REAL LIFE: Stick to your New Year resolutions

Emma HarrowingDid you vow that you would regularly go to the gym this year but found that your good intentions went by the wayside? If you are one of the many people who long to get fit but you find that your motivation waivers read on.Emma Harrowing

Did you vow that you would regularly go to the gym this year but found that your good intentions went by the wayside? If you are one of the many people who long to get fit but you find that your motivation waivers read on. BY EMMA HARROWING.

It is the end of the working day and Erika Howe from Thorpe St Andrew decides that tonight is the night that she will go to the gym. She has let her attendance dip over the past two weeks and is reluctant to go.

She has consoled herself in the fact that she cycles to and from work, but she longs to improve her fitness. She knows that in order to do this she needs to exercise more, however the lure of the sofa, the suggestion of meeting friends for a quick after-work drink or the thought of a relaxing evening in front of the television looks more appealing.

However tonight she feels motivated, tonight will be the night that she starts her rigorous exercise regime. She grabs her gym bag and ventures into the strange familiarity of the room full of weight lifting and cardiovascular machines.

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After a few minutes on the cross-trainer, Erika does a few weights and then heads back to the changing room to have a shower. Her workout is over.

It takes a few days and sometimes a week later for her to do the same routine again.

Erika is not alone. It is estimated that the majority of people who join a gym in January will have given up or let their exercise regime flounder slightly by March.

'I have always been a member of a gym, but my fitness routine would go from working out three or more times a week to just once a week,' says 26-year-old Erika. 'I could never generate enough motivation to keep up a fitness routine and so I never saw much improvement in my fitness levels. As I didn't see any positive effects my motivation would decrease further. I was in a Catch-22 situation.'

In December last year Erika had an epiphany. One day, when she was feeling particularly determined to get fit, her brother suggested that they sign up to do a triathlon in the summer.

Erika said: 'It seemed like a good idea as it would give me something to work towards. I felt that by setting myself a goal I was more likely to stay motivated, which would enable me to achieve the fitness levels I wanted.'

And so Erika began enthusiastically training. Swimming was her biggest weakness and so she started to go swimming twice a week. She also started running or cycling early in the morning before work and in the evenings.

At first Erika found that her determination to get fit for the triathlon was enough to get her up at 6.30 on a cold morning to go for a run or bike ride and gave her enough motivation to battle it out in the pool. But then the familiar excuses to not go swimming or not go for a run after work started to kick in.

'I was determined not to let these thoughts put me off this time,' says Erika.'To make sure I would stick to my new exercise regime and achieve my goal I decided to join a local triathlon club.

'The Tri-Anglia Triathlon club has a mixed ability group so you do not feel intimidated. The group gives me the motivation to keep going, even on days when I feel that I cannot push myself anymore.'

Erika also runs in the mornings with a friend to make sure that she doesn't give up.

By putting these 'safety' measures in place and through her determination to do well at the triathlon later this year Erika has managed to stick to her resolution to get fit for the first time.

'I have got to the stage where I am beginning to see improvements in my fitness levels which is spurring me on,' says Erika.

'Where I had given up when the going was tough before, I have stuck with my exercise routine and now I am seeing the results.'

Erika is so motivated with her new fitness regime that she has decided to do two triathlons this summer. She has also added spinning classes to her list of weekly exercises.

'The best thing about doing a lot of exercising is that I can now eat enough to feed a small army and I do not put on weight as I'm constantly burning off the calories I am consuming!'

Erika has also given up alcohol in her bid to get fit. This, she says, has helped her to prepare mentally for sticking to her fitness regime.

'Giving up alcohol was easier than I thought it would be,' says Erika. 'It has really helped me focus on making sure that I exercise regularly, after all I don't think that I would be able to get up at 6.30 in the morning if I had a few glasses of wine the night before!

'It's great to go out with friends and know that in the morning you will not be nursing a hangover, but instead you will be going for an exhilarating run or bike ride, which will make you feel good about yourself.'