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'Tis the New Year, when health and fitness awareness peaks

Diane Olivieri, a personal trainer since 1979, realizes it is a challenge every year at this time for resolutions to turn in results. Photo by Margaret Ontl

The push is on this week to get a start on all those healthy resolutions you made last week but knew you would not start until this week. I checked in with Diane Olivieri, who has been a personal trainer since 1979. She has been through so many of these resolution cycles with her friends and clients her message is honed and clear.

"I would say start small," said Olivieri. "Maybe the first couple of weeks try to do a little cardio work, two to three times a week. Add a little bit of strength training after two weeks. Then step it up to exercising to three or four times a week. If you can keep this up for six months you have built a good habit."

"Everybody starts this week like gangbusters, they get sore and either quit immediately or go until mid-February," said Olivieri. "A lot of time we don't see them again until the next January."

One of the big keys to success according to Olivieri and nearly every expert and program from Weight Watchers, The Mayo Clinic Diet and the recent hit, 7 Years Younger, is accountability.

"You have to have accountability. That is why group classes are great," said Olivieri. "Or if you can get to a personal trainer once a week, you have to face the fact that you are either making progress or not."

Olivieri actually tells people "make yourself drive to the gym parking lot three times a week. Or if it is the treadmill in the basement do the same thing, go stand by it. Eventually you will go in or get on."

One of her clients uses color coded stickers on her calendar to account for her activities.

"Again it is accountability," said Olivieri, who isn't concerned she might sound like a broken record. After all these years in the business she knows what works. "It is also putting your selves first as a priority."

"We are living longer," said Olivieri. "Cardio is great but it is strength training that helps us get out of a chair. It increases flexibility, coordination, balance and core strength. It is about functional capacity. Twenty minutes twice a week can offer you a lot."

Admittedly very few people can succeed doing a fitness program at home alone.

"You have to have somebody you are accountable to and it should be fun," said Olivieri. "It is a fact that strength training programs instituted in nursing homes have gotten people out of their wheelchairs. Before that stage though, you have to have somebody that can make you go."

Accountability is also vital on the nutrition end of the fitness as well.

"You have to write everything down and show it to somebody," said Olivieri. "Keep a food journal. Accountability is the key. I have one simple word for nutrition - no sugar. It is hidden in nearly everything."

"Every gym in this town has something to offer and there are some great DVDs out there," said Olivieri. "So start small, keep moving and find an accountability buddy."

Olivieri works at Riverfront Athletic Club.