10 Simple Ways to Build Accountability into your Running Program

by Jim Richardson | Last Updated: April 28, 2020

Whether you’re just starting to run or a veteran training towards your 100th marathon, you need to build accountability into your running program to achieve your goals as a runner.

Photo by Curtis MacNewton on Unsplash

Here are 10 simple ways for you to keep to your training on track :

1. Sign a Contract With Yourself or Others You Care about
It’s important to take the time to write down your goals. Don’t worry too much about formatting or spelling, just do a brain dump of what you want to get out of this. Write down why you are running, what your runs will look like, how will you complete your goals, what will the end goal look like? Try to plan it all out!

Make goals official by writing them down! Once you’ve written them all down, write yourself a contract and include the details above. Sign it, and better yet, get someone else who you care about to sign it too so they help keep you on task.

2. Run with a Friend or Group of Friends
Despite the fact that running is an individual activity, running groups, and the running community in general are often the social interaction we as social beings need for support, motivation and accountability. Unlike a solo run, where the only person you are answering to for not running is yourself, a running group means there are more people who are counting on you to show up, and who you would let down if you do not go for a run with them.

Running groups also typically set a schedule, whether that is daily or weekly, that you can plan for, well in advance. With set schedules there are rarely surprises or changes to the expectations, so you pretty much know what you are going to get when you sign up for a Tuesday night running group.

When you run with a group of people, there is always the extra motivation to keep up with the group, and to push yourself harder. Chances are, there will always be someone in the group that runs better, is in better shape than you, and who seems to know a lot more about nutrition, stretches, mechanics and whatever other tips and tricks. Use this as motivation to learn as much as you can from them (they are usually the ones who love to tell you, or anyone for that matter, how they became successful in the first place).

While sometimes preachy, these tips and tricks and advice are proven methods for their success and if they are offering this information to you for free, it’s worth the price of admission so taking notes, whether physically on paper, or just mental notes will save you time (from searching the internet) and money (from going to the bookstore and buying a book on running).

3. Sign up for a Race or Competition
Having the right motivator can make or break your running program. Signing up for a race or competition in the (not so distant) future will help motivate you to get out and train. If you know you have to be in better shape by a certain date, and if your goal is to actually finish the race, then circling the date on your calendar and working backwards by setting realistic goals is the way to go. Know yourself and work your way up; there is no sense in putting too much pressure on your to complete a marathon when you haven’t even run a 5 or 10 km race. Working within your means will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and focused.

4. Share Your Goals on Social Media
Much like the arguments made in point 1, accountability can be maintained in a group setting. Sharing our goals and progress on social groups like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. can be a great motivator as well. If you are planning on going for a run in the morning, consider posting a photo of your running shoes by the front door to all of your accounts with a caption like ‘6AM wake up call, 10 km run, let’s do this!’

Whether you have 100 followers or over 1000 followers, a simple post will make you accountable to them. Some may wish you good luck, you may motivate others to do the same, and many may even ask you tomorrow afternoon how the run went.

The last thing you want to do is tell them you slept in, or didn’t go for that run!

5. Create a Workout Log
Keep track of your successes daily. It will help show you just how far you have come. Start off by writing a brief profile and include how much you weight, how you feel, why you are starting to run in the first place, and what you hope to accomplish by when.

Then, every time you go for a run, write down how long you ran for (in time and distance), the date and time of your run, and in general, how you felt after you ran. It may also be helpful to write down some rewards at the start for when (not if) you fit specific goals, whether that is running 1 km without walking, 5 kms, or whatever motivates you! Rewards might include a new workout outfit, a new pair of shoes, a ‘cheat day’ or a new GPS tracker or heart rate monitor. The choices are endless!

6. Focus on Your End Goal
Ask yourself how you want to feel, or look in a week’s time. How about a month’s time? For example, “I want to be able to play with my kids in the park without being out of breath by the end of the summer” or “I want to fit into those skinny jeans I bought years ago by Christmas.” Taking some time each day to visualize yourself wearing those jeans, or chasing your kids in the park will help keep you accountable to yourself.

Other examples: “I want to run twice a week for the first week, three times a week for weeks two and three and four times a week onwards.” or “I want to lower my bad cholesterol, increase my good cholesterol and stabilize my blood pressure by my next annual physical.”

7. Document Your Progress through Photos
Just like your workout journal, it’s important to visually document your progress with photos. We all love those before and after photos and they help us appreciate where we have come from, and enjoy the journey we have taken to get to this point. In an age where selfies are the new normal, it’s ok to take a selfie when you are first starting out, and documenting your progress as you watch your transformation!

Remember, photos don’t lie!

8. Let Others Track Your Workouts too
Similar to sharing your updates with your social groups before you go for your run, sharing updates while you are running, or immediately after are also important steps to staying accountable.

Use a GPS watch like the Garmin Forerunner (shown above) can automatically publish your results to social media whenever you come back to Wi-Fi. Some even have leaderboard features which allow you to compete against your friends.

9. Join Likeminded Communities on Facebook
Like running in groups, Facebook communities for example are awesome ways to learn more about running, share stories, recipes, progress, hardships from people who are going through the same thing you are. Some will just be starting out, while others will be seasoned veterans. Collectively, they can help educate, motivate and support you through positive reinforcement and comments. You won’t find any trolls in this community!

10. Set or Pack Your Workout Bag the Night Before, or, Sleep In Your Workout Clothes
It may seem silly (and uncomfortable) to think about sleeping in your workout clothes but doing so may help keep you accountable to the goals you set (and possibly posted on social media). Take a shower before you go to bed and put your (clean) workout clothing on before hopping into bed. You’ll wake up better prepared to tackle your run at 6AM because you’ve eliminated many of the barriers you may have built up for yourself. Plus, deciding not to go on that run will also force you to deal with taking off your workout clothes to get changed for work, yet another reminder that you should be running instead.

But if the thought of sleeping in your workout clothes gives you heartburn, or will significantly affect your love life, then consider the alternative of simply planning ahead and packing your workout bag the night before, and either putting it by the front door, or in the front seat of your vehicle. It’s not a difficult concept; we often plan ahead by packing our kid’s lunch, or a diaper bag full of wipes, diapers and changes of clothing for our little ones, so plan your own success!

The Bottom Line
Remember a goal without a plan is just a wish and a goal that is not written down is simply a thought. As a runner, whatever your end goals are, it is incredibly important to develop your own plan and find ways of keeping accountable to yourself and others. Use these goals to motivate you, to better you, and to push you to go further and faster.

Remember, there are no traffic jams when you go the extra mile, and if you utilize some of the tips found in this article, you’ll build positive habits into your daily life, find greater success, accountability and the motivation to avoid making excuses. Good luck and good running!

How do you build accountability into your running program? What has helped you keep your training on track?

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