Shannon asked: “Do you have any quick tips to help with accountability and working out at home? I have great intentions to get healthier.  I’ve cleaned up my eating habits and am taking my vitamins… now, I have to be consistent at working out.  I’ll work out for a week and end up taking an entire week off.  Then I start to engage in negative thoughts.  Yuck.   Accountability was easy when I had a gym membership because I didn’t want to be out that money!  But we just moved so I don’t have the cash to spare.  Thoughts?”


I thought Shannon’s question would be a wonderful one to address on the blog because there are SO many ways to create a sense of accountability without spending money.  Sure, paying for a gym membership or signing up for a race is a major motivator – but that costs money, and fitness can be free.  I bet you all have some awesome suggestions for creating accountability without spending a dime.  Here are my thoughts – I’m excited to hear yours, too. 


Accountability Trick #1:  Create a star chart or a blank training plan.


For the last four or five years, I’m followed a training plan to prepare for a race about 80% of the time.  Since I’m on a racing hiatus because of pregnancy, I needed a way to motivate myself without having a race deadline – hence, the blank training plan.  This concept – similar to the star chart used to motivated kindergarteners – could work for anyone, for any goal.


For my chart, I listed four blank spots for each week.   My goal was to fill up at least three of the spots (the fourth was a bonus).  The blank spots worked well for me because I wasn’t sure what kind of workouts I would feel up to on a week-to-week basis and allowed me to be flexible, but you can always plan out your weekly workouts and check them off as you go, like a traditional training plan. My list is on the fridge so it’s visible by everyone who comes into my house – and it’s created an excellent sense of accountability.  I’ve definitely worked out on the last day of the week JUST so I can complete my chart!


Accountability Trick #2:  Do the (money-less) piggy bank.


Another way to create accountability is to motivate yourself with the promise of a reward.  Now, people hear ‘reward’ and think ‘gotta spend cash,’ but there are non-monetary rewards, too.  Some of my favorites:  at-home manicure and pedicure; a massage from your spouse; permission to do nothing for an entire Sunday; a bubble bath with candles, a glass of wine, and your favorite book.  You get the idea!


The way the money-less piggy bank works is as follows:  set a realistic workout goal for a set time period – say, 12 workouts in a 30 day time span.  Write your goal and your planned reward on a piece of paper and tape it to a jar or cup.  Every time you exercise, drop a penny, button, or other token into the ‘piggy bank.’  When you’ve hit your goal, cash in your prize!


Accountability Trick #3:  Find a virtual workout buddy / utilize social media.


And last, but not least, if you’re looking for accountability, hop on the phone, email, or the Internet.  My BFF Lauren and I trained together for the Disney Marathon ‘virtually’ – she was in Philly and I was in Orlando.  We’d email each other updates and check in to ensure the other was doing their long runs.  You can also find accountability with strangers via sites like Spark People or The Daily Mile.  (As a side note, here are some other websites for runners that I love.)  Lastly, if you’re really feeling unmotivated, Tweet or Facebook a plea for support – ask your buddies to follow up with you later to see if you got your sweat on. 


What advice do you have for Shannon?  How do you create accountability without spending cash?



  • Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed May 16, 2012, 9:50 pm

    This was part of the reason I started my blog! I knew it would keep me accountable for my workouts if I blogged about them. I make weekly goals and writing that I failed to get them done sucks!

  • NIcolette May 16, 2012, 10:04 pm

    Today while at yoga, I heard one woman mention to her friend “I posted on Facebook we were coming to class tonight, so I made us accountable.”
    It was so awesome to hear this. First, it was friends motivating each other to work out. Second, they used social media, made it public, and put in that aspect of measurable accountability.
    A Facebook post or a tweet or whatever is such an easy thing to do that can motivate you to work out!

  • Leanna May 16, 2012, 10:11 pm

    I use gold stars on my calendar. I get them for any kind of workout – a run, yoga, bike ride, hula hooping, etc. I’m highly motivated by gold stars so this works well for me. I’m also motivated by fear and peer pressure so I’ve signed up for a few relay and team races. I don’t want to let my teammates down so that keeps me training.

