Unfortunately, our cars aren't the only things that suffer from neglect. Our bodies often endure a similar fate. Making up for neglect isn't easy, but let's start with some of the basics.

There’s nothing quite like the excitement of owning a brand new car. The exterior shines. The interior is spotless. The intoxicating new car smell permeates the air.

Upon receiving our new car, we vow to keep it in tip-top shape. We will wash it and vacuum it every weekend. We will follow the owner’s manual’s suggestions for oil changes, tire rotations and other routine maintenance.

Fast forward six months and that shiny exterior now has a thick coat of dust and a couple dings. Stale French fries and food wrappers litter the floor mats. We’re already past due on the first oil change. The new car smell is long gone.

Unfortunately, our cars aren’t the only things that suffer from this type of neglect. Our bodies often endure a similar fate. We start off with good intentions about diet and exercise. We purchase some shiny new fitness equipment. We stock our shelves with vitamin packs and protein shakes. And we vow to “really stick to it this time.”

Six months later, the new equipment has become a drying rack for clothes too delicate for the dryer, and packages of Oreos are now blocking access to the protein shakes. We haven’t exercised in weeks and, just like the once spotless car, our bodies are now showing signs of the neglect.

Getting your car looking and running good again isn’t that hard. A scrubbing and waxing at the car wash takes care of the exterior. Opening the owner’s manual and getting caught up on the routine maintenance takes care of the interior.

Making up for neglect on the human body isn’t quite as easy. But it’s not impossible. The first thing we need to do is open up our own “owner’s manual” and start with some of the basics:

1. Use premium gas only

If you want to get better performance from your “engine,” fuel up with quality gas. In simpler terms: Eat like an adult. Base your diet on lean protein, lots of vegetables, some fruit and some whole grains. Processed foods, sugary snacks and saturated fat will leave you sputtering and stalling. Eat too much of them over a long period of time and you’re setting yourself up for engine failure.

2. Check fluids regularly

Keep your interior well lubricated. Drink water often.

3. Drive often, but with care

Exercise on a regular basis. Work your heart and lungs with cardiovascular exercises. Strengthen your muscles, bones and joints with weight lifting routines. But do all of your exercises using proper form.

4. Undergo routine maintenance

See your doctor, chiropractor, trainer, nutritionist and other health experts on a regular basis to prevent small problems from becoming big ones.

5. Don’t get overheated

Running your engine for too long will cause it to overheat, burn out and break down. When your body is at rest, it can repair damaged muscles and joints, and come back stronger the next day.

Your body is a high-performance machine, capable of amazing feats if given the care it needs. Treat it right and it will run well for a lifetime. Mistreat it, and you’ll end up spending a lot of time in the “repair shop.” The choice is yours.

Frank Shelton is a certified fitness trainer and owner of The Village Gym. He can be reached at (302) 376-3060 or thevillagegym@aol.com.