When you set fitness goals or any other goals, you also need to create a plan to achieve them, with actionable steps to reach the desired result. Otherwise, you’re likely to experience challenges or setbacks along the way.
When it comes to fitness results, especially New Year’s resolutions, research shows that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.
Why is it so hard to achieve our goals, especially when it comes to improving our health and fitness? It’s not for want of passion. We all want to change, but a lot of the time, we lack a plan to achieve our fitness goals and haven’t created enough accountability to follow through with a plan.
Whether you want to lose weight, run your first marathon, or simply start working out three times a week, remember that these goals take time, and you’ll need to embrace long-term change. That means holding yourself accountable for getting to the gym each day, putting in the training time, and practicing healthy eating habits instead of grabbing fast food.
Creating accountability helps you keep going even when your initial motivation toward your fitness goals mellows. Continue reading to learn how to incorporate accountability into your life.
FOCUS ON “IMPLEMENTATION INTENTIONS”
Creating a clear and compelling fitness goal is a great way to begin building your accountability system, but having a goal isn’t enough. If you want to lose weight, for example, you can start by making healthy meals each night. But what happens when you take a trip, are tempted with unhealthy foods, can’t go to the grocery store because life happens, or your kiddo gets sick and your plan is derailed?
Writing for Psychology Today, Dr. Marwa Azab, a professor of psychology and human development at California State University, Long Beach, explains that you should try pairing your goals with implementation intentions. She describes implementation intentions as “an if-then plan that specifies the exact behavior the individual will perform in a particular situation.”
For example, if your friend insists on eating out, you’ll order some soup and a salad with dressing on the side. If you simply didn’t make it to the store or your child is sick, you’ll use an app to have your groceries delivered. Creating implementation intentions forces you to hold yourself accountable despite life’s challenges.
RECRUIT AN ACCOUNTABILITY BUDDY
We are all experts in making excuses to ourselves when we don’t want to follow through with our fitness goals. We tell ourselves it’s okay to have that extra slice of cake because it’s mom’s birthday. It’s okay to skip the gym this one time because you had to work late. It’s okay not to complete your weekend run because it’s important to spend time with the family instead.
There will always be long workdays, it will always be someone’s birthday, and there’s always something more fun to do on the weekends than running. Instead of being accountable only to yourself, recruit an accountability buddy. This person can be your spouse, best friend, sibling, or a friendly co-worker. Just make sure your accountability buddy is trustworthy, responsible, and supportive—and most importantly, will hold you accountable toward your fitness goals.
The best way to work with an accountability buddy is to clearly define your goal, identify the actions you will take to achieve the goal, and schedule a regular check-in. Each week, discuss your food diary, gym schedule, or workout routine.
Often, knowing you must report your progress to someone else is enough to shut down your internal excuses and get you to take action.
In an article for Psychology Today, Dr. Shauna Springer explained that her sister promised to hike Half Dome in Yosemite National Park with her if Dr. Springer agreed to exercise four times per week on average over 10 months. Dr. Springer wrote, “In the context of this challenge, the goal I set was not a weight loss goal, but rather one that involved building exercise into my daily life. I sustained it because I did not want to let my sister down and fail to honor the faith she placed in me.”
RECRUIT A WORKOUT BUDDY
What’s even better than an accountability buddy? How about someone who will join you at the gym. A workout buddy is one of the best accountability partners you can have, making the process of achieving your fitness goals more enjoyable.
It’s easy to skip the gym when you have only yourself to convince. When you know someone is waiting for you to show up, it’s more difficult. A workout buddy can even help you exercise more, according to a study from the University of Aberdeen.
Having someone rooting for you during that last heavy squat or someone to complain to about your sore booty after a tough cycling class makes the journey more enjoyable. If you’re both working on healthy eating, you can share recipes and share moral support when you’re tempted with junk or less nutritious foods.
TREAT YO’ SELF
It’s nearly impossible to maintain the level of excitement and focus you felt when you first committed to your fitness goals. To keep your eye on the prize, you might want to… well, give yourself prizes.
Dr. Springer was inspired to kick up her gym habit when her sister agreed to hike Half Dome with her. You can surely think of a few great ways to reward yourself as you work toward your goal. Research shows that earning rewards can give you a dopamine hit to keep your brain happy as you take the steps needed to achieve your fitness goals.
Specifically, a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that immediate, frequent rewards for completing small tasks elicited the most interest and enjoyment from respondents. Instead of giving yourself a trip to Hawaii when you lose weight as planned, stick with smaller rewards, like a manicure or massage each month the scale decreases.
SIGN UP FOR A COMPETITION
Nothing keeps you more motivated than knowing you’ll have to put your fitness to the test on a certain date. When you have a 10K race scheduled in two months, you can’t afford to skip that weekend run.
Our competitive nature pushes us to best our previous effort, beat the other guy, and stand atop the podium. Friendly competition can also help you push harder, add fun to your workout, and improve your overall health and fitness.
HIRE A PERSONAL TRAINER
A Personal Trainer is essentially a leveled-up version of a workout buddy. Not only will someone be waiting for you to show up at the gym, but you’ve actually paid them to make sure you stick to your workout routine. Personal Trainers hold you accountable and keep you motivated in a variety of ways.
- It’s easier to stay accountable when there are financial stakes. You won’t want to waste money on skipping workouts.
- Your Personal Trainer will design a customized workout routine for your fitness level and goals. You won’t have to guess what to do at the gym, and your Personal Trainer will make sure every session is a challenge.
- Finally, with a Personal Trainer at your side, you’re likely to see results much more quickly than on your own. There is nothing more motivating than seeing your body change in the mirror or performing better with each workout.
If you are struggling with accountability, then it might be time to invest in yourself by way of a Personal Trainer.
Creating accountability for yourself might be the most important factor in your fitness success. It doesn’t matter if you have the best fitness plan or have created an amazing workout routine if you never actually show up at the gym.
If it’s time to change your life for the better, start by defining your fitness goals and then build an accountability system using some or all the suggestions in this article. Learn more about the gym amenities and top-quality equipment at your local EōS Fitness by signing up for a Complimentary 7-Day Pass.
This content was originally published in December 2019 and has been updated.