    • Vikki May 17, 2012, 9:35 am

      This is also what I do without the gold stars. I just use a pen and make an X. I have a general number of workouts that I want to do during the year. I only count workouts where I do at least 30 minutes of activity. (Most of the time, I do an hour or more.)

      I’ve signed up for a 5K at the end of the month. I am taking a weekly beginner gymnastics class and I’ve signed up to go on a hooping retreat so I’m also a fan of diversifying the exercise portfolio.

  • Maggie May 16, 2012, 10:12 pm

    For runners, I highly recommend iMapMyRun. There’s a great (free) app that lets you track your progress, and you can share your workouts on Facebook for added accountability. There’s also a great website where you can find routes that people in your area have run. It’s a great way to keep track of your workouts!

  • jess May 16, 2012, 10:49 pm

    Weren’t u working with gympact? What happened to that?

    • Caitlin May 18, 2012, 9:53 am

      Yup! I still use it to get me to the gym. But it only works for the gym – you can’t check in for at home workouts.

  • Kath May 16, 2012, 11:06 pm

    My new years resolution was to use daily mile for every workout and almost 6 months later its worked!! I am loving excercising more than ever and feel very self motivated. Also, you could add that you have to find a workout you love….so it may take a while. Yoga and walking are my new loves. Everyone needs to find their own!

  • Kath May 16, 2012, 11:07 pm

    Also—map my run rocks!!

  • Jenny May 16, 2012, 11:33 pm

    I’ve used Peer Trainer for over a year and you can join groups (of 4) with similar goals. We track our food and workouts and have our own group page to share thoughts. I have a recipe group, a running group, and a daily encouragement group.

  • Katie @ Peace Love and Oats May 16, 2012, 11:47 pm

    I love the chart because I would hate to see a visualization telling me I’d failed my goals that week. I’d do anything to have those stars up there!

  • Maura @ My Healthy 'Ohana May 17, 2012, 12:04 am

    I love your ideas for the money-less piggy bank, I think that would actually motivate me to get out there and achieve my goals 🙂

  • Lauren @ SassyMolassy May 17, 2012, 12:21 am

    For some people, having an exercise buddy works really well. Someone you can meet for a run/walk/cross training circuit. After all, you can’t say no to your friend!

    I’ve also found that my running group, cycling groups, etc motivate me to get out there AND get to see people while I’m sweating.

    Another tool I use is fitness dvds from the library. There are so many great ones (Jillian Michaels, yoga, etc) that will give you a great workout, for free, in the comfort of your own home.

  • Kathleen May 17, 2012, 12:23 am

    My neighbors and I created a fitness club. Zumba at one neighbors, aqua aerobics at another, group walks and motivational text messaging to help everyone get excited about workouts, so far so good and very convenient and fun!

  • Kate @ life's precious moments May 17, 2012, 12:24 am

    I really like the ‘money-less piggy bank.’ I hadn’t thought of it this way but when you are a tight budget this couldn’t be a better idea! I need to start doing this.

  • Lexi @ You, Me, & A World to See May 17, 2012, 2:49 am

    Love these ideas for better accountability! As a student, it’s particularly important, I know.

  • Sue @ Sue In Training May 17, 2012, 4:22 am

    What about running/walking with your neighbors or co-workers? That’s also a great way to make new friends. I walk or run almost every day during lunchtime with my co-workers, and often go on bike rides with my husband on Sundays. Totally free and so much fun!

  • Beki @ MissWheezy May 17, 2012, 4:23 am

    I have my own version of a “star chart” on which I give myself a gold star every time I complete my workout! Makes me feel like a kid, and there’s a great sense of accomplishment seeing my calendar fill up with gold stars week after week 🙂

  • Hillary May 17, 2012, 7:17 am

    I’m a big fan of sharing my goals with people, especially when I’m training for a big race. I talk about it on my blog, I share updates on Facebook, etc. That way, on days when I REALLY don’t feel like logging a long run, I remind myself that I’ll look like a quitter if I don’t follow through!

