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New Year, New You

How to make your health resolutions attainable

En español | New Year's Eve, the traditional time for resolutions like quitting smoking or getting out of debt, is fast upon us. Many of you probably have been there, done that — and then not followed up — so be forewarned, I'm not going to dish out the usual New Year's shape-up advice.

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Woman swimming, Set manageable goals to achieve New Year's resolutions

Set manageable daily goals to reach your New Year's resolutions. — Davis Bell/Corbis

Don't get me wrong: I'm all for New Year's resolutions. But if you're going to make resolutions, make them unbreakable. And you do that by setting measurable, manageable goals. Some advice:

Set small daily goals this year. They are easier to accomplish, and so foster a sense of success, which helps you achieve the next day's goals. Each daily goal is like a rung on a ladder that helps you, step by step, to the top.

For example, I'm training for another triathlon this spring. I'll be competing in the biking leg as part of a team, so I've set small goals for myself to prepare. I'll start by biking 20 to 30 minutes, four or five times a week, for about two weeks. Then I'll work up to 45 to 60 minutes of daily biking. Once I've built this early base, I'll emphasize the longer rides that will make me race-ready.

What about you? Let's say you've resolved to live healthier in 2013. When you get up in the morning, choose one or two goals for the day. Examples of daily goals might be eating a certain number of portions of fruits and vegetables, not drinking any sugary sodas, going to an exercise class or practicing some form of stress management.

Make sure your goals are measurable. When I run a mile on the track, for example, I time myself. If I previously did it in 7 minutes 45 seconds, the next time I want to run it in, say, 10 fewer seconds. I like to be able to measure what I do because I need to see progress to keep myself going. Goals built around wearing a heart rate monitor or a pedometer to count steps can help you measure progress.

Goals that are too lofty lead to setbacks, so you should make your goals attainable. They also need to be flexible enough to accommodate the unexpected. If your goal is to run in a certain race, and you are injured, you may have to modify that goal, compete in a different event, or postpone your race until you've healed. But you don't give up on your resolutions, you adjust.

Finally, be sure to acknowledge all your efforts. If you've put your heart into hitting your goals and you don't quite succeed, don't beat yourself up. Whenever people ask me how many Wimbledons I won, I say, "Nine, but it should've been 10."

Sure, you always remember the one that got away, but I am also always thankful for every accomplishment.

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