The problem with most New Year's Resolutions is that they're either too daunting or too ambiguous. Setting very specific and realistic goals, especially when it comes to health and fitness, is the best way of sticking with your resolutions.
Below are some suggestions if you're struggling to come up with good ones on your own. I know these are doable, because over the years I've done them myself. Best wishes to you and yours in 2014.
1. Stop drinking soda and fruit juice. I'm starting off with a big one, but I drank my last soda in 2005. You can do it. If you like the carbonation, go with sparkling water with fruit flavors. And if you're wondering why fruit juice is included, it's because the sugar content of things such as orange juice and apple juice is as high as soda. If you can drop soda and juice from your diet, you'll boost you overall health a great deal.
2. Drink water all day long. Not only does water help regulate your pH balance and organ functions, it keeps your muscles contracting properly and also satiates your appetite. You'll feel better and eat less. Drink 60-120 ounces a day. Start with a glass as soon as you get up and put one on the nightstand when you go to bed. It should be the first and last thing you drink each day.
3. Eat whole foods as often as you can. I like the 80-20 rule, meaning eat healthy 80 percent of the time. Things such as eggs, nuts, fruits, vegetables, fish, etc. That means cutting way back on bread, chips, so-called nutrition bars, cheese, bagels, etc. If it was manufactured, don't eat it.
4. Commit to 20 minutes of exercise every other day. As much as I love walking, I recommend you do something a bit more strenuous. Go for a swim, use a rowing machine, ride a bike, lift weights, sweep your sidewalks. You get the idea.
5. Say goodbye to your last gym machine. Not only do most gym machines isolate muscles -- instead of recruiting others to perform simple exercises -- they also provide a false sense of stability. And without proper stability, you'll never be able to utilize the strength gains you've made on machines. For every exercise you can do on a machine, there's a better one you can do freestyle.
6. Focus on your strike zone. In baseball, the zone usually is from your chest to your knees. The muscles in this region are the really important ones. And don't forget to train the posterior muscles (backside) just as much as you do the ones on your front side.
7. Shallow your swing. Most amateurs swing the club too steeply. They make a chopping motion down into the ball. While it's true that you want to hit a ball resting on the turf with a descending blow, the angle of approach does not need to be severe. Think of a plane landing on a runway. It descends gradually and uses a lot of the runway to stop. If you can shallow your approach into the ball, you'll save your wrists, elbows and shoulder joints a lot of unnecessary stress.
8. Walk whenever you can. I like to carry my golf bag, too, but push/pullcarts are fine. Unless you're physically disabled, there's no reason to ride in a golf cart. And if a course tells you that they have a "no-walking" policy, ask the director of golf for special permission. If he or she says no, then say you have a policy of playing golf courses that allow walking and politely leave.
9. Strengthen your shoulder girdle. Your scapula, rotator cuffs, etc. These muscles provide the brakes to your golf swing. The stronger they are, the less chance you'll have of hurting yourself by over-swinging.
10. Sit up straight. Sounds simple, but you'd be surprised how often we slouch. When you do sit up straight, squeeze your glute muscles a few times, too. This helps activate the muscles that keep you propped up. And if you sit all day long, do hip-extension exercises a few times a week.
Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.
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