Winter is coming and getting out for those early easy runs or running to the track in the dark after work is only going to get harder. There’s one thing that can help us all keep the consistency we need year round: accountability.
When we think of accountability in running it’s usually part of the coach-athlete relationship. You have a training plan that’s been set and you know that if you skip that session, without good reason, you’re letting someone down. Another person who has put in the time and effort to help you become a better runner.
Accountability needn’t just be a negative. Yes, it is extrinsic motivation to get out and run, but allowing ourselves to use this as a technique might actually come from your want to improve.
So one way this might help a runner is if one has a coach. Not only do they set your training sessions, they also hold you accountable for them. Just downloading a simple 12 week marathon plan off the internet holds you accountable to your actions, especially if you stick it on the fridge.
A coach doesn’t just mean you have to do every session. A good coach is flexible and happy to adapt your plan, but there must be good reason. Knowing that you would have to explain why you skipped that morning workout or missed out on that last rep keeps a runner honest.
Even during a workout you might be thinking about extending that recovery or forget to pace correctly from the start. Knowing that you’re accountable to someone else not only gets you out the door, but can make you conscientious about your session too.
This Monday, after a fantastic, but tiring weekend, the only time to get a session done was early. The alarm goes and it really isn’t the shrill ringing that makes me jump to my feet, well, crawl out of bed, but the thought that Tom Craggs has decided this is what needs to be done to get in sub 2:30 shape this December.
It needn’t just be a coach that keeps you on the straight and narrow. Also this Monday I shuffled to a friend’s door and knocked. It was still dark outside, but he’d asked me to let him know if I was going running. Whereas I wouldn’t have gone if it were not for the coaching plan, Majell would’t have run if it weren’t for the friend waiting at the door.
Training together isn’t just good for company and hard sessions. It can be the kickstart you need to actually start the run too. Organise a time the day before and you will make sure you’re up in time, especially as the winter months kick in and running late might freeze your mate.
The same works with core sessions and signing up for races. Talk to your running mates about it and take the leap together. Anyone want to sign up for Valencia marathon? Commit to three core sessions a week, even if you’re not living nearby, and make sure you check in on each other.
Even just halfway round an interval or on a long rep, just knowing a friend is in front of or behind you keeps you honest.
Hold yourself accountable online too. It might just be a Facebook post when you sign up or a tweet every time you go for a run, but there are literally thousands of people who can keep you working hard. Work with them!
Not all blogs are about people reading them, but also as an outlet for the individual too. If you set yourself a weekly or fortnightly challenge to update the wider world (or even just the 17 people who follow you on Twitter) then you know you have to do the running in between or have a good reason.
Communities like #UkRunChat or the ultra running community on Facebook can be a great support network. Find out who else is signed up for the same race and help each other, even if you live at opposite ends of the country or even the world.
My club, the North Norfolk Beach Runners, has a FB messenger group for the club session. It’s often a place for laughing and joking about, but weekly sessions and long runs are posted there too. Race results are congratulated and you have a great bunch of people supporting you to keep you accountable too.
It doesn’t just have to be on social media that you connect with your club (unless you live in a different country) but also at club nights, road relays and cross country events.
If you know you’re in for the team events then it will keep you working hard at Track Tuesday and getting up early to get that easy run in. The Round Norfolk Relay this September made sure my marathon training kicked off early as I didn’t want to let my club mates down.
Again you can just check who’s dong the same races and team up together. A Sunday long run, when you’re both trying to break three hours at a spring marathon, becomes a key part of your journey.
Having someone else enjoying the same highs and lows of the marathon journey keeps you accountable too. Excuses sound better to the person making them and if you say them to a peer, they’ll know if you’re being honest.
Last, but by no means least, is the family. Remember that they’re supporting you and often take great pride and inspiration in your running. Your partner, parents or children all want you to do well, but might sacrifice a few things themselves so you can go running.
If you remember this in the tougher moments, imagine them asking you why you missed that session to go out with your friends or get a bit more sleep. We’re not saying balance isn’t necessary and sometimes you need more sleep or a night off, but when you want some motivation to dig deep, let your family hold you accountable too.
Tell them you’re heading out in the morning or how far you have to run this weekend (although be wary of talking about running too much). Kids are great at calling you out when you’re not true to your word. They’re great motivators.
Accountability to yourself
It isn’t always about dragging your tired body on a run though. Remember to remain accountable to yourself too. Check that you’re not overdoing it and you get enough recovery.
You’re often the one who really knows if you’re pushing too hard and you owe it to yourself to listen to your body. If you ignore it then eventually it will hold you accountable for that too.