The fix for early-year fitness fatigue may be as close as your best friend, your hiking pals or the next family potluck. Fact is, with the support of a fitness accountability team, our commitment to keeping our bodies moving well past January accelerates exponentially.
The secret is knowing that accountability and motivation are keenly connected. We may have all the motivation in the world to start a new exercise adventure, but without other humans supporting us along the way, we may throw in the towel in the first inning.
Tapping into a network of support is key, according to Sims Corbett, national trainer for the SilverSneakers Fitness Program. “An exercise support system is terribly important,” she says. “It may be a group of people or one person who can hold you accountable. But what’s most helpful is to have a variety of people on your accountability team.”
Recruit Your Fitness Accountability Team
Corbett paints a picture of a larger community of support that we need for ultimate fitness success. “Different people take on different accountability roles,” she explains. “It’s helpful to have a variety of people on your accountability team.”
Start With Experience
The first step to identifying your fitness accountability team should be to connect with an instructor, trainer, group fitness leader or fitness facility ambassador who is experienced. That person’s role is to steer you in the right direction for your level of fitness and provide pointers to make the journey smoother and more rewarding.
This comes second nature to Corbett, a fitness veteran and certified personal trainer who designs class programming and instructor training for SilverSneakers. One of her specialty areas is exercise motivation.
“If you are brand-new to exercise, go to the gym and ask to be introduced to the instructor of the class that you’re interested in. Talk to them; ask questions,” Corbett says. “Instructors love getting people interested in exercise. We are passionate about it. So don’t be afraid to ask the instructor for extra support.
“And remember, all of us were new to exercise at some point in our lives. The instructors are there to help and support you,” she says.
Scan Your Daily Life
The next step is to scan your network of family and close friends. Make a list of the people you spend the most time with personally and socially. Choose one person from that group who you think will be the most supportive of your fitness goals and share your excitement with them. Ask them for their support and encouragement, even if they are simply sideline cheerleaders.
Get Buy-In on the Home Front
“Recruiting support from the people you live with is especially important,” says Corbett. “These discussions are critical if you are making a big change.”
There is no room here for negativity or smart-alecky skeptics. “Talk to your spouse or family member about the level of support you’ll need, and help them understand how to provide positive feedback that will help keep you motivated,” she says.
Ask a Friend
Now it’s time to recruit your accountability buddy – that one person with whom you will take your fitness journey. This person shares your enthusiasm and wants to achieve the same thing you do. It may be losing weight together or training for a 10K. No matter what the goal, you’ll be able to count on this person to be by your side.
Having said that, Corbett says, “You have to find someone who is really on board with the plan.” If you’re an early riser, your accountability buddy should be, too. Rely on one another to be dependable and show up ready to work out. “You want someone you can be honest with and have good discussions,” Corbett adds.
Identify a Mentor
This person is your role model. It is someone who has walked the road you are about to take. “With this person, you know it can be done – whatever your goal is,” Corbett says. “You actually have living proof that this can be done, and this person can help you. Having a person on your team like will have a very strong positive influence motivationally.”
For many adult exercisers, the fitness journey starts in a gym or group class. If you are brand-new to exercise, a gym can often be the most supportive place to start. Corbett points out that group fitness classes such as SilverSneakers provide an instant community of support. “The classes are so welcoming,” she says. “If you go into a class, you will walk out with friends. I have never seen that not happen!”
Set Yourself Up for Success
In fact, a 2011 study published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise found close social support and linking arms with friends who want to achieve similar goals leads to the highest success rates.
Recruiting your accountability team should be a thoughtful process. “For most people it comes down to having a broader range of support,” Corbett says. “It’s all about setting yourself up for success.”