Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

First Step to Fitness Is Making the Commitment

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am becoming increasingly lazy. I rarely exercise, and I have lost my motivation to do so. I worry that I will start to get really out of shape. Despite my awareness, I have trouble getting myself up and out to try and stay fit. Other people I know belong to gyms or have personal trainers to motivate them, but I have neither. How can I start a fitness regimen that I will be interested in maintaining? I want to look my best for beach season! -- Fearing the Flab, Bayonne, N.J.

DEAR FEARING THE FLAB: Your first step is to commit to fitness. Next, make a plan that you can do at home. Quite a few cable channels feature exercise programs in the morning. You can follow along with the teacher on such a show to ensure that you are doing the moves correctly and reduce the chance of injury. You can also purchase exercise DVDs at many stores or online. With the support of a virtual teacher, commit to exercising at least three days a week.

Give yourself time benchmarks that will help you stay the course. For example, if you know you are going to the beach on a particular date, mark that on the calendar to help you keep your focus.

If you have a friend in your neighborhood who is also interested in getting fit, you can find out of he or she would like to buddy up with you to walk several days a week as well. You can do it!

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am supposed to speak at my class's graduation, and I don't know where to start. I have written down a speech with various ideas, but I am nervous about them being in a jumble and about my speech not having an impact. I mean, I am not worried about messing up because people will forget about it in a few weeks -- but I am not sure I want people to forget about the speech! I want it to have an important enough impact for them to remember it, but I am not particularly philosophical or profound. I also want it to be light enough for people to laugh. Where do I start? -- Stage Fright, Philadelphia

DEAR STAGE FRIGHT: Start by thinking about the big message you want to share with your class. What stands out for you as emblematic of the class? What are your class strengths? Do your best to remember funny stories and moving moments that you can use to reflect on your time together.

Write an outline for your speech just as you used to do in English class. Build out your thoughts in an organized manner. Sprinkle in humor throughout while maintaining the tenor of the core theme you want to convey. As you write your speech, stick to your outline. Then read it out loud a few times to see if it works as a spoken piece. Ask someone you trust to listen to you to help you edit and refine.