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How to avoid being a resolution casualty in February.

Only weeks after toasting a healthy new millennium, many frustrated Americans are already admitting defeat and tossing aside their New Year's resolution to exercise regularly. While some are still going strong, others will soon abandon the gym as burnout sets in or patience wears thin.

Numbers in the gym attest to this fact, says Neil Maki, a spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise and an aerobics instructor in Bloomfield Hills, MI.

"By mid-February, you see a real drop-off," Maki says.

However, people don't necessarily have to follow that trend if they set reasonable goals, pick enjoyable activities, and receive proper instruction. And by establishing a system of accountability, that New Year's resolution may stick -- even past February and possibly far beyond it.

Find an Exercise Buddy

One of the most effective forms of accountability is the kind that involves other people, Maki says. He calls this the buddy system. People make workout dates with each other so that they stay on track. Backing out requires a phone call or standing someone up.

"The conscientious part of your brain takes over. You made a promise. You show up," he explains.

Sharing workout goals with friends and family is another easy way to set up accountability. "They'll ask you whether you worked out or not," Maki says.

Another Type of Buddy: A Personal Trainer

An increasingly popular form of the buddy system is the hiring of personal trainers. These trainers charge from between $40 and $100 an hour, offering clients individualized exercise programs and the incentive many of them need to show up for workouts.

"The fact that you have to pay is your motivation to go," explains regular exerciser Sara Strom of Houston, TX. "I used to use every excuse in the book not to go to the health club, but, if you know you are paying someone and they are waiting for you, you go. I haven't missed more than one or two days in a year and a half."

Strom meets with her trainer three times a week for a one-on-one session of strength and flexibility training. She says she appreciates the personalized attention, not to mention the results she gets -- she's slimmed down by two dress sizes.

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