DAVID WHITING / Freedom News Service Running with children is a great way to build confidence and fitness within a family, as well as for them to burn off some youthful energy.If running isn't for you, try cycling. A sport that holds your interest is best.A wave of swimmers hits the water early on a Sunday morning at Ritz Cove in Dana Point, Calif.Chances are you've promised yourself better fitness in 2012, or at least you're thinking about such a promise.Perhaps you've decided to put things off until after the Valentine's Day chocolate. Then again, maybe you'll start on the new you after the Easter candy. Of course, there's also the awesome Memorial Day barbecue — start after that, right?If this sounds like you, it also sounds like me for a good chunk of 2010.That year, my only goal was to try to figure out how to write a bunch of columns. Midsummer, I decided to climb Mount Shasta and managed to pound myself into reasonable shape.But after the climb, I slid down that slippery slope covered not with snow, but with fat.Instead of dragging a tire to get in shape, I carried one around my waist.Strange things started happening. First my clothes shrank. Then, when I did go out for a run, I jiggled.When I went to my doctor for a routine physical, he had a quizzical look that I'd never seen before. For the first time, I had high cholesterol.He wondered what was going on and offered medication. I shook my head. I knew what was going on.I had the same old sweet tooth. But not the same outdoor fun.Without any outdoor goals, I could easily dismiss a workout in favor of work.Now, I'm training for Mount Kilimanjaro. And I've rediscovered the beauty of night runs.With Bob Seger back on tour, I listened to “Hollywood Nights” the other evening running down Saddleback mountain with the lights of Southern California twinkling below. But with a warm breeze and the Orion constellation blazing, these lyrics came to life:“A gypsy wind is blowing warm tonight; the sky is starlit and the time is right.”Yes, it's not just about the goal. It's about the journey.Here are tips to help you get outdoors — and get or stay fit.The power of goalsLast year, I was convinced to join a bunch of people racing the Gore-Tex TransRockies Run.It meant that in late August I'd have to cover 120 miles in six days and run up more than 20,000 feet. I'd also have to run down more then 20,000 feet.Fear is a wonderful motivator.I went from running eight miles to 10 miles and eventually 20 miles. Then I headed toward Saddleback mountain. Every Sunday, I returned to my car totally hammered. After driving home, I collapsed.But the goal worked. Two weeks before TransRockies, I managed to run up the steep trail every other day. After eight days, I'd covered 80 miles and more than 12,000 feet.In Colorado, the fear factor proved itself. I managed to blast some mountains. But most importantly, I had fun — and didn't let my running partners down.It doesn't matter if it's fear of failure, fear of wasting your registration money or fear of embarrassing yourself. So long as fear doesn't paralyze you, fear is fuel.Tip: Family also is fuel.You want to be able to enjoy your children or grandchildren, not just sit on the sidelines. Think of the added years you'll have by staying healthy.Deciding on a goalPick a goal. Any goal.Well, almost any goal. The trick is to pick a goal within your reach. This isn't work. This is about having fun.Your goal might be walking around the block, finishing a 5K (3.1 miles), a triathlon (start with a sprint distance, not an Ironman, as I did) or something more.Since most of us aren't teenagers any more, we are able to measure time in weeks instead of hours. That's a good thing when getting fit.Pick a goal that you can reach within three months. Think of it as one mountain at a time.It really doesn't matter what your goal is. What matters is that you're committed, that you're vested.Slap a photo of the event or a note about what you want to do on your morning mirror. Spend a little money to register for a race. Tell your family and friends about your plans.Tip: Put your goal on a calendar and mark a countdown of each week. It's amazing how ticking off the weeks can motivate.Bonus tip: Be sure you have the right gear. But get just basic stuff. Reward yourself with better stuff later.Note: If you are starting a fitness program, be sure to consult your doctor.Overcoming inertiaPushing your body to the next level can be tough. And if your expectations aren't realistic, exercise can be discouraging.I like to use a rule of threes. Break down your three-month goal into smaller threes.The first three workouts — and every-other-day workouts are fine — are the worst. But if you expect the worst, it's usually not so bad. Day 1 is fun because of the novelty. Still, your muscles will ache. (Dull pain is muscle pain; sharp pain could be a joint or ligament problem and may require a doctor visit.) Day 2, however, is usually the worst. You probably will feel weak, slow, uncoordinated, annoyed. But by Day 3, your body will begin to adjust to the new movements. Still, don't expect much weigh loss or improvement after just three days. But after only three weeks, you'll notice change. Mark your calendar with that three-week date and consider how far you've come. You'll feel faster, stronger, healthier. After three months, you'll arrive at the start line or trailhead with the new you. Tip: Don't let the speedsters get you down. You're not competing against anyone but yourself.Post-goal depressionSomething odd sometimes happens after you reach your goal. You get a little depressed. If you raced, someone probably did better, and you might second-guess yourself. The world hasn't changed. But there is the 2.0 version of you, the improved version. Wait a few days. Let your accomplishment sink in. Celebrate your achievement. Go out to dinner. Buy yourself a present related to your sport. And pick a new goal.