It’s that time of the year. It all starts popping up in the – often nonsense – media stirring headlines in late March, early April. “Get Flat Abs in 5 Minutes.” Yeah, right. “Get Your Beach Body Now!” Dream on.

If you type “bikini body” or “beach body” into your Google search engine, you will come up with more than 39,000,000 “hits.” Why are these terms so popular and what in the world was I even doing looking up these terms? The answer is simple.

It was my beautiful weekend in one of Southern California’s most heavenly locations, Newport Coast, California where I was recently invited to speak on the topics of optimal health and transformational leadership, and where my wife – a fitness trainer - and I spent some relaxing time on the beach. In mid-March, we saw quite a number of folks strutting their bikini and beach bodies, and others sweating workouts to get the same look.

It got us wondering about motivation, and specifically the kind of motivation and personal inspiration it takes to get into “beach body” fitness. This applies to both men and women, of course. The motivation it takes to get into great shape, run the extra half mile, do the extra set of 10 reps, get to another spin class or sign up and attend Pilates or yoga, is the kind of motivation and self-determination that truly interests us.

This type of effective inspiration and motivation is a very complex set of processes that influences people to begin a fitness activity and pursue it with vigor and persistence. Here’s a quick test to determine your motivation/inspiration level:

1. You work out for no particular reason. You are essentially “amotivated.” You truly see no point to exercising.
2. You work out because other people like you better when you are in shape. You are “externally regulated” with no internal motivation.
3. You work out because you would feel bad about yourself if you didn’t. You are beginning to show some signs of internal motivation
4. You work out because you believe it’s important for your health and lifestyle. Here, your motivations are becoming more positive and you are likely to keep at it, but not all the way.
5. You work out because you simply enjoy it. This is the highest level of motivation, “intrinsic motivation,” and you are likely to get the best results over a long period of time for your health and well-being. Your fitness routine is your choice entirely, you know what you’re doing and your activity connects you in some way to other people. You are entirely self-determined and personally inspired. You do it for you.

Unless you are a level 5, intrinsically motivated and personally inspired, you probably can use a tip or two on getting, and staying, motivated to achieve real fitness, health and even that beach body you want over the next couple of months.

So purely in the name of science, I did a quick survey of beach bodies to find out their secrets in order to share with you. Amazing what I’ll do for my readers.

Over and over again, I heard a similar take on how they do it. They limit their regrets. Here’s what one “fitness model” told me: “Tell your readers to limit their regrets. List five regrets that you could have about not working out when the summer season is over. Now, what five specific things can you do that would prevent these regrets from happening?” I’d say she’s more than a “fitness model” and has a career in health coaching!

This type of thinking leads to setting several ambitious and achievable long-term, medium-range and short-term goals. The latter are the most important and should be monitored and revised regularly. They focus on process goals, not end goals.

Another said he uses mindful relaxation, stress prevention and “thought control” to keep himself moving forward towards fitness. He actually uses his negative thoughts to help control his forward movement. Why wouldn't this obviously successful health and fitness nut? After all, as I frequently say, "the link is what you think and it is ALL in your head." Know that (he apparently has read my columns) and you understand everything you need to in order to find success in your fitness, happiness, self-compassion...but that's another blog.

In my experience coaching top athletes, personal trainers and those people just getting started on a serious fitness routine, I found that people who are internally committed to fitness use any thoughts – positive and negative - that pop up in their minds as information on how to adjust their performance; those less motivated who are more extrinsically motivated, driven only by outside goals to fitness, are more likely to wallow in any negativity that arises in their thinking. They talk themselves out of forward movement by believing their erroneous thoughts.

Talk to yourself in a positive way to go the extra mile. Use task-relevant talk that focuses you on your form, your position, the way you are moving- the process, not the end goal. Use mood-related talk to impact how you feel—if you have tension, use it to work for you, not against you. And use positive self-affirmations, along the lines that Muhammed Ali did when he convinced himself and his opponents that “I am the greatest.”

Another tip I picked up is the value of motivational, inspirational music. Research indicates that using music increases work output, reduces perceived exertion and improves the pleasure experienced during working out. I use hip-hop remixes during my interval cardio training sessions and softer, slower music in my cool-down/recovery times.

So here are the top steps to helping you insure that you’ll reach your summer goal of fitness and that lean look you are aiming for:

1. Small goals that focus on the steps you need to help you get to where you want to go, instead of just focusing on the finish line.
2. Set triggers, or reminders, daily, which serve as reminders to help you eat well and be active.
3. The earlier the better – morning routines mean you’ll get it done.
4. Make it easy, fun and social and you’ll enjoy those as rewards for you efforts.
5. Insure those reminders, routines and rewards are set firmly in your schedule

The 34th President of the US, Dwight D Eisenhower, once said, “Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.” You need to inspire yourself to do what you want because you want to do it. When it comes to developing motivation for fitness training Eisenhower was right on target. Changing your thoughts more positively towards fitness, will significantly enhance your inspiration and motivation, and move you to become more internally motivated for healthy lifestyle goals beyond fitting into a bikini and looking hot on the beach.

Author's Bio: 

Michael R. Mantell earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and his M.S. at Hahnemann Medical College, where he wrote his thesis on the psychological aspects of obesity. His career includes serving as the Chief Psychologist for Children’s Hospital in San Diego, and as the founding Chief Psychologist for the San Diego Police Department. He also served on the faculty of UCSD’s School of Medicine, Dept. of Psychiatry.

After retiring from practicing clinical psychology for 40 years, he has become a highly sought after transformational behavior coach and power mentor for professional and elite amateur athletes, senior executive business leaders, and trains the nation’s top leaders in fitness in transformational leadership. He has worked in the media for nearly 40 years, appearing on every major talk and news show, and has been interviewed in, and written for, every major health and fitness magazine.
Michael is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Council on Active Aging, the Chief Consultant for Behavior Science for the Premier Fitness Camp at Omni La Costa, and served as the Senior Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for the American Council on Exercise.

Michael is an Organizational Advisor to Fitwall, Rock My Run, amSTATZ, Outburst Mobile, and speaks regularly for Rancho La Puerta and the Asia Fitness Conference in Bangkok, in addition to numerous other fitness-health organizations throughout the nation. He has been a keynote speaker for the University of California’s system wide “FitCon” and for UCLA’s “Stress Less Week” as well as for the Transformational Leadership Council.

He is a best-selling author of three books including the 25th Anniversary updated edition of his 1988 original “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, P.S. It’s All Small Stuff,” and his 1996, “Ticking Bombs: Defusing Violence in the Workplace.” He is listed in’s 2013 “The 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness.” His fourth book is due out soon.