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How to Find the Motivation to Exercise

When the tough job of caregiving kills your desire to work out, here's how to stay on track

En español | You may have an initial burst of enthusiasm when you start an exercise routine, but sticking with the program can be a challenge. It can be particularly difficult when you are a caregiver, because the needs of your loved ones come first. Yet it's important to take care of your own health. Here are some tips to help you stay on track.

Make exercise fun

Whatever you do to stay fit, make sure the activity has a fun factor. That will keep an air of positivity around it. There are strategies to keep you involved and interested, but at the core you need to like what you are doing to adhere to your plan. Experiment a bit. Try different workouts to figure out what brings you the most joy.

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Try out new fitness routines. After you discover what you enjoy, mix it up, add variety, be sure to make it fun. — Corbis

Vary your routine

After you've discovered what you enjoy, infuse variety into your fitness routine. Mix it up. As you try out new exercises, start slowly to give your body a chance to adjust to the new challenges. Staying injury-free is essential, especially when someone else is counting on you to care for them.

  • Resist the urge to do the same routine every time.

  • Change the path you walk. Switch up your swim strokes.

  • Buy a new exercise DVD, or borrow one from a local library.

  • Get a new exercise mat or try a dumbbell or resistance tubing (exercise bands) for a little muscle sculpting.

  • Buy or borrow new music.

Set goals

Choosing a goal can keep you focused to get out the door in the morning. Setting goals can also help you stay motivated, help your exercise program develop and help you grow your physical stamina. A caregiver and exercise newbie may not have a defined goal for starting to work out. Relief from stress, better sleep and staying healthy to care for your loved ones are reasons enough. But having a personal goal, even one that is self-serving, is vital to sticking with the program. Goals revolving around a statement like "I want to be strong enough to lift my loved one out of bed without hurting my back" are equally as important as declarations such as "I want to increase my cardiorespiratory fitness so I'm not winded when I climb those stairs" or "I wish I looked slimmer" or "I wish I was not so tired all the time." These goals should be concrete, measurable and divided into smaller steps. Success at achieving each step should be celebrated, even rewarded.

Create a fitness plan

If you are stumped about how to create a fitness plan, consult a certified personal fitness trainer. These trained professionals will assess your needs, health conditions and ability, and then put together a plan based on your interests. They will then guide you and give you instruction as needed. In many ways, trainers can be a full-service one-stop shop. Some will even come to your home and bring the necessary equipment. Be sure to shop around for one that matches your schedule and understands the constraints you have as a caregiver. Wouldn't it be nice to be on the receiving end of someone's time for a change?

Post your goals and track your progress

Once you've set your goals, write them down and post the list. It is one thing to think in the back of your mind that you want to start exercising, but as the day and all of its challenges unfold, it can be easy to forget. For extra inspiration, keep the list of reasons you want to exercise in a place where you can see it. Consider, too, logging your workouts to build your confidence and motivate you to stick with your plan. Seeing a list of your goals and progress in achieving them can be a powerful tool in staying fit for both you and your loved one.

This story was previously published by Johnson & Johnson.

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