Social Support & Accountability
Mike & I started this life change together, but little did we know Mike was going to be injured in the line of duty the following Saturday. The injury was to both legs and prohibited him from running through most of his rehabilitation. I knew I needed to keep going. I knew I also needed friends cheering me on; I turned to Facebook, Twitter, and Active.com message boards. I posted my runs with the GPS map within minutes of finishing my run. I was also very vocal about my frustrations, physical pain, and roadblocks. Throughout I had seasoned runners – most of whom I’d been privileged to meet through the police writing and training world - such as Bruce Sokolove, John Bostain, Laura Scarry, Betsy Smith and many others giving me advice and turning me towards the right resources. Coach Sok taught me the value of reading articles and educating myself on running. John and Laura taught me the need for mantras to fight through the physical pain and to learn endurance. Betsy was my biggest cheerleader.
I also used an App called MapMyRun where I have friends who run. Each time we log a workout our phone will whistle. We get to check each other’s progress and make comments about what the other did. I also know they see when I haven’t been exercising as much as I should, and this motivates me to get out again.
Another way I added accountability was by talking to everyone about becoming a runner. I told my coworkers, some of my patients who race, and my friends. By being so open about my hardships and successes my social network continues to grow as many of my friends have started running, too, and come to me for advice & support. Being vocal has been one of the biggest forms of accountability.
I finished Couch to 5K back in March. It took me longer than expected because life happens and I have learned few things in my life ever go according to my plan. But when I needed to stop, I knew the importance of getting back on track and one way I did this was by having goals set. Three weeks into my new life as a runner, I scheduled my first 5K with Mike and my friend Dawn, who had also never done a 5K before, for the month of April. Being a NEWBIE I knew I had to continue training to meet my goal. Failure (and embarrassment) was not an option! Each of us has completed three 5K’s this year, with more on the horizon.
I continue to set goals and continue to reach them. Some are long-term and others more immediate. Using both gives me motivation. I still schedule 5K’s because I’m afraid if I don’t, even though I now yearn for my runs, I know how easy it is for a good habit to fade away, almost overnight. I know I need to feed the motivation and be intentional; never taking for granted it will always be there. I know this is going to be work for the rest of my life. I am also working towards the goal of being able to run a 10K with ease (I’ve done it once already, but it wasn’t close to being easy!) on a trail by my house. Setting goals gives motivation and focus so make sure goals are periodically reevaluated and upgraded.
Celebrate the milestones! Whether it’s losing the first 5 lbs, are down to ½ a pack a day, have gotten a promotion, or have run for the first time for 3 full minutes without stopping…..Celebrate! Reward yourself for your hard work. Accomplishments need to be recognized and remembered.
Developing life habits requires hard work, effort, and intentionality. Start with a plan that encourages you to build on your successes and be wary of plans that require overwhelming life changes and restrictions. Be public with friends and family about your frustrations and your successes and build a network of accountability. Continuously set goals and remember to celebrate your successes. This formula is imperative to making a goal into a life-long habit.