Last week, we polled the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity com­mu­nity, asking stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff to vote for their top New Years res­o­lu­tions. Once the responses started to roll in, we got to work, enlisting experts to share tips for sticking to the top five res­o­lu­tions as voted on by you.

The plu­rality of voters picked “get­ting in shape, staying fit, and losing weight,” a topic about which Sarah Gaines knows a thing or two. Gaines, AMD’15, is the founder of Fit Uni­ver­sity, the col­lege student’s go-​​to source for all things health and fit­ness. Here, she offers up five tips for building a fitter physique in 2016.

Start slowly

The unini­ti­ated lifter should start out slowly, according to Gaines, hit­ting the gym once or twice a week. “You can’t just go from 0 to 100,” she explains. “The only way to make sus­tain­able changes is to make changes gradually.”

Schedule a spe­cific time to workout, she says, and don’t skip the training ses­sion. “You don’t cancel your doctor’s appoint­ment, so don’t cancel your gym appoint­ment either.”

Eat smartly

If you want to lose weight, focus on eating lean pro­tein, like chicken, turkey, and egg whites, Gaines says. If you want to bulk up, fill your plate with com­plex car­bo­hy­drates, like brown rice and sweet potatoes.

If you’re really serious about it, I sug­gest talking to a nutri­tionist who can tailor a plan specif­i­cally for you,” she says. “The reality is that it’s hard to figure it out on your own.”

Gaines, for her part, eats five small meals per day, all of which include pro­tein and veg­gies. “Veg­eta­bles are filled with fiber,” she says, “and help to keep you full.”



Try a health and well­ness app

One of Gaines’ favorite health apps is My Macros+, which bills itself as “the com­plete diet tracking solu­tion.” On the fit­ness side, she likes Nike+ Training Club, which allows users to choose between 100 dif­ferent work­outs and seek moti­va­tion from their friends when they’re grinding through dif­fi­cult routines.

She fre­quently uses yoga apps and a mind­full­ness app called Calm. “When I think of fit­ness, I also think of mental health,” she says. “The cool thing about yoga is that it teaches you tech­niques to relax while also keeping you flex­ible and limber.”

Find what works for you

Always try new things,” Gaines says. “Going to the gym is not the only way to get in shape.” Take a class, join Northeastern’s Fit Uni­ver­sity chapter, or sign up for one of the university’s more than 40 club sports. “Find what you like,” she says, “because you’re only going to do want you really want to do.”

Set goals—and reward your­self for reaching them

Break down your long-​​term goals into smaller, more easily achiev­able short-​​term goals, Gaines says. And when you reach them, reward your­self with some­thing that makes you feel good. For her, that’s a new piece of workout gear.

It’s impor­tant to look at fit­ness and health not as a chore you dread but as some­thing you look for­ward to,” she says. “Once you start seeing the ben­e­fits it has on your life, it will become a nat­ural part of your routine.”