After the ball drops on New Year's Eve and the champagne stops flowing, another American tradition will be just getting started -- the New Year's resolution.
Almost half of all American adults will make a resolution this year, and by far the most popular resolution is to lose weight.
If you're planning to hit the gym or start a diet after the clock strikes midnight this Sunday, Nicki D'Atellis, a nutrition expert and private trainer at New York's Reebok Sports Club, said it's important to do it the right way.
Q: What's the biggest mistake people make when they start working out?
A: I believe that most people do more than they should and then they end up injuring themselves. Then they can't do it, they can't go on, and that's why most resolutions fail.
Q: What are the most important things to remember when getting started?
A: First, ease into it so it doesn't feel like you're depriving yourself of anything. Don't do anything drastic. Do things in a way that is balanced. Instead of killing yourself, just go in, and that day, if you feel really energetic, do what you would normally do. If you're not feeling it, lay off a bit. Listen to your body.
Nutritionally speaking, make sure you're eating breakfast. Eat fruit and fiber first thing in the morning. Those will keep you satiated. You're not going to feel as hungry, especially if you have fruit in the mornings because then your sugar cravings won't really be there.
Q: What should people do to make sure they're getting the most out of their workouts?
A: Make sure you do cardio -- 30-45 minutes of whatever sport or exercise you like. Then, target the largest muscle groups. For your back, do some pull-downs or the rowing machine. For the chest, some presses and flies. Those are the major muscle groups. And remember, when you work your back, you're working your biceps automatically; when you work your chest, you automatically get your triceps; when you work your legs, you're working your butt most of the time. Don't worry about the little details just yet -- just try to get your body going, and then fine tune.
Also, make sure you're getting your heart rate up to the appropriate level so that you actually are burning the appropriate calories for your age or weight. The average person should be at 70 to 75 percent of their max heart rate. You want to be able to talk while you do aerobics, but you aren't supposed to be strolling.
[To figure out 75 percent of your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220, then multiply the answer by .75. For example, a 40 year old's target heart rate would be 135 beats per minute.]
Q: How often do you need to work out to see results?
A: Four times a week for the average person who is not really an avid exerciser. It doesn't have to be a daily thing.
Q: How often is too often to work out?
A: Every day, or six times a week, is too often. Four or five is good, but give your body a break. Don't do it every day, because I think that sets you up to fail. Come in every other day, when your body feels like it's not as sore anymore. … And sleep and water are key in my opinion. We all need water, and sleep keeps you rejuvenated.
Q: How important is nutrition?
A: Nutrition is really important. Never deprive yourself of anything. When we deprive, we tend to crave more of the things that we want that we're depriving ourselves from. If you know how to eat a healthy breakfast and lunch, do your diet in the evening. Diet for dinner, diet at night versus during the day. You need those calories in the day to keep going. And you need to feel a little bit hungry when you go to bed. If you just let yourself be a little bit hungry, you're ok. That's how your calories start to burn, because your metabolic rate goes down when you go to sleep.
For dinner, have a nice salad with chicken -- not with a heavy dressing, but with something light like olive oil with balsamic vinegar. Have lean meat, and have a little bit of bread to get serotonin levels up. Carbs are not an enemy.
For lunch, have a nice sandwich with a baked or sweet potato, or some really fresh vegetables. You can do a sandwich, or whatever it is you're liking, because you're burning the calories. People tend to be afraid, but it's about how much exercise you put out there. And it's all about portions. If you want pasta, have some pasta, but just have a little bit.