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It's the time of year when those New Year's Resolutions are getting more difficult to keep, and the winter weather isn't making it any easier. You probably had a lot of enthusiasm for the first few weeks—you joined the gym, exercised regularly, probably even improved your endurance and strength by now. But as the weeks go by, more obstacles start to creep in. Don't be dismayed! The good news is that there are plenty of helpers to get you over those exercise hurdles.

Hurdle #1: "I don't have enough time to exercise." Helpers:

Take your gym bag to work and exercise during lunch. Having your gear with you will also make it easier to go straight to the gym after work.

Exercise in smaller intervals of time. Three 15-minute "mini workouts" spread throughout the day can be just as effective as one 45-minute session. Try to fit in a mini workout first thing in the morning, during breaks, at lunch, and after dinner. Don't have 15 minutes? Any interval (even 5 minutes) is better than none.

Do your workout first thing in the morning, when you are less likely to be distracted by other daily tasks.

Read more: Help Yourself Over Exercise Hurdles

Pain is a real, well, pain! How many times have you been gung-ho to start a new workout routine only to feel like you've been hit by a ton of bricks on day two? Something as simple as walking down the stairs can feel like torture. Most of us have "been there, done that" when it comes to muscle soreness. However, did you know that there are many different causes for muscle soreness and that some of them are entirely preventable? Read on to learn what's normal and what's not when it comes to muscle soreness, and how to tell the difference between normal soreness and pain that requires time off from the gym (or even a doctor's visit).

Read more: Smart Ways to Soothe Sore Muscles

My friend Christine had been trying to lose those last 10 pounds for months, but to no avail. Despite my regular invitations for her to come to the gym with me, she always declined. One Saturday afternoon, she finally agreed to try it out, but on one condition: no weights.

''Why not?'' I asked, a bit confused. ''I love the way my arms look. Lifting weights is the best thing I've ever done for my body.''

It had initially taken me a while to get into lifting weights, but within a few weeks of regular strength training, I had watched my arms become more firm and toned than they had ever been. Thanks to strength training, I was so proud of my body, and I couldn't understand why someone wouldn't want to give it a shot.

Christine shook her head. ''I don't want to use weights. My arms are big enough already, and I don't want to look like a man.''

I was quick to tell Christine that her fear was unfounded. Weight training, even just twice a week for 20 minutes at a time, is an important part of a well-rounded fitness regime for both men and women. While some of the benefits of strength training are obvious (improved muscle tone and strength), working out with weights also helps in more subtle ways, such as fighting the aging process by maintaining lean muscle tissue. And women who regularly exercise with free weights and machines have higher self-esteem and an improved immune system, meaning they get sick less often. Weight training also reduces blood pressure, fights arthritis, strengthens bones, and helps the body process sugar more efficiently, thereby reducing the risk of diabetes.

Read more: Why Women Don't Lift Weights--But Should

When you first start making room for healthy habits in your busy life, being a stickler can be beneficial—setting a workout schedule, planning your meals in advance, saying no to things that get in the way of your goals. Without giving yourself some rules—and being a little inflexible—at the beginning, you'll be likely to fall off the wagon much more quickly.

But as you build your habits, you'll eventually discover that things don't always go according to your plan. There will undoubtedly be road bumps (an unexpectedly long work day), detours (your favorite body sculpting class gets cancelled) and setbacks (birthday cake!). If you rigidly follow your plan instead of being a little flexible once in a while, you could do more harm than good.

Read more: 6 Ways to Maintain Your Mental Flexibility

These days, it seems that everyone is stressed. We all have too much to do and too little time to do it. Times are tough, money is tight, and deadlines are imminent.

What happens when you're stressed? You tend to eat more, sleep less, skip the gym and feel rundown. Additionally, stress is linked to a number of illnesses, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and an increased risk for cancer.

Read more: Beat Stress, Weigh Less

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