Motivation and Accountability...from a Distance

Aurora Dawn

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Raise your hand if this period of little to no in-person contact is taking a toll on you? Most people are likely hoping it doesn’t last much longer, but the truth is enough time has already passed to notice a lag in good habit retention or to form new bad habits if there’s a lack of motivation to pay attention to such things. While some may have found working less or differently has given them more time to work out and cook healthy food, if you aren’t intrinsically driven in that direction it’s a perfect storm for making excuses, giving in to stress or sadness channeled into bad habits, and/or just becoming more sedentary because you’ve been told you can’t do as much as you’d like.

Motivation and accountability usually go hand in hand. Being accountable to someone who will really hold your feet to the fire is one of the most common reasons people hire personal trainers or fitness coaches. The awareness that someone else will know whether you do the work is highly motivating for some people. Whether that involves meeting to perform the workout together, chatting about it, or sharing information on paper, an app, or website, the drive to not let others down or let them know you flaked out can be a strong driver of behavior.

Luckily, we are also in a period of easy access to online communications, including ways to still perform workouts “together” and provide feedback and proof of our actions. Video chatting and conferencing capabilities even allow us to see each other while exercising, allow trainers to demonstrate form and evaluate the client’s form, and provide that personal contact that really drives some to do more, do better, and have more fun.

There is also a seemingly limitless supply of online workouts, apps, subscriptions, even pictures of exercise lists on Pinterest and Instagram and rabbit holes of videos on YouTube. To add accountability to that, just something as easy as a personal or group chat/text stream to suggest favorites and discuss which ones you’ve done today or this week can provide a boost for others.

Activity trackers (Fitbit, Garmin, Apple Watch, and FitTrack, for example), can be motivating for the individual even without the social connection, and I do recommend them to my clients if they are driven by quantitative measures (if they will just obsess or drive themselves crazy, looking at “the numbers” can actually be a detriment). But the real beauty of these trackers for those so encouraged by data: they can be connected to the trackers of friends, family, even your trainer...and it’s harder to embellish or fib your way through if there’s a scoreboard!

Many trainers and gyms have virtual training sessions or classes. If it is YOUR trainer or gym, this provides a little more accountability because you know them, and may know other people in a group class. Rarely does anyone want to be the one not showing up or not doing the full workload if it’s visible to everyone! Some providers may also be doing some of these services for free as a courtesy to clients who may be struggling financially, but money is also motivating! If you are paying for the service, you don’t want it to be wasted. (I just encourage you to keep this in mind when all of this is over, those providers will appreciate your continued patronage.)

In addition to group texting, social media groups in which you can simply share what you’re doing or workouts or recipes you’ve found can be very helpful. I am hosting a Facebook group where I provide a new strength circuit workout each week, we share posts to encourage each other, and are participating in an April 30 minutes for 30 days challenge. There are even some prizes in the works for people who rise to meet this challenge.

Sometimes the people in your own house spark the most motivation (and healthiest competition) of all. Challenge family members to do certain activities, duration of activity, or a goals tracking. Being in the same vicinity makes it even easier to have a eye on who is accomplishing what, and how well...and can drive some to DO BETTER! Plus you’re able to spend actual in-person time with them--what a treat!

The distance between us should be temporary, but this may also be a time during which you discover (or rediscover, or learn for the first time) having a motivational connection with others may actually benefit you down the road as well. My best advice: keep moving...and tell someone about it!

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