FORT RUCKER, Ala. - (Editor's note: This is the second in a three-part series about nutrition and fitness.)

When aiming for fitness success, people should create plans best suited for their bodies and stick with it, said Sgt. 1st Class (P) Jeffrey Herzog.

There is no prescribed fitness routine that works for everyone, the Noncommissioned Officer Academy instructor and certified personal trainer said. People should tune in to their bodies and set individual goals to create effective exercise routines. Some basic workout tips, however, are applicable for all, he noted.

When establishing a workout routine, Herzog said people should establish goals first. Questions to ask include whether someone wants to lose or gain weight or muscle. This determines how many days per week individuals work out and what exercises they perform.

Regardless of their plans, people should remember to take breaks, never working out every day of the week, he recommended. Bodies require recovery time, otherwise exercise becomes counterproductive.

Stretching is essential for everyone, Herzog stressed. Before working out, exercisers should warm up by participating in dynamic, or partner-assisted stretches, requiring someone else to help push or pull them through each stretch. Following workouts, individuals should participate in sustained, slow stretching to alleviate post-exercise lactic acid build-up.

Every move should have a purpose and be carried out properly to avoid injury, Herzog added.

"(When lifting weights), make slow, deliberate movements," he said. "There should be no jerking."

Proper breathing techniques are also essential. Lifters should inhale when bringing the iron toward them and exhale while pushing it away from themselves. Runners should find breathing patterns that match their cadences, Herzog said.

Often the hardest part of a fitness routine is not creating it, but sticking to it, and Herzog offers simple advice for continuing to exercise.

"Make it part of your routine. You know if you stop how much it's going to hurt if you start again," he said.

Increased energy levels, lifted moods and healthier bodies are also motivators to keep moving, Herzog noted.

Knowing one's body is also a successful way to track and increase health improvements.

Caroline Driscoll, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation fitness program coordinator, said individuals' resting heart rates are the best indicators of physical health. She advocates wearing heart-rate monitors throughout the day, even when not working out. Also, while frequent weigh-ins are important success gauges, simply noting how favorite clothes fit over time can also be a good sign of weight loss or muscle build up.

When it comes to losing weight, individuals should have realistic expectations. A safe, reasonable goal is to drop two pounds each week, Driscoll advised.

"If you didn't put it on in two months, it won't come off in two months," she said.

Installation physical fitness facilities' personal trainers aid Soldiers and Families with establishing and continuing exercise plans.

Fitness Specialist Brian Bearman said having a trainer provides accountability and motivation, but he said it's still an individual's choice to begin and continue working out.

Mixing up routines is also important, according to both Driscoll and Bearman, since the body eventually becomes comfortable with the same moves over time. For example, those focusing on cardio should not run exclusively but also consider alternative workouts such as biking, swimming or using an elliptical device.

"You want to do different things but have the same goals," Driscoll said. "Change to challenge yourself."

Overcoming insecurities when visiting the gym can be a hurdle for some, Bearman said. He suggests hesitant visitors talk to PFF staff members and seek instruction on how to properly use equipment there.

For best results, community members must use a balanced routine and lifestyle, Herzog said.

"You have to have a combination of diet, cardio and resistance training for maximum results," Bearman said.