Accountability has become a bit of a buzz word lately in health and fitness, relationships, and other important facets of life. Accepting responsibility for what you want to incorporate into your life and creating the stakes and structure to see it through can be transformative.
So what does accountability mean when we’re speaking specifically about health and fitness? How can we “take responsibility” for what we eat, how we move, and how much we want to progress in our goals? This will not be the same process for everyone, but here are some places to start.
Join a local organization in your college or city
If you are a student, you’ll be surprised at the number of organizations on campus centered around fitness and exercise. When I was in school, there were plenty of clubs dedicated to a specific type of exercise, such as rowing or running. Others, meanwhile, were focused on just getting a group of people to head to the gym together. If you are looking for something that isn’t currently available, start a group yourself! Your student activities department wants to encourage engaged students, and they’ll help you gather others in a new club or for a specific opportunity. Taking the initiative to start something up is the highest form of accountability because your own effort and reputation are on the line.
This applies if you are out of college as welll. I currently live in a city and there are many examples of running clubs, biking clubs, or groups for almost anything else I could think of. Intramural sports are another huge way for me to get involved in the city and get some exercise with a team of young adults — a group who quickly became my friends. It’s a quick and easy way to find something in common with someone and find fun and creative ways to move.
Create a tangible goal using something you pay for
Growing up in a family of runners, I always had the idea of running a half marathon in my head. I knew it would be hard, but I thought it would be a great accomplishment in some far-away dream. But it wasn’t until I actually signed up for a race when my training kicked into gear. It’s a lot easier to run 9 miles when you will soon need to run 13.1. I was also surprised to find how much races actually cost. Investing in the entry fee made it much more likely that I would follow through on my goal.
What are some ways you can monetarily invest into your fitness journey? With some fitness goals, it’s fun to discover different events that may enhance your experience. For example, one of my favorite races is in Detroit, where you get to run across the Ambassador Bridge into Canada! I’ve also heard positive experiences from friends who completed obstacle course races or triathlons. Even paying for a monthly gym membership can increase your motivation to exercise more often.
I got an Apple Watch a few months ago and have not looked back. I love the fitness portion of the Apple Watch, despite grumbling when it tells me to “win the hour” and get out of my seat during the work day. The encouragement to exercise throughout the entire day reminds me to consider fitness in all aspects of my life, even during periods of down time. “Closing my rings” to accomplish the Move, Exercise, and Stand benchmarks has (almost) become a fun game to me.
I do urge a word of caution with Apple Watches and FitBits, however. Setting goals that are literally monitored on your wrist can quickly become unhealthy, especially for those who have struggled with addiction and eating disorders in the past. Constantly reassessing your relationship to these tools is essential to creating an accountability plan that works for you.
Enlist a friend to set a weekly check-in
Even if you prefer to work out alone, you can still involve others in your fitness journey. Pick a close friend who, no matter what their level of fitness, wants to support you through thick and thin. This person doesn’t need to show up at the gym and watch your every move. Sometimes, accountability is as simple as setting a weekly alarm to text you to ask how many times you made it to the gym this week.
If you are looking for something more intentional, ask more! Instead of asking how many times you made it to the gym, create a daily or weekly check-in with a friend with whom you can have more in-depth conversations around your goals and progress. Finding someone you trust to help you see it through can involve many different levels of involvement and ensure you are being held responsible for your goals in a healthy way.
Whether you like to involve people, goals, or technological support in your journey, accountability should be catered to your personal needs and rhythms of life. The more you want to achieve your goals and take responsibility for them, the more intentionality you’ll need to bring to this process. Plan for success!