There’s a certain magic that comes with the start of a new year. For many, this clean slate means trying to embrace healthier habits.

That’s why wellness-related goals always rank so high on New Year’s resolution lists. And after coming off a COVID-19-dominated year, the gift of good health is more significant than ever.

And as we embark on this new calendar year with the mission of protecting and prioritizing our health, it only makes sense that exercise becomes an important part of the equation. After all, fitness is essential for longevity and independence.

» READ MORE: Your guide to regaining control over your health in 2021

But getting started — and more important, staying motivated — with a new wellness program is challenging. Especially during a pandemic, when access to fitness facilities is limited. So here is a get-fit guide to kick start your health goals. Think of it as a fitness challenge, with the prize a healthier you.

For the next four weeks, you will get a new workout that builds from the week before, including both cardio and strength training. Exercises will gradually increase in difficulty. For convenience, all movements are designed to be performed with just your body weight, though you can add weights if you like.

Monday, Wednesday, Friday

Head out for a brisk 30-minute walk. Pump your arms and maintain a consistent pace.

Steady-state cardio exercise such as walking is ideal for beginners, as it helps to gradually boost endurance. Walking is a low-impact exercise that is light on the joints and improves bone density, which naturally declines with age.

Tuesday, Thursday

During these two days, you’ll switch gears from steady-state cardio to interval training. This workout burns more calories, strengthens the heart, tones muscles, and requires a shorter time commitment, as these circuits should take roughly 20 minutes, with little rest between exercises.

Dead bug

Beginner: Start on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Elevate your arms and legs so your knees are stacked over hips and arms extended up from shoulders. Protect your spine by keeping your core engaged and lower back pressed into the floor. Slowly lower your right arm down toward the floor, then return it to the starting stance. Repeat on each limb one at a time. That’s one repetition. Complete five reps.

Intermediate-advanced: From the same starting position, slowly lower your right arm and left leg simultaneously. Bring them back up and repeat with your left arm and right leg. As you move, remember to keep your lower back pressed into the floor. Alternate sides for 20 total reps.

Side plank squeeze

Beginner: Rest on your right side, propping your body weight up your forearm. Your shoulder should be directly over your elbow, thighs stacked, with bottom knee bent while upper leg is straight. Your upper arm should be extended overhead. Push through your legs and forearm to lift your hips. Hold this position as you bring the upper knee and upper arm in toward each other in a squeezing motion then release. Repeat five times, then switch sides.

Intermediate-advanced: Use the same form above, only straighten both legs to distribute your weight between your feet and elbow. Push through your forearm and feet to lift your hips. When balanced, bring your upper arm and top knee in toward each other and squeeze for two counts. Release and repeat 10 times then switch sides.

Mountain climbers

Beginner: Using a sturdy chair, start in a plank position with your palms positioned on the chair and arms aligned beneath shoulders. Hold this form as you slowly pull your right leg up toward your chest, then repeat with the left leg. Continue switching legs for 30 seconds.

Intermediate-advanced: Start in a tabletop position. Step your feet back so your weight is distributed between hands and feet. Briskly drive your knees up toward your chest for 30 seconds. Do not let your hips hike or sag during this exercise.

Single leg balance work

Beginner: Stand near a wall for support. Pull your right leg up so your foot hovers over the floor. In a controlled movement, kick your foot out. Avoid locking your knee. Repeat five times on your right leg, then switch legs.

Intermediate-advanced: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart. Elevate your right leg so your knee forms a 90-degree angle. Hold for five counts, then swing your leg back as your torso comes forward toward the floor until your upper body and leg form a straight line. Extend your arms overhead and remain in this pose for five counts. Return to the original stork-like pose. Continue for five counts, then switch sides.

Great work! Remember, you’re the author of the next 365 pages. Make this year a story to be proud of.

Ashley Blake Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach in South Jersey. To learn more about her virtual training program, go to