Not Just a Trainer, an Accountability Partner

In my blog ‘The Benefits of a Workout Partner and How to Find One,’ I touched on the importance of accountability over willpower. I’d like to dive a little deeper into the difference between the two and how as a personal trainer I use accountability to increase your confidence and ultimately strengthen your willpower.

Making Changes

When working with my clients we always start by talking about their goals: physical, nutritional and lifestyle. This information is essential to create a customized plan with unique and personal goals. And in creating their plan and goals we break things down into stages.

It’s important to have both short and long-term goals. The short-term goals may be for a week or a month and are the steps necessary to accomplish the long-term goals. They are the key to increasing confidence and willpower and create the accountability needed to sustain change. Let me give you an example of physical, nutritional and lifestyle:

Physical

Let’s say your goal is to reduce body fat from 32% to 25%. That’s not going to happen overnight and not something I would recommend measuring on a weekly basis, but rather every 4 to 6 weeks. Here’s why: measuring it weekly could create frustration by not seeing results and could result in a loss of willpower and desire to keep working towards the goal. However, part of achieving that goal will be to increase lean muscle mass and reducing fat.

So the client and I would work together to create goals that are based on increasing performance during the workout; perhaps increasing the number of repetitions, or increasing the amount of weight lifted. These are examples of short-term goals that can be easily achieved in progressing towards the ultimate goal of fat loss. Each time one of those short-term goals are accomplished, the client gains confidence in their ability to achieve the long-term goals and increases their commitment to the process. When committed to change, willpower grows and excuses for skipping workouts diminish.

Nutritional

The majority of clients that I have worked with have had a weight loss goal in mind. While exercise is an important component of weight loss, dietary modifications are also necessary. Unfortunately, even our toughest workouts can’t overcome continuous bad choices in the kitchen.

I try to encourage my clients to track their nutritional intake through any number of free apps like MyFitnessPal or LoseIt, but the fact is, some just aren’t interested in tracking portions and calories. I understand that and help them to create other goals that will help to make long-term dietary changes.

For example, let’s say you love sweets. The extra sugar and calories consumed by eating sweets is a factor in weight maintenance. Once again, this isn’t something that can change overnight. Making too drastic of dietary changes quickly puts too much pressure on willpower and not enough on establishing a pattern of sustainable dietary changes.

So we break it down first by evaluating the quantity of sweets consumed during the week. Once we have a handle on the amount, we can establish a goal of beginning to replace manufactured sweets with natural sweets because it’s no mystery that a piece of fruit is a better choice than a candy bar. Rather than setting a goal that the client is going to quit sweets all together, we establish a plan for manageable modifications. Maybe that means starting with replacing two items a week, maybe more. Using the approach of gradual modification allows the client to see that reducing sweets is possible. As the client gains confidence in their ability to make choices, we increase their goal because their willpower to resist manufactured sweets has been strengthened.

I would never ask a client to stop eating sweets cold turkey; this puts an enormous pressure on their willpower and each time they are exposed to sweets the temptation grows and the greater amount of pressure on their willpower. Eventually, the temptation wins, the client feels defeated, discouraged, and ashamed they weren’t able to stick with their goal. This isn’t helpful for anyone. Whereas the gradual change builds confidence, willpower and the ability to adopt long-term change.

Lifestyle

I am a firm believer that if you are working towards improving health, you need to incorporate lifestyle changes beyond diet and exercise. My favorite example for a lifestyle change is creating a consistent bedtime and waking time. Our bodies crave routine and many of us rarely give our bodies the rest they need. I know both personally and through my clients that adopting a consistent sleeping pattern helps with energy levels, weight maintenance, and stress levels.

Establishing Accountability

So I know you’re probably thinking, ‘That’s all great, but as a client I might only meet with you once a week. It’s up to me to follow through on all of these goals.’

In part that is true, it is up to my client’s to commit to their goals, however, I know that no matter where you are in the process of achieving your long-term goals, you need support and accountability. Honestly, as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor, I need accountability. We all struggle with willpower from time to time so we need to be surrounded by those who want to build us up.

Throughout the week I check in with my clients. Whether it’s a text or sending an email with an article that could be helpful, I make sure to stay in contact. This helps my clients to know that I am there for them, opens the door for them to ask questions or admit their struggles, and further builds our trainer-client relationship.

If you are looking to make some changes, I would love the opportunity to speak with you. Drop me an email, and let’s set up a time to chat about your goals and how I can help you create a plan to achieve them.

The Benefits of a Workout Partner and How to Find One

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes people stick with their workout programs. Let’s face it, if working out is something new, it’s going to take more than willpower to keep you motivated.

Sore muscles, sweat, difficult exercises, comparing yourself to others in the gym or class, grabbing your gym bag and heading out in the cold, snow and ice OR in the summer grabbing your gym bag instead of your pool gear…as a trainer and group fitness instructor I’ve heard all of the excuses.

I know personally and professionally how much willpower it takes to work through the excuses and stick with a program.

Willpower: the ability to control yourself : strong determination that allows you to do something difficult.

But when you couple willpower with accountability you have a much greater chance at success. Which is why I encourage everyone to find a workout partner.

The Benefits of a Workout Partner

Willpower is Doubled

What better way to increase your own willpower than by teaming up with a friend or spouse? There might be days where your motivation or willpower is down. Being able to rely on someone close to you to fill up where you are lacking is a great way to push through the excuses and stay on track.

