Each year at this time, I remind readers NOT to make the first days of the New Year their biggest fitness time by resolving to work out every day. This is something we can’t possibly do and thus we’ll stop.  

I again want to encourage everyone to resolve to do what they CAN do and go from there.

You can’t work out hard every day, but you probably can take a few minutes three times a week for a short walk (or bike, swim, jog, treadmill or elliptical machine, etc.). The point is just to do anything regularly.  

Once that is established, you can then increase it gradually by just a little more Duration, Intensity or Frequency, in that order of priority. Over time, you will see a big DIFference in your level of fitness.

My usual example is to start with a walk to the mailbox or the corner and back, then around the block, etc. Once that is established, you can increase your pace for a minute or so. 

Stick to just one gradual adjustment at a time, keeping that for a week or more. I’m sure you get the point: Do only what you CAN do.

The same principle applies to working out for strength at home or at a gym. Let me explain by my own example after re-hitting the gym in July. First, I started with what I CAN do and experimented until I now have about a dozen exercises that use a variety of swimming muscles, supplementing my three times per week choice of aerobic fitness activity.

I work in five-week cycles with the same weights and machines. The first week (Tuesday and Thursday), I do 10 reps of each; second week, 15 reps; third week, two sets of 10 (about 10- or 15-second break between); fourth week, 15 reps, break, then 10 reps; fifth week, two sets of 15.  

Then I adjust weights for the next cycle; one or two might stay the same, but the rest add 5 or 10 pounds for the five-week cycle.  

I’m not perfectly regular, with meets, holidays, and closures affecting my schedule, occasionally doing a third one before going on, but it’s fine for the long haul. It’s always what I CAN do, which gradually increases, thus building strength with no stress injuries.

If you will give yourself just 15 minutes a few times a week regularly, you will be amazed at what can be developed gradually. And you build your pride, confidence, and well-being by doing it.  Happy New Year! 

Dr. Bob Colyer of Bluffton is an actively retired college professor, coach, and author of “Swim Better: A Guide to Greater Efficiency for Swimmers & Instructors,” directed primarily to non-competitors. bobcolyer@yahoo.com