About accountability

In Trucker's Health, October 20226 MinutesBy Laura HulleyNovember 6, 2022

Sticking to a healthy and active lifestyle can be extremely hard. But not feeling comfortable in your skin or feeling lousy because you’re not looking after yourself is also hard. Choose your hard.

On mornings when it’s freezing, I feel too tired after work, or I have some other reason/ excuse as to why I can’t do my workout – I think about the hard I want to choose. No matter how many mantras you adopt or pep talks you have with yourself, it’s sometimes difficult to push beyond your excuses and mindset – that is where accountability strategies can come into play.

There are many ways that you can hold yourself accountable, such as:

Create an exercise schedule. On a Sunday night, sit down for 10 minutes and plan out your week with the exercise sessions you would like to complete. For example, Monday 30-minute walk, Wednesday rugby training, Thursday weights class, Friday morning bike ride. Bonus points if you can allocate a time slot for the exercise sessions.

The more detail and parameters you give yourself, the more likely you will stick with them. This is because you are going into the week already thinking about what you’d like to do each day, rather than winging it and potentially missing sessions because of ill-planning or ‘life’ getting in the way.

Set yourself a goal. It can be helpful to have a long-term plan to strive towards each day, week, month or even year. But what can keep you focused on your big scary goal are those baby steps or stepping-stone goals along the way.

For example, if your goal is to run 10km without stopping, you could set weekly goals for how far you want to run each week comfortably and up it slightly every week, even by just a couple of hundred metres. It adds up and feels great to tick things off and feel a sense of accomplishment while you’re on your journey towards your big goal.

Join a gym, sports team or group fitness class. If I’ve committed to going to a class, a sports training/game or any group fitness activity, I am less likely to bail on it as I would be not only letting myself down but also the group/ team/coach/instructor.

If you know that soccer training is Tuesday at 6pm, you would normally show up because your team is counting on you. Whereas, if you’d planned to go for a run on Tuesday at 6pm, that is a much easier commitment to skip because no one else would mind if you didn’t do it or show up.

Have a workout buddy. If you’re not into group training, that’s okay. Instead, you could invest the help of someone you trust and feel comfortable with to keep you accountable. For example, you could ask a friend to go for walks with you on weekday mornings.

It’s the same deal with joining a group activity – you feel obliged to show up because you don’t want to let your friend/workout buddy down. It generally works well because when you don’t feel like going to your workout session, your workout buddy will feel like going and vice versa.

Reward yourself. Make a deal with yourself to treat yourself for completing so many sessions each week. Be honest about whether you feel you’ve achieved your goal allowing you your treat for your hard work.

Personally, I don’t opt for food as a treat as this can be counter-productive to overall health goals. I would rather be more creative and allow myself a treat like having a massage, going to the movies, etc.

Keep a diary of what exercise you’ve completed. Sometimes you can over- or underestimate how much activity you’ve done over the week. Your diary doesn’t have to be an intricate description of every exercise you’ve done, but it should allow you to see what you did throughout the week and not just estimate that you did roughly three or four sessions.

It can also help to keep the week balanced in terms of the types of training sessions. For example, you may have done weights sessions five days and choose to incorporate a bit of cardio to balance things out.

Invest in a smartwatch or fitness belt. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but an app can sometimes help keep you accountable.

I find my smartwatch helpful because it tracks my steps, which shows me how active I’ve been throughout the day aside from my purposeful exercise sessions. It also breaks down exercise sessions in terms of heart rate and intensity etc, which can help show you how hard you’ve worked and where you may need to improve.

Overall, finding a person or system to help keep you motivated, disciplined and on track is important. Different strategies work for different people, so try some of these options and see which ones are realistic and helpful.