Become the Encourager

Now let’s flip that, think about how good it feels to build someone up when they are down? Not necessarily because of the personal gratification, but because it’s someone you care about and want the best for. Being able to provide encouragement is a great way to help them achieve their goals and strengthen your relationship.

Quality Time Together

We’re all busier than we want to be. Lack of time can be one of the biggest excuses for skipping a workout. So why not get the benefit of two things at once…time with a best friend or spouse plus a healthy activity? You get in a workout, spend time with a loved one, and again, have the opportunity to strengthen your relationship. Seems like a win no matter how you look at it.

Healthy Competition

We all have a competitive spirit, so one of the best ways to push your limits is to exercise with a partner. This isn’t to say during the workout either person is trying to ‘out-do’ each other, rather by each working as hard as they can, they encourage each other.

Don’t Let Me Down

It’s one thing to skip the gym when it’s just you, but it’s a whole other thing to skip out on a commitment with someone else. No one wants to let down someone they care about so a workout partner will keep you accountable for showing up regardless of the excuses you can think of.

Have Some Fun

Is exercise hard? Sure. But nothing makes something hard better than laughter. Who better to sweat with than someone you can laugh with?

Finding a Workout Partner

Ask your spouse, a friend, a neighbor, a classmate…anyone can be your a workout partner.

I’ve personally had my husband as a workout partner and while our strength and abilities are very different, we both benefited from the training sessions. Aside from all of the benefits listed above, we were both physically challenged and grew in our abilities.

I’ve also had friends and neighbors as workout partners and my relationships with each of them grew. There were times that we all lacked the motivation for class, but because we didn’t want to miss out on time with one another, we’d take turns picking each other up along the way. Whether it was driving or walking to the gym, we couldn’t ignore the knock on the door asking if we were ready to go.

If you can’t think of a workout partner, contact me. I’d love to help connect you with someone. While you won’t have a foundation going into the partnership, you will certainly have the opportunity to grow one as you workout together.

Don’t believe me that you can develop relationships through working out? Check back this week…I’ve asked some people to write about their experience and how their workout partners have changed their lives.

If you are in the Lombard, Glen Ellyn, Elmhurst area, contact me about connecting you with a workout partner. I’d love to help you start achieving your fitness goals.

Keeping a Log

If your goal is to lose weight it’s extremely important you keep some sort of log for your intake and caloric burn.

ACCOUNTABILITY

This is especially important for those people who like to “graze.” If you are one that eats pretty consistently throughout the day you may be unconsciously consuming calories. Getting into the habit of recording everything you eat will help you get an accurate idea of the number of calories you are consuming each day.

The other aspect of accountability with a log is that if you have to write it down you may make the decision not to eat it. It might sound silly but looking at your log and seeing that you ate a jelly donut for 289 calories and 15 grams of fat might make you think twice.

TRACKING

Looking back you can see why you lost weight or begin to identify reasons that you stayed the same or gained. Being able to identify patterns of behavior allows you a better opportunity to make the appropriate adjustments in your diet.

Tracking also involves looking at your physical activities. What is the history of your workouts, have they increased in intensity or duration? What days are more challenging for you to get in a workout? Keeping tabs on what you do and when can make your workouts more efficient and contribute to greater weight loss.

Here are some free calorie and activity trackers that you can check out on your own:

MY CALORIE COUNTER

http://www.my-calorie-counter.com/

My Calorie Counter, powered by Everyday Health, is a free online diet journal that can help you track how many calories you’ve burned and the number of calories in the food you eat.

FITDAY.COM

http://www.fitday.com/

Fitday.com is a completely free website that tracks your foods, exercises, weights and goals. You can also view your calories, nutrition, weight loss and more. In addition to the free services there are paid options and an iPhone app available.

DAILYBURN

http://dailyburn.com/

Daily Burn provides fitness plans, nutritional tracking and social motivation to help you reach your health and fitness goals. In addition to the free services there are paid options and an iPhone app available.

There are many more of these services available to you for FREE either through websites or phone apps. Get out there and try one, if you don’t like it, try another one until you do. I guarantee once you start tracking your intake and exercise you will see results.

 

Grab a Partner

Do you prefer to do things alone or do you like to be with others? Does going at it solo or using a group approach impact your success?

When it comes to exercise accountability is a major factor. Many people have a hard time creating a sense of accountability on their own. If you are in a program by yourself, only you really know if you cheat on your diet or skip a workout. Often times this doesn’t have much of a negative impact. Certainly you might feel bad about it, but in the long run it might not mean much.

By creating an accountability relationship with your diet and exercise program you have a greater reason to stick to your commitments that just yourself – you have the potential to let someone else down. None of us like the feeling of doing that.

One thing that we ALL like the feeling of is picking someone up! So look at it from the other side, your friend or spouse calls you and says; “I just don’t feel like doing this today. I need a rain check.”

This is a perfect opportunity for you to open a dialog with them and find out the root of their reason for not wanting to stick with the program. Maybe they really have something going on and need help through it. Or maybe it’s just that they “just don’t feel like it.” In either case, you have an opportunity to really step up to be an encouragement to your accountability partner.

Let’s face it – we all need a little kick in the behind sometimes. Find yourself a friend or ask your spouse to be your accountability partner. Sit down and create some guidelines for your relationship in relation to your diet and exercise goals. Then work to help each other remain true to the things you are setting out to accomplish.

I think you’ll find working with an accountability partner to be a true benefit to your program. Not to mention the growth you will see in your personal relationship with that person.

Who’s going to be your partner?