ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – There’s an emerging trend in fitness training that doesn’t require a subscription or special equipment, but it’s been proven to keep people on track with their fitness goals. What’s the magic formula? Accountability partners.
A February 2018 study in the Journal of Health Communication found that 54 percent of more than 700 employees involved in a 15-week weight loss program lost more weight and inches when they had a weight-loss “buddy” than those without buddy support.
“It’s like having an extra brain with extra motivation,” said Carrie Kilby, division chief for the Health Education and Application Division at the Army Public Health Center here. “My partner and I are both members of a gym that includes functional fitness with modification options as our fitness levels are different. We can both get a good workout while cheering each other on. Without her, I wouldn’t have the motivation to put in the extra work that is getting me to my fitness goals faster.”
Amy Ingersoll, a health educator with the Fort Drum Army Wellness Center, encourages her clients to do anything that helps keep them motivated.
“An accountability partner is anyone or anything that helps keep you accountable to your goals. A friend, family member, Army Wellness Center health educator or an app on your phone,” said Ingersoll.
Chris Ramie, director of the Fort Drum AWC, agreed, “It’s important to have something that keeps you on track, no matter what that is.”
Maj. Tony George, senior acquisition officer in the Aviation and Fires Directorate of the U.S. Army Evaluation Center at the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command here, regularly works out with two fellow Soldiers at ATEC – Maj. Jennifer Brewster, a military evaluation officer in the Future Vertical Lift Division, and Capt. Michael Kim, a military evaluation officer in the Long Range Fires Division.
“We push each other to learn new skills, we push each other to attend classes on a regular basis, and when someone skips class, they often hear about missing out on an opportunity to get better,” said George.
Brewster says having an accountability partner directly impacts her success in achieving fitness goals.
“I know Tony and Mike are expecting me to be at gym class which increases my motivation to attend,” said Brewster. “I push myself harder during workouts knowing my partners are pushing themselves as well.”
Kim agreed, and said his accountability partners push him to work out on certain days of the week or hours when he normally wouldn’t.
“Personally, my partners in the past motivated me to do extra workouts on weekends,” said Kim. “Most recently, Tony and Jen motivated me to work out with them at 0530 instead of 1730. 1730 classes are easy to miss because of work or other events after work. 0530 classes are hard to miss, unless you decide to be lazy or sleep in.”
In a January 2021 interview with the New York Times, Gretchen Rubin, author of “Better than Before,” a book about forming healthy habits, said that accountability is an important tool for making and breaking habits.
“We do better when someone’s watching,” said Rubin. “Even when we’re the ones doing the watching!”
Kilby says having an accountability partner has had a direct impact on keeping up with her training during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My accountability partner, Marie Lozier, who is a Department of the Army civilian at DEVCOM Analysis Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, really was a godsend for me during the pandemic,” said Kilby. “She helped me improve my strength and balance through functional fitness and weightlifting. She also directly contributed to the reduction of stress during the pandemic by having someone to talk to everyday and pump iron with. Having a partner really pushed me out of my comfort level as she is always telling me that I can lift heavier and do more than what I think I can.”
Kim says having an accountability partner also makes his workouts more fun.
“We learn new techniques together, lift a little heavier, or run a little faster,” said Kim. “It gives us things to talk about, sore muscles to complain about. You embrace the suck together and it makes for great stories and conversations later.”
Brewster says having workout buddies give her the motivation to push herself.
“There have been many workouts where I have been fatigued and a simple ‘you got this’ or ‘good job’ from my accountability and gym partners has added that extra energy to push through the workout,” said Brewster.
George agreed, “Accountability partners, both here at APG and previous assignments, have challenged me to learn new skills, develop better movement patterns, and push my body beyond what I believe its capable of doing.”
One key to a successful accountability partner relationship is helping your partner maintain a consistent workout routine, said Kim.
“The best way to keep them accountable is remind them that you are keeping accountability,” said Kim. “Let them know you are paying attention to their attendance. If your partner doesn’t show up, let them know you noticed. This can be as simple as ‘hey I didn’t see you this morning. Did something happen?’ or in a more joking manner ‘how was your single sit-up getting out of bed? Good workout?’”
Kilby says her accountability partner has helped her accomplish things she’s never done before.
“For the first time ever I’ve been able to meet my 5-day-a-week workout goal because I have a partner,” said Kilby. “Knowing that she is there waiting on me is motivation to show up every day.”
George’s wife Chelsea works as a health educator at the APG AWC and encourages anyone looking for an accountability partner to consider their AWC staff as well.
“Here at the Army Wellness Center, we always encourage our clients to find an accountability partner,” said Chelsea. “This doesn’t necessarily even have to be someone that you train with regularly, but someone that you can at least share your goals with who will be your support person and hold you accountable. As health coaches, we are here to not only help you develop a plan of action, but also to serve as that person that you are checking in with to make sure that you are continuing to progress towards the goals that you have set.”
George summed up the benefits for him and his accountability team as the ability to push themselves to new limits.
“I generally think having good accountability partners is how you push yourself beyond your self-imposed limits to find your true potential,” said George. “Good partners will challenge you to push yourself every day and see what you are truly made of.”
Chelsea says if barriers are coming up that are keeping someone from making progress, the AWC can help clients adjust their health and fitness plans so they can continue to move forward.
“Knowing that you have that person who is going to be checking up on you, whether it’s a workout partner, a family member, or an AWC staff member, can be a very powerful motivator as you go through your fitness journey,” said Chelsea.
For more information about AWC services as well as a map showing all current and future AWC locations visit the APHC AWC website.
The U.S. Army Public Health Center enhances Army readiness by identifying and assessing current and emerging health threats, developing, and communicating public health solutions, and assuring the quality and effectiveness of the Army’s Public Health Enterprise.