The number one secret to getting and staying in shape is to have an upcoming event for which you must be in shape. You could, for example, have a scheduled athletic challenge for which you must be in shape to survive it, enjoy it and do well in it. This is true for most of us, because we need inspiration beyond merely wanting to get more fit. In this regard, there is nothing like signing up for an athletic-type challenge, purchasing the plane ticket, making the hotel reservation and telling everyone what you are going to do to inspire taking the action steps necessary to survive and thrive in the scheduled event.

Here are some examples of events/challenges which are guaranteed to get you eating better and working out like a champion athlete.

•A canoing or kayaking outing -- Find a week-long boating excursion where you are going to have to paddle for miles each day. Another option is to join a rowing crew and enter a race as a team.

•A skiing trip -- Sign up for a ski trip to a resort with very challenging trails and go with skiers who will challenge you to keep up with them.

•Take on a marathon or triathlon -- There's noting like signing up for and committing to a 26.2-mile running race or a swim/bike/run triathlon event. Keep in mind that triathlons and running races come in a great variety of sizes and levels of difficulty. The trick is to find one that will greatly test your limits without killing you; one that will require extensive training in the weeks or months leading up to it.

•A cycling event -- Join a several-day biking tour or compete in a cycling race.

•Rock climbing/hiking -- Schedule a rock climbing, mountain climbing or otherwise-arduous hiking adventure. As you take on ever more difficult mountains and rock faces, you'll be forced to get in better and better shape.

•Dancing -- Take dance lessons and then sign up for a dance competition or become a member of a dancing troupe that performs at various events or a regular show.

•Combatives -- Maybe consider boxing, martial arts and other clubs and classes that teach self-defense and the combative arts, where you can learn to fight. Having an upcoming competition in which you'll do battle is sure to get you working out.

•Raising money for a cause -- There are numerous group walks, triathlons, cycling and running races where you can participate to raise funds for a worthy cause. You can even start your own event, such as biking or roller skating across your state and having folks and businesses sponsor you.

What other options can you find? The point is: We all know that we would feel better, look our best and perform at a much higher level (i.e., be more productive) if we just got in better shape, but knowing this does not necessarily translate into taking action. When, however, we've paid the money up front and informed our friends, family and co-workers of our intent, most of us will get into the condition required in order to successfully take on the challenge, because we don't want to have wasted the money or to get injured and we certainly don't want to lose face.

For many, if not most, having an upcoming big event is all the inspiration that is needed to take the action necessary to get in shape. Don't believe me? Try it and see for yourself that it works. Many of the fittest among us are masters athletes in their 40s, 60s, 80s ... who keep finding one athletic event after another to keep themselves on their toes -- in tip-top shape. You can, too!

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From Ed Mayhew -- the author of Fitter After 50, Fitter For Life and other books, CDs, videos and articles on how you, too, can make falling apart as you age merely an option -- NOT a mandate. Why not make the rest of your life the BEST of your life? and (click here for paperback or Kindle editions of AGE BLASTERS)