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How to Avoid Workout Burnout With Your New Year's Resolution

By Meredith Hoffman | January 8, 2013 7:15am

NEW YORK CITY — Lara Licharowicz has seen it every January — a surge of instant fitness fiends flooding the gyms around the city with high hopes of achieving their New Year's resolutions. 

"You couldn't get a treadmill it gets so crowded," Licharowicz said of the Upper East Side's Sports Club LA, where she used to work. "Then you start to see it trickle down and you're back to normal by mid-February."

Most overnight health nuts may abandon their goals within a month or two after setting resolutions in January, but the crash is not inevitable, experts say. All it takes is patience, focus and a few easy tricks to stay on track to make sure your fitness resolution is a lifelong marathon, not a sprint.

Tip No. 1: Invest in High-Quality Workout Clothes

Before his clients kick off their new workout programs, trainer Manuel Clemente tells them to go shopping.

"Go buy the most expensive workout clothes," he advised, "because if you’re a person like I am you don’t like to waste money. You don’t want to see $300 pair of Nikes sitting in the closet collecting dust."

Not only will you feel obliged to get wear out of your new threads, but a new outfit will help you "look the part" to be motivated, he said.

Plus, it might stop you from splurging on unhealthy indulgences, added Clemente, a trainer at Body Space Fitness on West 14th Street in Manhattan.

“You may not want to spend as much money on alcohol or going out,” he said.

Tip No. 2: Ignore the "No Pain No Gain" Philosophy

Whether starting with brief exercises or mildly strenuous activities, Licharowicz and other trainers insisted that a "microprogression" is the only reliable way to work up to your optimal shape without giving up prematurely.

"I'm very, very opposed to the idea of no pain no gain," said Licharowicz, who now owns her own fitness studio, The Lara Touch. "You want to work out to a threshold where you don't feel really sore afterwards... you want to finish a workout invigorated, not exhausted."

Licharowicz added that the key is "small but consistent steps."

Fellow trainer Sheryl Dluginski of Generations Fitness studio takes the same approach.

"Even just the littlest bit...seven days a week is more powerful and meaningful than trying a new class two days a week," Dluginski said, claiming that taking daily time to focus on exercise or meditation can transform a person's health. "Once you have your foot in the door you can open it more and more."

Tip No. 3: Start With Your Core

Longtime Miami trainer Dane Evans, who now lives in Williamsburg, agreed that small, consistent steps are key — but he emphasized that full body fitness starts with your stomach and chest, even when it comes to weight-lifting.

"Start off doing 15 minutes of core work two or three days a week for a few weeks...just Google the words 'core exercises,'" he said of how to make a simple beginning.

Then head to the gym for full body workouts, he instructed, which would employ the stomach's strength to lift weights properly rather than straining other muscles.

Tip No. 4: Focus on Repetition and Multiple Muscle Groups

Evans said the best way to build muscles was through multiple sets of lifting lighter weights, and noted that every workout, besides the initial core exercises, should last about 30 to 40 minutes and focus on the entire body.

"You don't want to go in and work out one muscle and then not go back for a few weeks," he warned. "I don't work out with crazy heavy weights. I work out with moderate weights with repetition and that keeps my body maintained."

Tip No. 5: Embrace the Power of Other People

The beauty of the new year, Licharowicz said, is that almost everyone is united in the feeling that they are turning over a new leaf.

"The emotional benefit of starting in January is that everyone is starting off together," she said, adding that "your sins of the last year of not working out are forgiven."

And the people who continue their workouts past January, she claimed, are the ones who find another person to track their progress.

"Make a partnership with a friend or a personal trainer," she said.

Tip No. 6: Jam Out

To avoid distractions, to energize and to focus on your own experience, Clemente suggests wearing headphones on every visit to the gym.

“You have to have headphones,” he said. “Every gym is going to get crowded, but you have to zone out, be in yourself and get into a happy place.”

Tip No. 7: Imagine You Have Already Achieved Your Goal

If weight loss or changing your body is your focus, Licharowicz said, you can easily fall into the trap of discouragement over the person you wish you were. 

"Say, 'I wonder what it would feel like it I were 10 pounds skinnier,'" she instructed. "And if you're thinking [if] you're skinny you're going to make a healthier choice...See yourself as if you've already achieved the goals and live into being that person."

Tip No. 8: Do What You Love

Whether you prefer dancing, basketball or martial arts, follow your passion to keep up your workout routine.

"When choosing a form of exercise it's really important that it be fun and light you up in some way," Licharowicz said, "because if it feels like a chore you won't keep it up."