On my fitness journey I’ve been strengthening some friendships and making some new friends. Kinda awesome considering I work out at home. Recently, there’s been talk about that dirty little word, accountability. It really got me thinking about what is a good accountability system. I don’t have a black and white answer. I think the cool part of my journey was discovering that what worked for me was both simple and a little different than what I’d expected. So I thought I’d try to put together a little survey about accountability. A series of questions designed to help you think about what would be the most productive situation for yourself to stick with your workouts. What I have below is my first stab at this and I would love feedback, additions, etc.
- Why are you working out? Weight loss? Get in shape? Overall health?
- Set a goal. Be specific. For example, “lose weight” is not a very focused goal. (If your goal is to lose weight, I don’t recommend making your goal a number of pounds, but maybe a dress size instead. Our weight fluctuates and muscle weighs twice what fat weighs. Relying on the scale to tell you when you’ve done your job can make you crazy.) If your goal is to tone up, know exactly what you want to tone and have a clear picture in your mind – or on paper – of what you will look like when you get there. If it’s overall health, you might have some specific numbers you’ve worked out with your doctor or you might have endurance goals, like being able to run 2 miles without walking. The point is, specificity is king. Once you know what the prize looks like, don’t take your eyes off of it.
- Make your goals reasonable and important. Make sure your goal is something you can actually attain. It’s okay if it’s hard, but it needs to be something realistic. Most of us are not built to be super models and it won’t matter how much you workout and eat right, ya just ain’t gonna look like Cindy Crawford. That’s okay! You will find something amazing within yourself, instead – and it will be real. I also recommend thinking long and hard about what you care about. Your workouts will gain importance when you think about all the benefits they are going to provide. For me, I love that working out makes me look great (compliments!), have more self-confidence, feel good both physically and mentally, be a good health role model for my children, etc.
- How much time do you have? Do you have time to run for an hour or two? Do you have 30-60 minutes only? Do you have time to drive to the gym? Do you have time to drive to meet your friend? How many days of the week do you think you can fit in a workout? Can you have a regular routine or do you need to be flexible? Would getting up an extra hour in the morning make or break your commitment? Can you eat while you work and then use your lunch break to hit the weights? Figure out where you have time and how much of it you have.
- Where are you most comfortable working out? This is where we get to talk about the dreaded gym. Personally, I hate the gym. It smells and I’m grunting and sweating with a bunch of strangers, many of whom are half naked and ogling themselves in the mirror. Other people need to workout in a community like that, because it encourages them to make it happen. I think this is a pretty clear cut decision for most people.
- How much money do you want to spend on your fitness? None of these questions are exactly easy – let’s face it, that’s why they are good things to ask yourself – but I feel like this one is particularly tricky. It’s not just a point blank question of how much money you can set aside each month for memberships, trainers, gas, equipment and clothes. It’s also about value and motivation. You need to consider what is going to help you stay motivated and what you are going to actually use. Are you a project starter who will spend a bunch of money on a gym membership and weekly training only to drop it all within 3 months? Would buying fancy equipment for a home gym intimidate you? Obviously, these are great reasons not to drop all that cash right away. On the flip side, if knowing that you committed to a 6 month membership would definitely get your booty to the gym every week because you are not going to waste that money, then do it!
- What kind of buddy system is right for you? Here’s another question where you need to be brave. It can be so easy to set yourself up in a buddy system that actually helps you get out of your accountability. Sometimes, I think we say we will work out with a friend, but if we are really charismatic we may find ourselves convincing ourselves and our friend to hang out and chat instead. Or knowing you have to show up at the track because John is expecting you may be really great motivation. Really be honest with yourself about what will work. Some options are: a trainer, a friend, a group, a program (in person, or on-line) or competing against your own scores. I do something in addition that really helps me out and I recommend it in any buddy system you use: since I work out at home, if it gets really hard and I want to quit I make someone in my family come into the room with me and cheer for me. It sounds silly, but cheer each other on!
- And finally, make a plan! Look at all your answers about yourself and piece it together. No matter what your hopes, goals, and constraints are, I promise you can put together a workout plan that will work for you. Do it for yourself and remember to be nice to yourself along the way. You are doing something really amazing for yourself by choosing to care for your body like this, so be kind. If you find something is not working, you need to analyze why and make a change. “Pushing through it” may not be the right answer if what you are doing is making you unhappy. My mom gave me some great advice: if you want to quit, keep at it for 3 more days. If you still want to quit after 3 days, it may be a good decision, but you will be amazed how much will change in just 3 days.
Let me know what you guys think about this. Thinking and writing about these things helps me a LOT with my own accountability to myself for working out. What motivates me to keep writing is the thought that this might be useful to someone else.