  • Shannon May 17, 2012, 7:21 am

    I wanted to put in a word for coaching. (Not an athletic/sports team coach, the other kind of coach.) Because I have a Ph.D. in psychology and am home full-time with my kids, I wanted to find part-time work that could be flexible (schedule-wise), utilize my passion for and expertise in helping people, and focus on health and behavior change, so I’ve begun a part-time wellness coaching practice. I conduct coaching sessions via phone (usually), and issues like sticking to an exercise plan (or losing weight, or improving your diet) are exactly what I specialize in. A coach is a professional who is an expert in helping others reach their goals. One main benefit of coaching is accountability; my clients talk with me regularly (usually weekly) so they are always checking in and reporting how it’s going and what they’d done or not done since we last spoke. I can also help tailor goals, brainstorm through obstacles, identify problems, etc. It’s amazing how much people can accomplish with expert help, and how often people do not achieve what they want to until coaching. Sometimes people have worked on something for YEARS until seeking a coach, and finally see success with that expert on their side.

    Anyway–just one more potential tool!

  • Shannon May 17, 2012, 7:22 am

    (oops–P.S.–of course hiring a coach involves spending money, unlike your other suggestions. But for some people, it’s an investment in their entire lives that they find completely worth it.)

  • Joy May 17, 2012, 7:22 am

    If she has a smartphone mapmyfitness is great – they have challenges all the time. Also most (all?) lulu lemons have free classes

  • Molly @ RDexposed May 17, 2012, 8:00 am

    Just did a version of #1 yesterday for work purposes since it works so well on myself!

  • Stacie May 17, 2012, 8:35 am

    I find it easier to just make the workout a “required” part of my day. I usually do it first thing in the morning so that I can’t make any excuses later. And, let’s face it–the more fun stuff (like happy hour) usually comes up later in the day. When I was working, I got up at 5am to fit it in (not saying that was easy!).

  • Elle May 17, 2012, 9:40 am

    I agree with Nicolette that Twitter or Facebook are quite useful – you can’t escape a workout if everybody “expects” you to do one! I love the chart, that’d suit me too – I’m currently following the pre-made Couch to 5k chart and have also started the 0 to 700 swim training -and they work! (I find I need this kind of pre-made programs, otherwise I overdo on the first day and get demotivated afterwards – lazy lazy lazy me…)

  • Kelli May 17, 2012, 10:24 am

    Having exercise buddies is the most helpful for me. I have 3 good friends who I workout with regularly, not all together. So just about every week I end up doing activity with each of them, which is 3 workouts right there! It gives us time to catch up, too, which is sometimes hard to fit in otherwise. Especially since I’ve been pregnant I know it has helped me stay more active than I would have been otherwise.

  • Carina May 17, 2012, 11:10 am

    I think the most obvious has already been suggested — not a “virtual” workout buddy but a real flesh-and-blood workout buddy.

  • Shannon May 17, 2012, 11:50 am

    I created my own challenge: to run 100 miles in a month. I kept track of the miles on my calendar and worked up to some long runs. It kept me motivated because I told people about the challenge and they would check in on me later in the month. I didn’t want to have to tell someone that I quit. Check out my blog posts about the challenge and the final 11 miles!

  • Ari @ Ari's Menu May 17, 2012, 4:27 pm

    I’ve found the most helpful thing for me is to be clear about my intentions. The day before a hard work out, I will blog and facebook and twitter about it, so that I know everyone out there is expecting me to follow through. I care a lot about what other people think, so I try to use that to my advantage whenever possible! 🙂

  • Michelle @ Turning Over a New Leaf May 18, 2012, 6:19 pm

    I use Fleetly with a good friend. While neither of us are particularly competitive in general, we like teasing each other when one of us exceeds the other in points. This slight bit of accountability helps me, because I’m normally an “I’ll do what I want” kind of person, and I don’t like feeling like my workouts have to please someone else, but my Zumba and lifting workouts and his swing dance sessions gain points just as easily as them all, so we’re really on the same playing field. And things are playful between us anyway. 🙂

  • Megan - NewlyWife May 21, 2012, 3:08 pm

    I totally created a sticker chart for myself. I just made it a grid with the months running into each other (imagine a long sheet of grid paper with 3×3 squares outlined, 7 across and like a million down). I just put the number of the day in the center of the box, so I know what day it is. When I get to 25 stickers, I get a dvd (and yes, I have a stack of them waiting for me, when I find them on clearance and get them and add to the stack). When I hit the bottom of the calendar, I just place a new sheet of grid paper on top. Fun.

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