Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Accountability 101

After my first day of training with TNT, my husband asked me if it had been hard to get up early that Saturday morning to go running. Although I do have a habit of hitting snooze at least twice before I actually get up, I told him that it was not too bad to drag myself out of bed at 5:45 AM on a Saturday. On a day that it was 27 degrees and pitch black outside when I left the house. A day where I got lost driving to the running store (did I mention that it was still DARK outside) and dropped my peanut butter toast on the seat of my car (pb side down, of course) while trying to turn on my GPS to get directions.

All kidding aside, I told him it was not that hard to get up early.

Of course then he asked, What is difference between getting up early on Saturday to go running and getting up early during the week to go running before work? Oh yeah, he called me out.

You see for the past few weeks on Sunday and Wednesday nights before I go to bed, I have been setting my alarm to wake me up at 4:45 AM the next morning so that I can go to the gym and hit the treadmill before getting ready for work. Each morning I have opened one eye, looked at the clock and thought "Way too early" then immediately reset it to go off an hour later.  Then I roll over and go back to sleep.  That is why in the past four weeks, I have only made it to the gym ONCE before work.

The difference between dragging myself out of bed on the weekends and snoozing through my workouts on the weekdays can be summed up is one word – ACCOUNTABILITY. No one holds me accountable for showing up at the gym during the week. If I decide to reset my alarm and get another hour of sleep, I don’t have anyone to answer to but myself (and my husband because he hears the multiple alarms going off each morning). However, I have made a commitment to train with a team and they expect me to show up every Tuesday night and Saturday morning. 

The best way to stick to your own exercise, fitness, walking or running routine is to build in some ACCOUNTABILITY.  So I came up with a few tips, which I call Accountability 101, to keep us all on track:

1. Set a goal.  Whether it is getting in shape for bathing suit season, losing that last 10 pounds of baby weight, or running your first 5K - sticking with a fitness routine will be easier if you set a specific goal.  If you want to get in shape, put a picture of that bikini on your bathroom mirror and count how many weeks you have until the pool opens for the summer.  If you are trying to lose weight, start with an initial goal of 5-10 pounds and set a reasonable date for losing that weight (1-2 pounds a week is recommended).  If you have more weight to lose, set another date for the next ten pounds and keep it up.  If you want to starting walking or running regularly, register for a local race that is 2-3 months away.  Circle the date on the calendar and find a training program that includes a mix of running and walking (like the Couch to 5K).  Now get moving!

2. Plan ahead.  Do you have a calender at home, in your purse, or on your phone?  Is it filled with dentist and doctor appointments, school functions, your kid's basketball practice, play dates for your kids, or your next book club meeting?  I bet your work calender includes a schedule of client appointments, deadlines and meetings.  Our lives are busy, so you need to plan ahead for your workouts.  Friday afternoon (when you are in front of your work schedule) or Sunday nights are great times to plan your exercise for the upcoming week. Write your workouts on your calendar, in ink, and honor that appointment you made with yourself!  It may mean getting up before work to go running (more on that below), heading straight to the gym after dropping the kids off at school, going for a walk outside on your lunch break, hitting the gym on your way home from work, or even going to Zumba or Yoga after the kids go to bed.  I also like to set out my running clothes and shoes the night before an early morning run and I pack 2-3 workout outfits in my gym bag and put it in my car on Sunday nights so I am prepared for the week. 

3. Say it out loud.  Start by telling yourself that you deserve to spend time to take care of your body and that you will start doing that today.  Then tell your spouse/parent/best friend that you are starting a fitness program.  Mention it to your co-workers, share the news with your friends, and work it into conversation with your neighbors.  By telling others, you are creating accountability partnerships with the people around you.  The next time you see them, they might ask you how the walking/biking/running/fitness program is going?  You want to be able to answer them honestly and enthusiastically, "It's going great!"  When I signed up for a half-marathon, I told all my friends and co-workers because I need the accountability to keep up with the months of training ahead.  Every week someone asks me how my training is going and it is great motivation to stick with my training program. 

4. Recruit a friend.  Another great way to stay motivated is to exercise with a friend or spouse.  Find someone who is willing to help you reach your goals and who encourages you to exercise, and be willing to do the same in return.  Together you could sign up to try a new fitness class, start an early morning walking routine, or make a weekly date to jog at a local high school track instead of going out for brunch (healthy for your waistline and your wallet).  If you told your friend that you would meet her at the end of your street at 5 AM to go for a walk in the neighborhood, would you feel guilty about staying in your warm bed while she was waiting alone outside in the cold?  (If not then I don't want to be your walking partner)!  What if you don't have someone who wants to join you on your fitness journey?  Then get out and meet a new friend who has the same fitness goals as you by joining a local running or walking club or talking to the girl next to you in a group exercise class.   

5. Keep a fitness diary/training log.  This can be something as simple as a spiral notebook or more technical like an online training log.  It does not have to be fancy, but keeping track of your workouts can help you maintain accountability in a fitness program.  Start off by listing the date, time of day, and mood going into your exercise session.  If you are weight training then you need to list the exercise, amount of weight you lifted, the number reps and number of sets you performed.  If you are walking, running, or biking then keep track of the distance and/or time that you exercised.  Also keep track of any group exercise classes and take notes on if you enjoyed the class, was it to hard or easy, or if you liked the instructor.  After each exercise session, write down your mood and how your body feels.  After a few weeks you will be able to look back and decide if it is time to increase your weight on a certain exercise or add another 10 minutes to your cardio.  Then compare the log to your calendar and see if you are showing up for your exercise dates that you plan each week.

What keeps you motivated in your fitness program?  Do you have someone who keeps you accountable? 

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