Winter often ushers in hope for slimmer, more flexible or stronger bodies. While we may know our goals, many of us are too caught up in our lifestyles to make change happen. We may need help.

Noelle Brownson is one of a new breed, a personal fitness trainer. She helps clients jumpstart themselves into more active lives. Her background in psychology and sports medicine allows her to work with the psychological as well as the physical pitfalls of getting in shape.She reports that the most common reasons for failure are:

- Setting unrealistic goals, such as losing 20 pounds in a month or going from couch potato to marathon runner in three months.

She suggests working with realistic short- and long-term goals. A long-term goal might be losing 30 pounds or running a 10k race. Losing a pound a week or running five minutes longer each week are realistic short-term goals.

- Choosing activities you hate.

Forcing yourself to do something you despise because it will help you lose weight or get in shape, she says, is a set-up for failure.

- Giving up exercise time to handle other priorities.

There is always a reason not to exercise. "Clients often forget that time to exercise doesn't just magically appear. It requires scheduling and commitment," she warns.

Brownson places primary emphasis on health and encourages clients over 35 to follow the recommendation of the American College of Sports Medicine and get a treadmill stress test to determine their heart health before beginning an exercise program.

She also suggests those with coronary risk factors undergo complete testing before beginning an exercise program. Risk factors are: a cholesterol ratio of high density lipoproteins to low density lipoproteins of five or more, blood pressure above 145/95, cigarette smoking, a family history of heart disease prior to age 50, diabetes, or body fat over 25 percent.