Posted by on Apr 2, 2013


I’m going to start this article off on a somber note, but I can promise you that it’ll help me to make an extremely valuable point about your fitness program.

Think back to the last funeral you attended. Yes, we’re talking about a funeral on a fitness site. Was the casket or cremated remains there? Yep. Did people show up to mourn? Yep. Was anyone disappointed in the way that the funeral turned out? Nope.

Now, take it a step further: hasn’t every single funeral you’ve ever attended gone “smoothly” like this? Absolutely! They might be absolute tear jerkers and among the most sad times of your life, but there’s no denying that funerals pretty much have a 100% success rate.

Meanwhile, a majority of people fail when they start a new fitness program. Last I heard, just over 50% of people quit exercising within six months of starting. The success of commercial gyms, in fact, is heavily dependent on the assumption that a majority of the members that sign up in January won’t still be there in July (and most won’t even make it to March). If everyone showed up, these gyms would be working at way over capacity; it would probably be a fire code violation! Furthermore, even 80% of people who enter the fitness profession to work leave within one year; you can’t even pay people to be associated with exercise!

What’s the difference between mourning families perfecting funerals and aspiring exercisers getting dominated by their fitness goals? In a word, accountability.

If you’re planning a funeral, you have to reserve the funeral home. And, you’ve got dozens of people ready to get all dressed up to show up and pay their respects on a specific day. You’ve spent money on flowers and post-funeral refreshments that’ll go bad if they aren’t used on time. And, let’s just say that your late Uncle Cornelius probably won’t smell so hot if you simply push his funeral back until next week, when it’s more convenient for you.

The funeral planner has dozens of people involved in the process to keep him accountable. Conversely, the upstart fitness consumer usually goes it alone.

If you want to be successful with your fitness plan, find ways to make yourself more accountable. Tell everyone you know about it. Plaster reminders all over your house about how you need to get your exercise sessions in. Give your wife $500 to spend on handbags if you don’t drop four inches off your waist in the next two months. Do whatever it takes to make you accountable to not only yourself, but those around you.

When you do so, you’ll find that you also invariably find yourself with additional resources. Family members might offer up healthy recipes. Friends might offer to go for walks with you a few times a week. A co-worker might offer to meet you at the gym before work.

This is why my biggest recommendation to those starting a fitness program is to find a training partner and get into a solid training environment. This isn’t just for offering spots when you’re benching, though.  Rather, the training partner is the most important on the days when you’re considering skipping a training session; you’ll think twice about doing so, as you’ll appreciate that someone who is waiting for you at the gym will be disappointed if you don’t show up.  They’ll be there to push you – or even to hold you back when you’re being stupid and pushing too hard.  And, when you start to think about skipping out on training, they’ll be there to remind you of your goals – which you made very public. You’ll do the same for them, too.

This is also one reason why I think you’re seeing bootcamps and semi-private training absolutely boom in the fitness world while one-on-one personal training slows fades away. In the former two options, you don’t just get affordability; you also get more camaraderie, accountability – and built-in training partners and motivation.

So, regardless of your goals, find a few people you can clue in on them – and get those people involved in the process. It’s like planning a funeral, but much less depressing.

Eric Cressey is the President of Cressey Performance, located near Boston, MA. An author, presenter, consultant, and powerlifter, Eric has worked with clients from youth sports to the professional and Olympic ranks, but is best known for his extensive work with baseball players; more than 80 professional players travel to Massachusetts to train with him each off-season.

Visit Eric on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Fitocracy or Google.

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