By Jessica Ehrlich
We’ve all been there — you’ve splurged at LuluLemon buying new yoga pants and sports tops. Your fridge is stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, and you’re overflowing with new recipes. You have a vision of your future, ripped self-slaying burpees and turning heads as you strut your miraculously toned butt down the street.
Maybe it’s a New Year’s or post break-up resolution. Whatever the reason, you feel determined to make it happen. But what are the chances of you following through and achieving your health goals? What is different this time than all the other times you promised yourself you would succeed but ultimately failed? What will really give you the edge you need to follow through and attain that sexy, dream body?
The common mistake for most people? They try to do it alone. According to a study by University of Scranton, not having an Accountability Partner is 92% of the reason why people did not accomplish their 2013 New Year’s resolutions.
It may not be your fault. But trying to do it all alone deprives you of a support system — a source of motivation, accountability, healthy competition, compliance — and most obviously and importantly — working out is WAY more fun with a buddy.
However, some folks squirm at the thought of an Accountability Partner because there aren’t any excuses left — barring something catastrophic. The thought of having someone checking up on you, calling you on your excuses, not accepting the BS and seeing the “real” you — flaws and all — is an intimidating place. But it is also a place where people succeed exponentially — if they can get past their egos.
To some, an Accountability Partner may feel like a failure or like needing your Mom around because you can’t do it by yourself. Those are, of course, a few negative ways to look at it. Or you can accept yourself for who you are, learn from your mistakes, know that you are human, and finally stop repeating old habits that led you down the same dead end road to begin with.
As a trainer, I see firsthand how this process works every day. You can easily get a workout online or almost anywhere these days, but if you don’t actually do it, then what’s the point? That’s why people hire me (money is such a powerful motivator) or recruit a friend to meet up with them — to increase accountability and compliance (i.e. show up and actually do the work!)
If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you more than likely need an accountability partner.
1.) Have you ever started a program and quit within a few days/weeks?
2.) Do you often start things and then quit – never seeing them through?
3.) Do you show up to the gym or otherwise and leave after doing the bare minimum?
4.) Do you often skip workouts?
5.) Do you find yourself not giving 100% every time?
6.) Have your fallen short of achieving your New Year’s Resolutions?
Ever wonder why you quit or just give the minimum effort? According to www.thefittutor.com, the #1 reason people quit on their goals is because there are no real consequences for their inaction. But, if you have to answer to someone, suddenly adherence increases. And when adherence increases, so does your consistency. And consistency is the other key to your health and fitness goals!
Gretchen Rubin’s research digs deeper in Better Than Before into who needs accountability partners and why. If you discover you are an Obliger in her Four Tendency Quiz, http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/3163256/Gretchen-Rubin-s-Quiz-The-Four-Tendencies-Fall2016, you learn you almost always have to have someone to help you maintain your good habits by holding you accountable. Because Obligers need a boost to maintain their own goals, Accountability Partnerships are a critical part to their success. Obligers need someone outside of themselves, for the most part, to meet their inner expectations.
Rubin states that most people (since most people who take Rubin’s quiz are Obligers) don’t want to disappoint their friend or Accountability Partner. Therefore, they are more likely to maintain their commitment to exercising, or whatever good habit they are trying to practice.
So how do you get started?
1.) Set an attainable and measurable goal with 2-3 markers/mini-goals along the way.
2.) Establish your “why” for the goal. This will uncover your motivation and your values – both of which are crucial for you and your AP to keep you going.
3.) Set expectations with detail (days/wk, workout times, durations, pounds lost or gained, deadlines, responsibilities, etc.)
4.) Set rewards and/or consequences. For instance, if you show up late, you have to do 10 burpees for every minute you are late. Or if you set a goal to avoid sugar for a week and make it, reward yourself with a massage.
5.) Select an AP
In their book, The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz suggest the value of establishing a “Personal Development Plan.” Clients write down their name and the date of their “full engagement.” They start with a “vision worksheet” that challenges their clients to write down their deepest values and strengths. Their process encourages people to reflect on their individual visions and values. They help their clients clarify barriers and establish a strong strategy to establish rituals. Finally, they have an “Accountability Log,” where they rate how well they accomplish their actions. They explain how when groups of people make commitments to each other they are more likely to take action to follow through on those commitments. So, their work validates the importance of understanding one’s overarching values, establishing a goal, clarifying the specifics, examining the barriers, writing a strategy and keeping a record to monitor the results.
