Thursday, April 24, 2014 · 6:40 a.m.

2013 is quickly winding down, folks, and that means that many of you are considering ways to improve yourself in the new year. Almost half of all Americans usually make some kind of New Year's resolution, with a large majority of them being weight-, fitness- or health-related. From shedding those extra pounds to finally kicking the smoking habit to just staying in shape, Jan. 1 tends to be a big day for us to make positive changes.

But this draw to the beginning of a year to make positive commitments begs the question: Why wait? When it comes to changing unhealthy habits and getting in shape, there’s really no time like the present. There are many reasons to get a jumpstart on your fitness resolution, and here are a few:

Beat the rush
And no, I’m not talking about the brightly colored gym downtown.

Think about it: Everyone and their second cousin twice removed is going to be joining a gym, starting CrossFit, or suddenly getting into hot yoga at the beginning of the year. Not only does this mean that the facilities will be more crowded, but this busyness also implies that you may not have the opportunity to get as comfortable with your gym or studio.

Instead of jumping on the first New Year's gym promotion you see, take the time now to check out different gyms, programs and studios and proactively determine which one best suits your fancy. Talk to the staff about your fitness goals and their upcoming promotions (they certainly have them on deck).

A preventive measure
The holidays are a wonderful time of the year. I love the fellowship and time with loved ones, the general joy amongst the public and the food. However, the latter can be stifling to fitness goals, present or in the future. This is the time of the year when many of us overeat, feel guilty or unattractive and vow to "do better" in the new year.

But if you’re already on track with your fitness goals, you’re less likely to binge on holiday foods. If you’re already working out and eating healthy, and especially if you are seeing results, you give yourself another reason to say no to that third helping at Christmas dinner.

By beginning your journey to a healthier lifestyle now, you can begin to utilize good long-term habits, like portion control. That way, you can still eat what everyone else is eating during the holidays, but without the gross, bloated feeling.

Better goal setting
If you’re still set on getting really serious about your fitness goals at the start of the year, you still may want to be doing a little homework now. Starting an exercise regimen or program now will allow you to set better goals at the beginning of the year because your body will be better acclimated to whatever physical activity you engage in. So when everyone else is just getting started, you will be well on your way to attaining your goals because you will know which exercises work for you and which ones do not.

Investing in your fitness goals and resolutions sooner rather than later may even help relieve some of the burden that can come with adopting a major lifestyle change. By making a gradual transition now, instead of a sudden start at the beginning of the year, you are setting yourself up to stay on track and not give up halfway through January. Truth be told, most Americans do not keep their New Year's resolutions.

Some things in life require waiting before success can be had, but your health is not one of those. If you’ve got some New Year's resolutions in mind, jump on them now! In fact, I would love to hear your health- and fitness-related resolutions, so let me know what changes you are looking forward to making in the new year.

Rashad J. Gober is a gym junkie, avid runner and freelance writer whose interests include pop culture and healthy living. But he's not a doctor, so his suggestions are no substitute for medical advice. Feel free to contact him via Twitter or email with any comments or suggestions. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.

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