Jillian Michaels on Working Out With Osteoarthritis

The Biggest Loser trainer explains why half the battle of getting up and moving—even with joint pain—is getting in the right frame of mind.

Linda Childers
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You’ve heard it many times: Regular exercise is a research-proven way to ease joint pain and stiffness, increase muscle strength and improve mobility. However, it’s easier said than done—and Jillian Michaels has a hunch about what’s stopping you.

In fact, the 39-year-old fitness phenom has built a career on the premise that most of us have trouble sticking with exercise. And when you’re struggling with symptoms like joint pain and fatigue, it’s even more challenging. But the no-nonsense trainer won’t accept any excuse. “I firmly believe there’s an exercise regimen that’s perfect for every age, ability and fitness level,” says Jillian, who motivates contestants to lose hundreds of pounds on the hit show The Biggest Loser. “One of the biggest motivations for exercising with arthritis is feeling better and being able to enjoy the activities you love. If you truly form an emotional attachment to the outcome, you will succeed.”

To help inspire you, we asked Jillian how to overcome mental roadblocks to fitness. Her stay-tough tips may just give you a leg up on exercise!

If you’re thinking…

“I can’t get motivated”
You’re in good company: A study in Arthritis Care & Research found that lack of motivation, lack of enjoyment and the anticipation of pain were common reasons why folks with arthritis avoided exercise.

Jillian’s remedies:

  • Identify your “why.” This is where it all begins, says Jillian. “The biggest mistake people make is to look outside themselves for inspiration,” she says. “Here’s the key to staying motivated: If you have a why to live for, you can tolerate the how. Identify all the reasons you want to be motivated in the first place and let that drive you toward success. Maybe your motivation is to walk your daughter down the aisle at her wedding or to be more active with your children or grandchildren.”
  • Keep your eyes on the prize—literally! Visual cues remind you to focus on the positive—the “why” that will give you inspiration. “Make a list or get pictures of the things you want and tape your goals to the refrigerator, your car’s dashboard—any place that can serve as a daily reminder,” recommends Jillian. Another tip: Before your workout, take a few minutes to close your eyes, breathe deeply and imagine yourself feeling confident and completing the activity.

“I’m too heavy”
Jillian knows how you feel. She candidly admits that as a teen she tipped the scales at 175 pounds. Around that time, her mom enrolled her in karate classes, and she credits martial arts with helping her to gain confidence, embrace exercise and lose 60 pounds.

September 2012