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Around the end of the year, sports psychologists begin to urge people to set fitness resolutions that are relatively small in an attempt to avoid disappointment. The idea is that instead of setting a running goal of completing a marathon, you might want to first finish a 5K. But why not dream big in 2014? Take a cue from these inspiring fitness stories that made headlines in 2013. These athletes went above and beyond this past year -- and you can, too.

Running With Autism
Twin brothers Alex and Jamie Schneider, age 23, have raced in more than 130 competitive running events -- an impressive number on its own, and one that's even more astounding when you factor in the fact that the two are severely autistic. In 2013, Alex and Jamie (who are both nonverbal) ran the New York City Marathon for the first time, raising money and awareness for the Association for Science in Autism Treatment.
 
Swimming With Sharks
The fifth time was the charm for 64-year-old Diana Nyad, a world-record-holding long-distance swimmer who, in September 2013, traversed the 110 miles between Havana, Cuba, and Key West, Florida. And she did it without a shark cage. Her four previous attempts had been cut short due to complications ranging from jellyfish stings to an asthma flare-up. 
 
Going From Flab To Fab
Sara, a mother of two, used fitness videos to get back into shape after the birth of her second child. A YouTube video of her progress (she ultimately lost more than 55 pounds) received more than 500,000 views -- and inspired countless at-home exercisers. Her favorite fitness DVDs include "Beach Body," "P90X" and "Insanity," to name a few.
 
Setting New Goals
Hurdler Lolo Jones was an Olympic hopeful in 2008 and 2012, but both years she came up short. So she reinvented herself and her podium dreams by earning a spot on the U.S. national bobsled team. In early 2013, she claimed her first major victory in her new sport, helping her team take home the gold at the Bobsledding World Championships.
 
Overcoming Obstacles
Thirty-seven-year-old Barbie Thomas lost both of her arms at age 2, but her disability hasn't impacted the size of her dreams. She recently placed fifth at the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness North American Championships, showing off her sculpted physique -- as well as her enduring spirit.
 
Beating The Odds
Fauja Singh broke records this past February by running in the Hong Kong Marathon at age 101, thereby becoming the oldest recorded marathoner. One of the most inspiring aspects of Singh's story is how he got his start: The Indian man only took up running at age 89 as a way of dealing with the death of his wife and son. He's since run 10 marathons, but he says the Hong Kong one was his last. 
 
Early Adaptor
Simply sitting still is a challenge for many 9-year-olds. Not so for Ivan Nolia, a Washington, D.C., resident who recently completed a 200-hour yoga-teacher-training program that included everything from meditation to Downward Dogs. Nolia, who now teaches yoga to his swim team, says the practice keeps him calm and has increased his flexibility -- which is a must for the martial arts practices he loves.
 
Breaking New Ground
Few track and field events are more technical than pole vaulting, which is why athletes with impaired vision tend to shy away from the sport. But two blind high-school girls, Aria Ottmueller of Arizona and Charlotte Brown of Texas, have taken on the challenge. With inner drive and supportive coaches and teammates, the two are helping change the face of the sport.
 
Setting Records
Few people will ever finish an Ironman, let alone compete in the Ironman World Championships. But Minda Dentler, a paraplegic athlete who lost the use of her legs as an infant after contracting polio, did just that this past October. As the first female hand-cyclist to compete in the event, her time of 14:39:14 is the new women's para-athlete time to beat in the 140.6 mile swimming, biking and running race. 
 
Hard-Won Assets
The newly crowned 2013 Miss America, Nina Davuluri, embodies the phrase “strong is the new skinny.” The 24-year-old New Yorker performed an energetic Bollywood-inspired dance number during the televised competition and lost more than 50 pounds in 2011 and 2012 by making a commitment to fitness. She turned to CrossFit, indoor cycling and a host of other workouts to get in shape for the pageant.