We know what to do, now we need to figure out how to do it.
And even though we know how finicky it is, we still tend to rely on motivation to get us to do everything that we think we should. And when it fails us, we are tempted to give up and tell ourselves that we'll give it another go after life settles down. But when does it ever?
So for those of us who need some accountability to help us succeed in changing our habits, how do we go about creating it?
1. Use Facebook or Instagram as a way to put yourself on the hook. Declare your intentions for the week in writing for others to see, whether that's in a fitness-related group or just as a status update --- research says that you’ll be more likely to stick to it. And then report back on what you accomplished! Celebrate those little wins.
2. Another option is finding an accountability buddy, either online or in “real life.” Having someone to exercise with (even if that’s just an easy walk) or at least check in with daily via phone, text, or email can give you that extra shot of motivation to get your activity and healthy eating in.
A 2011 study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that the exercise habits of those closest to us tend to have a positive influence on our exercise habits. It helps the most when that person is someone that we have an emotional connection with and don't want to let down.
3. Use a smartphone app or activity tracker.
An activity tracker like the FitBit allows you to not only keep tracker of your daily steps, but also to create competitions with friends. Seeing your place on the leader board can be that extra little push to get up off the couch and go for a walk or get in extra steps at work throughout the day.
The gold standard for daily step count is 10,000 steps, but even just boosting your count little by little each day and week can go a long way towards better health and weight loss. I like the instant feedback and motivation you get from seeing those steps add up. It reminds you that every little bit counts.
RunKeeper - Whether you run, walk, or bike, you can log workouts, set goals, and compete with friends. It'll also show you your current and average pace, which can spur you on to try to beat it the next time.
BodySpace -- Bodybuilding.com's social network and exercise database allows you to add “Fit Status” updates, motivation updates, and photos. You can also add and follow friends for another layer of inspiration throughout your fitness journey.
Fitocracy -- This app uses a gamification element to spark your competitive side. You can track each workout and exercise you perform which earns you points, badges, and levels. You can also follow friends and compete with each other for bragging rights.
4. One tactic that I’ve personally used on myself and with clients is to have visual reminders of desired behavior goals (ie exercise 3 times each week, drink 64 oz. of water each day) somewhere where it can be seen frequently.
It’s easy to forget what we intend to do as we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and our busy schedules. This can mean printing out a calendar (calendarlabs.com is free) and writing down the goal(s) at the top and then giving yourself either a check mark for completing the task or an X each day for not doing it. This makes it easier to give yourself credit for trying and to see how much progress you're making.
5. Sign up for a race or event that requires commitment to a training plan. Sometimes just knowing that we'll be expected to churn out a 5k or an obstacle race in 8-12 weeks can give us that extra little nudge to fit in our workouts even when things get busy.
Accountability has the potential to be a game-changer, particularly if you're like me and need some to stay on track over the long haul. The key is finding one or more things that work for you without adding too much stress. Experiment and see how it goes.