by Tiffanie Grady-Gillespie, CPT/Certified Wellness Coach & Owner WickedFiTT

So, tell me what’s more important than your health and well being? I know all (well, most) of us have that little voice saying, “I should have more salad, fewer French fries, maybe a water instead of that soda, and I really should start working out.” But have you truly considered making some legitimate healthy lifestyle changes? (Full disclosure: We don’t need a new year to set goals. We have a new opportunity every single day to make little changes that lead to big results.) Making sure that you have a solid plan before you even think about getting started is the key. Once you have the specifics of your fitness goals set in stone, I have some health and fitness tips you can incorporate into your plan.

Write it down. The first step you should take toward reaching any goal is to understand what your goal is. When it comes to exercise, set an intention by writing down your goal as well as your exercise plans for the week. Every Sunday, write down your workout intentions for the week. Setting it in ink and having a clear-cut plan will increase your sense of accountability, and you’ll be less likely to skip out or make up an illegitimate excuse.

Vary your workouts. Don’t do the same thing every day, and even switch your routine up from week-to-week, too. The fast track to burnout and injury is to do the same workout every day.

Sleep more. Sleep is your foundation. In today’s over stimulated world, sleep is often our basic core need that is most neglected. When we function with a sleep deficit for an extended period of time, our immune systems take a hit and we’re more likely to get sick. There is a long list of additional health issues associated with a lack of sleep, like weight gain and an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Commit to changing one thing about your diet. Take baby steps! When it comes to eating healthier, I advise against the “all or nothing” approach. It’s usually too extreme and not realistic for people. I suggest identifying one thing that you know you can improve and committing to it for one week. Then, choose something else for a week. Within a few months, you’ll have a new diet that you may actually stick with.

Aim to exercise at least 20 minutes per day. We tend to make big promises in the excitement of the New Year. Sadly, this motivation doesn’t last us much past February. Rather than trying to commit to 60 or 90 minutes in the gym, which may not be sustainable when beginning a new exercise routine, try to aim for 20 minutes of activity each day. Twenty minutes is doable, so you are much more likely to stick with it. Consistency is key here. You will find that 20 minutes becomes 30, and so on. Think of it less as working out and more as working it into your daily routine.

Eat healthy fats. Revamp your diet with more healthy fats, like the kinds found in avocados, olive oil and nuts. Ditch the low fat products. They are full of sugar and artificial sweeteners. Next time you have a sweet craving, try eating a healthy fat, like avocado or nut butter. You’ll feel more satisfied and satiated.

Never miss a Monday workout. It sounds crazy, but it will set the tone for the rest of your week. Starting out on the right foot will make you more likely to continue the trend through the rest of the week and over the long-term, too

Don’t cut out entire food groups. I advise against making extreme changes or taking on difficult elimination diets. Just think about healthier eating as a whole.

Realize that there’s no quick fix for health and fitness. Above all else, no matter where you are in terms of health and fitness and no matter what your goals are, start off by acknowledging that whatever changes you’re aiming to make, it will take time. Make changes that you can maintain for a balanced existence that will last a lifetime.