WASHINGTON - The scene at the gym the first two weeks of every January is something of a cultural cliche.
Newly-resolute arrivals hop on the machines with bold health goals on their minds. Regulars know many will give up, and the work stations will be free once again in a month or two.
But then there are people like Emily Jackson from Potomac, Md.
Two years ago, Jackson set a goal of getting healthy. Weighing more than 300 pounds and suffering from a variety of weight-related health problems, she joined a health club during the January rush.
This January, she's still hitting the gym, but carrying 107 pounds less than when she first arrived.
"I could swim. That's what I did as a kid. I was a competitive swimmer," says Jackson, now 50.
She swam just one lap that first time she went to the health club.
"Today, I'm swimming over a mile, which is over 64 laps," she says.
Mitch Batkin, senior vice president of fitness at Sport & Health Clubs, says making reachable goals is one of the most important elements in a successful resolution.
"People put a monster goal in front of them to lose a lot of weight very quickly. It's unreasonable," he says.
He recounts unlikely goals of working out two to three hours per day to lose 20 pounds in the first month.
"We really advocate starting small. Set the bar low if you want," he says.
"It's OK to start very slow, get a lot of victories under your belt and know what it's like to accomplish things and feel good about it."
For Jackson, the other motivation was her daughter, now 12.
Two years after making that first resolution, the health problems associated with her weight are gone, and she and her daughter spend time together at the health club.
"No more diabetes, no more heart disease, no more hypertension, no more obesity - I'm healthy, happy and free," she says.
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