According to an ancient Chinese proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” And so it is with fitness. To get in shape, drop inches and pounds, and most important, be fit and healthy, you need a plan, steady work, and dedication.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Televiewers who order quick-weight-loss products demonstrate little planning or stickto-itiveness. Some products might provide fast results, but they usually are not permanent—and some pills and potions eventually prove to be harmful. At best, most of them don’t work over the long run, and the only thing lighter is your wallet.

Such a mind-numbing amount of health information and fitness knowledge is out there that some people who want to shape up, who need to shape up, who must shape up for immediate health reasons give up instead. Building the foundation of a solid workout regime requires strategic planning. This means assessing where you are now and what your realistic goals are.

“I’m going to lose weight.”

“I’m going to lose weight.” “I’m planning to get in shape.” “I can’t stand the way my clothes fit.” “I can’t zip up my favorite jeans.” “My back hurts.” “I feel like a slug. I’ve got no energy. I just have to get up and do something.” How many times have you heard these comments? How many times have you said them?

Losing weight, shaping up, looking good, and feeling good are the general goals shared by millions of Americans and others. You probably are one of them. Every one of these common resolutions falls into the general category of “getting fit,” which includes physical activity, healthful eating, and a commitment to changing the way you’ve been conducting your life.

Goal-setting gives purpose and direction to any training program and helps promote the motivation, self-confidence, positive attitude, and sense of responsibility to succeed. There’s nothing exotic about the means of achieving these goals, but it requires more of a commitment than many people are willing to make. We appear to be a nation of individuals who demand instant solutions to problems, and many of us have the attention span of a flea. Of the top 10 television infomercials, half promote weight-loss or exercise products. Most make grandiose promises of quick, easy results. An old saying that applies here is “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

The truth is that transforming yourself from a sedentary, out-of-shape person to someone fit is not instant. Many people think they can change their bodies quickly, but fitness and good health don’t come about overnight. That should be no surprise. After all, we didn’t add those extra pounds or become unfit overnight. Shaping up is a process that has to start with a few fundamental steps. Figure out where you are, set realistic goals, and try to determine how you can accomplish them. Then begin.