgives us and gives us second (and third and fourth) chances, so why can’t we do that for ourselves?

Use slip-ups as motivation to improve your exercise routine. Get back on track immediately with your next work-out session, and ask yourself, “What happened? Why did I have a slip?”

You might discover that you’re overworking yourself. Soreness is part of physical activity, but if you’re pushing too hard, you won’t be able to stick it out because you’re in too much pain. Perhaps your form for certain exercises is off, in which case you might want to sign up for a few sessions with a physical trainer.

Maybe the problem lies in the time you’ve designated for exercise or the type of activities you’re doing. Is whatever you’re doing before your workouts running too long? Switch your schedule around. Are you doing activities that you hate? Try something new. For example, if you hate aerobics, switch to running, swimming, or biking. If you hate intense activity, try power walking or Tai Chi. The possibilities are endless.

3) Make a Financial Commitment

Sometimes we perceive “free” things as having little value. That’s a sad attitude for a Christian, since God doesn’t charge for His grace, but it’s one that society ingrains in us. It often spills over to an exercise resolution for those who are doing simple activities like going for walks or bike rides. They seem unimportant after the warm glow of the New Year fades into the doldrums of mid-January.

Step up your commitment by signing up for a healthy club membership or booking sessions with a personal trainer. Some health clubs, like Planet Fitness, only cost $10 a month. Most people can fit that into their budget, yet the financial outlay makes them feel like they have to “use” the membership.

If you can’t afford a health club or trainer, the next best thing is working out with a friend. It’s free, and it gives you someone to whom you’re accountable. Go for walks or jogs together or buy some inexpensive exercise DVDs and have your own aerobics classes in each other’s homes.

Don’t be part of the quitter statistics this year. Use these three tips to make an exercise resolution that will last far beyond the first few weeks of the year.

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