With 2020 finally in the rear view mirror, many of us are now thinking about how to improve out lives in the new year.

New Years resolutions are easy to make. Keeping them is a little harder. Here are some tips from the experts about keeping the most popular resolutions: getting into shape, eating right and saving money.

Getting in shape

Getting in shape is one of the most popular New Years’ Resolutions, but it can also be the most daunting. Mike Marcinek and the folks at NEPA Fit Club in Blakely have helped many people on their journeys into the world of fitness.

“We don’t take on a client without getting to know them first and getting an idea of not only where they want to go, but where they’re coming from,” Marcinek said. “We form a customized assessment and evaluation. We get an understanding of their goals and we try to figure out the best way to get them there.”

From all his years in the fitness industry, Marcinek knows what it’s like to take those first steps to getting in shape. Throughout all his training sessions, he stresses “being kind to oneself.” “If this year’s taught us anything it’s that there can be a unbelievable amount of stress in your life,” he said.” Showing up every day is probably the most important thing. Consistency will bring results.”

Marcinek recommends strength training to build quality, lean muscle and burn calories, as well as total-body exercises like squats and deadlifts. With more and more people staying at home instead of visiting a gym, he recommends exercises that don’t require special equipment, including push ups and lunges. He also recommends making things more challenging like doing inverted push-ups and using improvised exercise equipment like doing squats with a backpack on.

“I have a 2-year-old at home, so I’m constantly lifting her and picking her up when I’m doing stuff, so it helps too when she’s on your back and you’re trying to lift yourself off the floor” Marcinek joked.

His most important piece of advice is to have a clear, manageable fitness goal and a timeframe to complete it by.

“Set that goal … work backwards from it and check in with yourself every week, otherwise you’re going to lose track of where you’re at,” he said. “Make sure that when you’re setting a goal, tell everybody about it so they know, and they can support you. It’s always great have a team in your corner.”

Eating right

A new health initiative launched by the Wright Center for Community Health in Jermyn is starting to change the way people view their well-being.

The program, Lifestyle Medicine, was launched in the summer of 2020. It focuses on the six pillars of health: nutrition, exercise, sleep, healthy relationships, stress management and avoidance of harmful substances like tobacco and alcohol.

“Nutrition plays a major role in the program that focuses on the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, such as obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and multiple types of cancer,” said Walter Wanas, the Wright Center’s director of lifestyle modification and preventive medicine. “Unhealthy lifestyle choices, especially unhealthy eating habits are responsible for 80 to 90% of chronic diseases, which is why lifestyle medicine can be the best and most effective treatment.”

When planning on making changes to one’s diet, Wanas recommends speaking a doctor about medical and family history.

“Everyone is different, so there is no-one-size-fits-all diet plan,” he said.

He also recommends taking gradual steps, such as incorporating a couple fruits and vegetables into one’s diet instead of rushing to five servings.

“I find it’s most helpful and effective not to focus on what shouldn’t I eat,” he said. “Instead, concentrate on trying foods that are good for you. This is an easy way to increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables, and you might even discover new favorite foods.”

Although the lifestyle medicine diet involves a plant-based diet, there’s no reason to give up on meat entirely. Wanas recommends replacing a few meat-based meals with plant-based ones and working up from there.

Lastly, Wanas recommends having a realistic goal that one can incorporate into their daily routine, and to always be prepared for setbacks.

“Remember that improving your health is a long-term goal, and that setbacks are a normal part of life. Don’t beat yourself up. Just try again,” said Wanas.

Saving money

After the flurry of holiday spending, the new year is a good time to look over one’s finances. Consulting a financial planner is a good first step.

Steve Selige, a financial advisor with Edward Jones in Olyphant, has some tips on saving money and getting a better hold on one’s finances. Like any New Years’ Resolution, Selige says to begin with a clear-cut goal in mind.

“It’s more important to come up with an idea of what you want and to come up with a plan and a goal, because it helps somebody like myself steer you in the right direction,” he said.

In an age when the things you want are just a click away, impulse buying can become a problem. One way to help curb this is to be deliberate about spending.

“When you receive your paycheck, know where your money is going. Know what bills you have to pay,” he said. “Know how much you’re putting into your retirement account and how much you want to put into savings. It’s OK to earmark some of that money for crazy spending, you just have to be deliberate about it.”

According to Selige, some of the most positive financial changes one can make to their daily lives are creating a household budget and an emergency fund.

“If there’s any better example of having an emergency fund, it would be this year,” said Selige, citing the frequent layoffs and lack of a stimulus package at the beginning of year. “You have to have a certain amount of your expenses covered in cash and you have to have money for emergencies because they happen. If everybody could plan when their water heater exploded, nobody would have any worries, but nobody knows when that’s going to happen.”

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