04/24/2013 08:53 am ET Updated Jun 24, 2013

Use Spring Fever to Kick-Start a Healthier, Fitter 2013

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No matter what kind of shape you're in, the warm springtime air and greening landscapes are sure to get your blood pumping. Each spring gives us a present, a restorative bundle of energy that helps us shape up, innovate, and prepare for warm-weather activity. It might be the best gift you receive all year, but what do you do with it?

As a weight-loss consultant and trainer, I've helped people channel that spring fever heat and start chasing bucket-list goals with a purpose. Whether you're out to make a mark in a swimsuit or Spandex, or just want a little extra energy for an upcoming vacation, it's important to set attainable, realistic goals for exercise, eating and -- if you're feeling sluggish -- weight loss.

Whether "activity" means getting off the couch, getting back to the gym or setting a fitness goal beyond all your past successes, here's a guide for kicking off spring 2013. But note that the process is the same for everyone: Set realistic goals that you can meet quickly. Build up that confidence -- it's the motivator you can't replace.

Beginner: You have it tougher than people who already are active because fear, routine and extra weight are difficult to overcome. On the other hand, your tasks are simpler.

  • Exercise: Repeat after me -- move, move, move. Whatever you did yesterday, do a little more today. Walk a little faster to elevate your heart rate. Walk to work if you can, or at least park further away from the workplace. Take the dog out for 20 minutes instead of 15. Play a little more or harder with your kids and stop taking the elevator (at least walk down the stairs). You get the idea. If you're going to net negative calories, you need to burn more of them. Burn a few more today, a few more than that tomorrow.
  • Eating: This is also basic at the beginner stage. Today, phase out one or more processed foods (soda, cookies, chips -- you know what they are), and replace it with a whole food. Lose the salty pita chips for whole, unsalted almonds, and sugary desserts for fresh fruit. Dinner? Learn my favorite -- minestrone soup. Hot or cold, it's chock-full of vegetables and fiber and a it's a winner.

Intermediate: You're no stranger to exercise, but maybe you hibernated and put on a few pounds. You want to pick up where you left off last year, but how can you do it better?

  • Exercise: This might seem like a snap -- get thee back to the gym -- but now might be the best time to invest in a few sessions with a personal trainer. A professional will help ensure that you're exercising the right way and getting the most out of your workouts. Plus there's a great financial motivation: When you've paid in advance for the sessions, you're a lot less likely to skip out on them.
  • Eating: Even if you've purged your system of excess sugar and processed food, are you enjoying the bounty of spring produce? Now is your chance to get the best out spinach, artichokes and asparagus for greens, and strawberries and cherries for fruit. And yes, they're all wonderful, clean, and raw, too.

Advanced: You're happy to shed layers on the first warm day because you've kept in condition with plenty of exercise and sensible eating. What's next?

  • Exercise: Is there a race you could run, a new sport you could tackle, a personal best time you could exceed? You don't have to conquer the world, but don't stop pushing for a new standard of fitness. Unless you're Michael Phelps, there's another level of achievement in your sights.
  • Eating: If you have a new physical challenge, now might be a good time to consult with a nutritionist to see what you can do better. Take some time to learn how training and diet intersect and how to keep your energy in the red zone. Maybe you're ready to shift to a plant-based diet, but are worried about protein? Add a little food science study to your routine.

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