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Holiday flab? Don't make a resolution; train with resolve

Are you carrying the holidays around? You know what I'm talking about: the cake and chocolates and eggnog.

Now your jeans are tighter than they were before, and with all the shopping and wrapping and chilling with family and friends, you puff a little if you climb the stairs.

It's time to get rid of the holidays that have migrated to your body; time to drop the fat and get conditioned and athletic. As always, the first step is the mental workout.

First, how are you thinking about the coming months? Is the phrase in your mind something about wanting to "get in shape"? If so, drop that phrase and never think of it again. "Get in shape" is a nonsensical term. Get in shape for what? The words don't convey an intent or a goal; they are vague and meaningless. Instead, think about the coming months in terms of a concrete goal. But this is not a New Year's resolution. Resolutions can be dropped without a second thought. Stating a goal gives you a road to follow. It also makes you aware of the necessary steps to reach your goal.

So make a specific plan: "I want to be a faster cyclist." "I want to squat my body weight for 12 reps." "I want to take 30 seconds off my mile."

Those are good goals because they're specific and attainable. The best way to reach a specific goal is with baby steps.

If your squat needs to increase 60 pounds or more to reach your body weight, add five to 10 pounds every week, and work out consistently, so your body adapts to lifting more weight each week. Improve a little at a time, consistently, and you can reach any goal you set for yourself.

Once your mental prep is complete, it's time for the tactical plan. You can't plan your workout with a hit-or-miss method. Your workout must be carved out of your available time, but it must be a disciplined priority. Figure out when you can schedule an hour or more from your life. Before work? After work? Before dinner and family? After? Make the decision and stick to it. Elevate its importance in your mind so you won't even consider skipping a scheduled workout.

Next, do what most big businesses do: Hire a consultant. Unless you've studied sports science, you won't be able to plan the perfect workout for yourself. Hire a trainer to design your workout routine. Schedule at least 15 minutes at the end of each training session for flexibility work — stretching. Yes, you have to stretch, just like star athletes all do.

Tell the trainer what your goals are and what your sport is, and have the trainer create a training program, with the bimonthly changes you need to make to keep your body progressing. In order to keep losing fat and building muscle, your body can't be allowed to adapt to your current workout and slow down. You have to keep pushing your metabolism by changing your exercises, weight and reps every few weeks.

Start now, and you'll not only get rid of what the holidays did to turn you into a blubbery mess; you'll be a fit and toned athlete by spring.