The New Year is always a time that we promise ourselves to make improvements in various aspects of our lives. This column relates not just to swimming, but to exercise in general and all such planned endeavors.

January is always the biggest workout month of the year ¬- until resolutions are broken. Why? We always over-promise ourselves.

Very few of us can work out every day, and once we miss one day, we can miss more because we’ve already broken our resolution.

Instead, let’s look at this New Year’s resolution business with a three-fold plan.

First, do what you CAN do easily. For example, most of us can do something three times a week, especially if it’s easy. Can you walk around the block slowly? That’s a great way to start. As Nike promotes, “Just do it.”

Second, be regular. Make exercise as regular as brushing your teeth or your morning coffee. Sometimes, it might be the last three days of the week, but so what? And even if you miss for a week or more, that doesn’t stop you from going back to your regular routine the next.

Third, be gradual. Sooner or later, to use my example, walk a little farther, walk a little faster or walk a fourth time. Achieve just one of these, gradually increasing duration, intensity or frequency.

Think about it. If you do this gradually, perhaps every couple of weeks, that’s more than 20 gradual work-out increases in a year, even if you don’t start until February. You could be jogging miles before the end of the year.

Swimming is an ideal fitness activity for any age group. Not only does it provide full-body exercise, it also provides support for those with injuries or structural damage. The Bluffton-Hilton Head area has a number of pools, and Beaufort County pools have guards and instructors who are well trained and able to help fitness swimmers.

Specifically, one might get into fitness swimming (or back into it) with 500 yards per workout. Try just doing two laps 10 times, taking two minutes to do each, with a minute’s rest between.

You could progress over a few months to a continuous 500, or 10 x 50, at 90 seconds with 30 seconds rest (just 20 minutes in all), even if you don’t increase your workout distance.

You would never be doing more than you CAN do, regularly and gradually.

Think about applying this three-fold plan to any number of aspects in your life.

Dr. Bob Colyer of Bluffton is an actively retired college professor, coach and author of “Swim Better: A Guide to Greater Efficiency for Swimmers & Instructors,” directed primarily to non-competitors. bobcolyer@