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Find motivation for your New Year's goals

Jan. 6, 2014 at 9 p.m.
Updated Jan. 5, 2014 at 7:06 p.m.


Goals help to motivate

Ask any successful person what motivates him or her, and the likely answer will be "goals."

Goal setting is extremely important to motivation and success. Motivation is defined as the activation of goal-oriented behavior. It may stem from a basic intrinsic drive of wanting to achieve certain goals or the desire for praise and approval from outside sources.

Motivation generally comes from two main sources - one's self and other people. Which type of motivation are you driven by?

What motivates you?

In the Self-Determination Theory of motivation developed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, the focus is on the intrinsic motivation that drives human behavior with a "natural tendency toward growth and development." It could be argued that with this theory, an individual's goals and desires just don't align with an overwhelming desire to be fit or athletic.

I get this and agree that putting a roof over the family and bringing home enough money to buy the things a household requires are very important needs to be met.

However, every individual should have some sort of exercise routine in place - simply because it's good for you and your body needs it.

With the rising prevalence of Type II diabetes, heart disease and stroke, exercise becomes an even more integral and important piece of the healthy life puzzle.

What motivates you in the fitness world?

Sports psychologists have focused on the mental and behavioral processes of humans, looking at their thoughts and feelings such as anxiety and self-esteem in an attempt to understand an individual's motivation.

Major influences appear to be self-esteem, its relevance as a core component of identity and our view of our own worth.

People are also motivated by self-determination, meaning we want to be in control of our own actions and behavior.

I have often wondered this about myself and others whom I see at the gym or hitting the pavement day in and day out.

I've been active in fitness and sports for 35 years now. At times, it's been a social influence that has motivated me. At other times, it has been pure competition in the sports arena.

After the birth of each of my children, getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight motivated me, which ultimately led me to the start line of my first half marathon and full marathon six months postpartum.

And now, as I enter my middle-aged years, with a body that is somewhat broken down, I look mostly to just staying as fit as possible with what my body can currently do.

When I asked some of my friends who exercise on a regular basis what motivates them, I got a mixed response as well.

Some ladies replied that they kept exercising so they felt good and looked good in their clothes. Others wanted to look good for their spouse. Some did it specifically for health reasons and to stay healthy as they age. Some simply replied "vanity" - hey, it's a reason right?

For many of my clients, it's more of an athletic focus with motivation to reach a specific athletic goal.

In looking specifically at attributes of successful and motivated athletes, they were found to have a more positive mood, more self-confidence and encompassed better strategies to focus attention and manage anxiety.

Steps to create a more fit life

The first step is starting with small steps. Don't set out to conquer a 2-mile run the first day of your new fitness regimen.

Take where you currently are in regards to a fitness level and work up gradually. Building into a fitness regimen gradually allows muscles to slowly strengthen and lessens the chance for injury or burnout.

Simplify your fitness life by reaching for small goals at first, such as taking the stairs at work, parking your car at the furthest point in the parking lot or riding your bike to do all of your errands.

It doesn't necessarily have to be exercise that is considered technical or "typical" - just get moving.

Surround yourself with a support network of like-minded people, meaning that they are going to help encourage your new fitness goals.

I'm not saying to just completely ditch your after-work crowd that goes out for drinks and appetizers but find a balance and some workout buddies whom you look forward to socializing with as well.

Set weekly goals and aim to try something new that you thought may never be possible.

Figure out what drives you and what motivates you when it comes to exercise.

Do you have an athletic goal or endeavor that you have always wanted to try to reach? Are you heavier than you want to be and need to get more fit and healthy? Do you need a social outlet to help deter from a stressful life? Did a recent visit to your doctor leave you with worry about your health?

Whatever your motivation may be, find it and use it to set some goals and start down the path to a more fit and healthy life.

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