What if you want an Accountability Partner? How do you select the right AP for you?
1.) Find someone with similar goals or that is slightly “better” than you to push you with healthy competition.
2.) Find someone you trust, respect and do not want to disappoint – especially when they call you out on excuses to miss a workout or eat that donut.
3.) Keep in mind it could be a friend, a partner or even a group of people.
If recruited, how can you be the best AP?
1.) Stay in touch (send reminder texts or e-mails, wake up calls, etc.)
2.) Be punctual for meetings
3.) Encourage and push your partner
4.) Remind your partner of their goals and offer encouragement when things get difficult.
5.) Offer suggestions to avoid plateaus or pitfalls
6.) Be compassionate and avoid enabling
7.) Stay positive – negativity is an energy drainer
In her book, Conquering your Quarter-Life Crisis, Blush Online Life Coaching CEO Kali Rogers explores friendships she calls positive friends promoters and shares some distinct ways friends can support each other. She maintains, “good friends are natural accountability partners because they aren’t afraid to see their friends succeed. In order to be a good accountability partner, you cannot be threatened by others’ success. The entire point is for you to BOTH be motivated by your friend’s accomplishments.” She adds, “It takes an incredibly secure person to be an accountability partner!”
Not convinced you need or want someone, no worries. There are also apps for fitness related accountability. My Fitness Pal or Lose It! are specifically designed to help you monitor what you eat and expend daily calorie wise. They even have a convenient option to e-mail your daily totals to a friend – just in case!
Other Apps for motivation, consider the following:
- 21habit.com asks you to decide what habit you want to make or break then urges you to make a 21-day commitment. There is a free mode where you check in with them every day and one you can purchase for $21.00 where they email you every day.
- Beeminder.com helps you stick to your quantifiable and measurable goals through daily checks. If you get off your path you get a “reminder with a sting” because they charge your credit card. They call it “flexible self-control.”
- Betterapp.com was created by Gretchen Rubin as a supplemental resource for understanding the Four Tendencies Framework she established in Better Than Before. Her new book The Four Tendencies comes out fall, 2017.
- Chains.cc doesn’t want you to “break the chain.” So, they motivate you to break bad habits and develop good ones by completing your daily tasks. They create a visual model for you to watch, as your chain gets stronger.
- Irunurun.com prides itself on helping people reach their “fullest potential.” They believe “actions speak louder than goals,” and have visual dashboards to help their users track their progress.
- StickK .com was created by by two Yale professors Ian Ayres and Dean Karlan, and Yale graduate, Jordan Goldberg. This app “empowers behavioral change” in some interesting ways. Participants can set up positive and negative consequences for themselves such as making a donation to their favorite, or their anti-charity.
No matter which tool you choose, the most important key to reaching your goal is understanding yourself well enough to know which tools YOU need to succeed. And, of course always remember, you have a beautiful community of Iron Butterflies to fly with you.
Lambert, Allison. Why You Need A Fitness Accountability Partner.
October 14, 2014
Loehr, Jim and Schwartz, Tony. The Power of Full Engagement. 2003
The Free Press
Rogers, Kali. Conquering your Quarter-Life Crisis. 2017. Thought
Catalog Books. JoinBlush.com
Rubin, Gretchen. Better Than Before. 2015 Penguin Random House
Statistic Brain New Years Statistics for 2017
Stringer, Leigh. “Forget Mentors, Find an Accountability Partner”
2017 QuietRev.com (Also see: leighstringer.com)
Tyson, Dale. “Accountable Partner – Why You Fail”
2015 Katy Christian Magazine
Jessica Leigh Ehrlich is a personal trainer from Austin, TX. With over two decades in the industry, she has used her passion for wellness to teach hundreds of people fitness, nutrition, yoga, and pilates. You can catch her meal plans, wellness tips, and daily shenanigans on Instagram @jessicaleighe.