Phil Knight, the founder and CEO of Nike, is credited with saying “If you have a body you are an athlete.” If this is true, then each and every one of us was born to exercise.

I have seen athletes come in all shapes and sizes. They also come with different desires and aspirations. Some are motivated and many are not.

We all know former athletes who are totally out of shape and wonder how did that happen. Why did they lose the desire to continue in the sport in which they excelled? As a result, their health is now compromised.

In my practice I have patients who are very disciplined and focused on their health and physical conditioning. I also have patients who when they have the urge to exercise they lie down until the urge passes.

As the New Year approaches I believe it is time to take inventory of your life. It is time to look back and determine what you did well this past year and where you can make improvements for the new year.

If you have not exercised this past year and your diet is made up of processed foods and too many soft drinks either sugar- free or not, now is time to get moving and clean up your diet. If you are consuming too much alcohol, get it under control. If you smoke, quit now.

I recommend to my patients that they set health goals for the New Year. Most of us have financial goals, vacation goals or projects we have identified to do around the house and yard.

I always recommend that you write your goals down and read them before you start your day and when you go to bed at night. This will constantly remind you of the goals you have set. Just having a gym membership is not good enough.

I have found the book “Changing for Good” by Joe Prochaska to be an excellent resource to help me with my patients as they start their journey to better health and recovery from injuries. In this book the author describes changing as a six-step process:

Precontemplation

Contemplation

Preparation

Action

Maintenance

Termination

You can use these steps to stop smoking, lose weight or change your lifestyle. This will guide you to reaching new levels of health and performance.

My sister, Bridgette Vermette, is an excellent example of putting these principles to work. She is a busy real-estate broker, married and mother of three grown children. She didn’t realize that she was not as fit as she thought (precontemplation).

Once she realized this (contemplation) she took the next step, which is looking for a gym and a personal trainer that she liked and was convenient to her (preparation).

She is now going to the gym on a regular schedule (action) and meets with her trainer.

Bridgette has not yet met her fitness goals (maintenance) but she is making excellent progress.

When you reach the last step (termination) this does not mean you quit. It means the changes you have made in your life are now part of you. It would never cross your mind to go back to where you came from.

If you have never exercised or if you are a highly competitive athlete, you can use these steps to improve your health, wellness and performance.

When should you do it? NOW!

Let’s make 2011 your best year ever.

Dr. Robert Lynch is a former president of the Maine Chiropractic Association and head of the Lynch Chiropractic Center in South Portland. “Staying in the Game” appears every other Thursday in the Press Herald.