Sticking to your Fitness goals
through the seasons

The time to renew your New Year’s resolution to maintain a healthier lifestyle is now.

Concerns about expense and convenience don’t have to come between you and your fitness goals as spring sunshine pushes up the daffodils around campus and mornings start a little earlier. Spring is a great time for alumni, families and friends to find fresh resolve to keep the New Year’s resolutions that are certain to improve the quality of life–eating more nutritiously and exercising more consistently.

Applying the best practices for you and leaving yourself room for error are two key ways to set the realistic goals that can keep you on track to maintain a healthier you, according to two Mississippi State alumni, now university fitness consultants.

Both registered dietitian Mandy Conrad and fitness trainer graduate assistant Adam Thigpen received their professional training at Mississippi State. Not only did Conrad earn her B.S. in fitness management in 1998 and a B.S. in food and nutrition in 2003, she also completed her master’s in health promotion. Thigpen completed his B.S. in exercise science in 2013, and he’s currently studying in a master’s program concentrating on exercise physiology. They share their tips to help you stay the path.



Know yourself and take your habits into account

Conrad says: “To improve health, it’s not just nutrition knowledge or exercise knowledge; you cannot put them into practice without self knowledge.

“What are you currently eating? What’s your schedule like? What’s realistic for you? Figure out what your primary goal is and see how you can eat to feel better. It’s not important just for your nutrition; it’s important to your mental health.”

Likewise, maintaining your resolve to exercise requires identifying your intrinsic motivation and using it as an incentive when time isn’t easily available or resources seem scarce, Thigpen emphasizes.

Click here to download a healthy five day meal plan created by Mandy Conrad.


Healthier foods, healthier you

Healthy eating at the dinner table begins with making good choices at the store, Conrad says. She encourages individuals to design meal plans in advance; then, figure out what to buy. Remember to be realistic about the need for snacks; the human body needs food-as-fuel approximately every four hours.

“Once you’ve decided your primary health goal–eating less salt or sugar, for example, check the food labels when you’re at the store,” she advises. “The ingredient list is listed in order of the amount of what’s in there, so if sugar is the first ingredient, then it’s the primary ingredient. A little sugar is OK; you just want it further down the list.

“And don’t forget–check the serving size.”

Conrad also recommends buying foods as fresh as possible. The less fresh they are, the more processed they’ve already become, meaning they include more sodium and preservatives, she said.

To get a good idea of how to get started in developing the meal plans that will work best for you and your family, Conrad suggests visiting The “healthy eating on a budget” tab has numerous reliable resources to help people navigate the produce in the grocery store or ensure meal plans include well-balanced meals.

“Another good source is,” she adds. “It gives a ton of seasonal meal plans and lots of recipes.”

When you find something that works, write it down, Conrad emphasizes. If it’s a meal that took about 20 minutes to prepare, it included fresh veggies and whole grains, and/or everyone in the family loved it, record it on your phone, tablet or food notebook. Likewise, if a side dish really hit the spot or a previously unknown vegetable or fruit was the taste of the town, write it down.

“Then later, when life gets hectic, and you’re struggling to figure out a meal or a snack, you’ve got a plan right there, already ready for you,” Conrad explains.

Finally, meeting tangible, realistic goals can be more likely if you have a network of support, she says. Find other people who are interested in eating healthy. Not only can you share recipes, you can reinforce each other.

“You can learn from other people. They run into the same barriers that you do, and other people who are going through it will be able to teach you more,” Conrad emphasizes. “Plus, there’s so many online groups where you still get to share ideas and check in. Just someone going through it with you and your sharing–I think that helps with accountability and support.”

Learn some basic food prep from Mandy Conrad in the videos below:


Make the goal attainable and boost your confidence by achieving it.

Thigpen says: “Start off with something that’s attainable so you’ll be more apt to stay on track.

“If you wanted to work out three times a week and then completely fall off the wagon, set your goal for two. You don’t have to kill yourself to have a great workout; instead, find something you like. That’s what’ll keep you exercising.”

Finding or creating a support network can also help individuals develop realistic fitness and nutritional goals, plus healthy meal plans can be simple and quick, Conrad adds.

Becoming fitter, stronger and more toned requires a time commitment, Thigpen advises, but your body will thank you.
Thigpen and Conrad agree, your New Year’s resolve can continue with the change of seasons as you recommit to maintaining a healthier lifestyle.

Five day beginner work-out

Created by MSU student trainers at the Sanderson Center - Danielle Henley and Matt Dew.

Monday- Lower Body
30 Jumping jacks
25 Air squats
25 Lunges
15 Lateral squats
25 Standing calf raises
20 Jump squats
15 Side lunges
(each leg)
(1 round)

Tuesday-Upper Body
30 Jumping jacks
15 Push-ups
15 Tricep dips
10 Pull-ups
15 Diamond push-ups
20 Tricep pull backs in superman
1 Minute timed back bridge
(3 rounds)

Wednesday- Core
30 Jumping jacks
35 Crunches
25 Sit-ups
15 Leg raises
15 Toe-touches
20 Side bends
(each side)
10 V ups on chair
20 Bicycle crunches
1 minute Planks (all types: front, right and left side).
(2 rounds)

Thursday- Cardio
All cardio day: 30-45 minutes of moderate to intense form of your choice of cardio (ex. Running outside, Playing basketball, Swimming, Power walking)

Friday- Full Body
30 Jumping jacks
25 Air squats
25 Lunges
15 Push-ups
15 Tricep dips
10 Pull-ups
35 Crunches
25 Sit-ups
25 Minutes of moderate to intense cardio


Thigpen’s job at the Joe Frank Sanderson Center is all about assisting people who are on the path to fitter, stronger lives, he says.

“Most people start with the end goals, whether it’s improving quality of life with weight loss, muscle building or toning,” Thigpen notes. “But to get there, they’re going to have to set many goals along the way and find the satisfaction of meeting those goals before they get to the end goal.”

He encourages people beginning new exercise routines to weigh themselves once a month, not every day or even every week. Thigpen says the scales can be deceiving, and you should give yourself time to adjust to the routine.

Plus, great workout routines are available online, he recommends. Along with videos available to demonstrate any kind of move, has numerous resources.

“The gym is convenient, but it’s not absolutely necessary; the Internet is making training yourself more available and realistic than ever before,” Thigpen explains. “The gym can be very intimidating, especially for people who aren’t experienced.

“Just realize, exercise is very important. Get it wherever you can.”

Thigpen emphasizes that making time for exercise is a key to fostering success. Time is pressed for everyone, but 20 minutes is better than none. Carving time out of your schedule to work out will be key to maintaining a new, fitter lifestyle.

“If you don’t make time for exercise, you’re making time for sickness,” he says. “Research somebody you really want to look like; find out what their routine is so you can see where exactly you’re trying to go. Even if you just want to live a healthier life, find what motivates you.

“Finally, make yourself accountable, whether it’s to a trainer or a friend or a spouse. You’re going to get the best healthy benefits of the exercise lifestyle when you keep working out.”

By Leah Barbour, Photography and Videography by Beth Wynn