Paul Kriegler has nothing against holidays, but he'd just as soon that everyone who made a New Year's resolution to lose weight or get back in shape skip Jan. 17's holiday.

That's because it's Ditch Resolutions Day, the day on which people who made pledges to improve their lives will have abandoned the effort. (By the end of the month, 80% of us will have given up the pursuit to better ourselves, a number that eventually will reach 91%, according to the research firm Statistic Brain.)

Kriegler, program manager for nutritional products at Life Time, has seen a lot of resolutions fall by the wayside over the 12 years he's been at the Minnesota-based fitness chain.

"It's very easy to come up with aspirations, but it can be extremely difficult to get there," he said.

The solution is not to set easier-to-attain goals, he said, but to use better techniques to achieve them. Here are his suggestions:

Find out what motivates you. "Some people do best with a series of small goals, while others need a major goal to aim at," he said.

As an example, he suggested a person who wants to lose 50 pounds over the coming year. For some people, that's all they need, But for others, the thought of losing 50 pounds is intimidating.

"We call those BHAGs — big, hairy, audacious goals," he said. "And, yes, they work for some people. But others need smaller goals, like losing a pound a week. They want to focus on doing something to make them a little better every day."

Celebrate benchmarks. Be willing to give yourself credit for the small steps you take.

"Say you're driving to California," Kriegler said. "When you get to Iowa, give yourself a pat on the back. And do the same in Colorado, Utah, etc."

Don't quit just because you stray. Using the California trip metaphor, what happens if, after you make it to Iowa, you find yourself in Indiana? You simply reset your GPS.

"You have to expect setbacks," he said. "Life happens: Family stuff comes up. Work gets in the way. Injuries happen. Priorities change. There's illness. But that doesn't mean that you have to throw the whole plan out the window."

Even professionals encounter hitches. Kriegler was training for a triathlon when an injury forced him to stop. Another time he was assigned a work project that left him no time to train. The key is that you never lose sight of your goal.

"Reframing your expectations very seldom has to mean changing the goal itself," he said. "Say you want to lose 50 pounds during the year, but you end up losing only 75% of that. You're still much better off than when you started."

Cut yourself some slack. Maybe your pushups don't look as snappy or well defined as the ones you see in the online courses, but at least you're doing pushups.

"There's a popular saying in fitness," Kriegler said: "Don't let perfection be the enemy of progress."

Get feedback. It can be from a trainer, coach, workout partner, family member or friend. Not only do they help hold you accountable, they also can serve as cheerleaders who celebrate your progress.

Keep believing in yourself. Whether you make it to Ditch Resolutions Day or all the way to Memorial Day before you falter, don't give up the dream.

"As a trainer, we're used to people coming and going," Kriegler said. "If they show up again, that's all that matters."

Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392