Discipline doesn’t come in a jar of pre-workout or a can of Bang Energy Drink. While caffeine can get you excited to workout, it’s not the reason you wake up at 4:30am to make it to express class at 5am. As a strongman, my body aches pretty much 7 days a week. Lifting and moving heavy things takes it toll. Sometimes I am not motivated to get up, get dressed and go lift but I do it anyway because I’m disciplined. Getting up early and getting the work done is a habit I have cultivated in myself. Motivation comes and goes but discipline is a constant. When you first begin strength training, motivation is through the roof. Every time you step foot in the gym, you hit a PR. You can’t wait to tell your family and friends how you crushed it at the gym.This can lead to unrealistic expectations of constant PRs and feelings of instant gratification. As time goes on, PRs aren’t so frequent. You may find yourself saying, “I need to be motivated to get ____ done.”
So how do you continue to progress as an athlete when life gets tougher, progress is slower, and motivation is lacking? This is where discipline comes in to the equation. Discipline is not the same as motivation, excitement, or interest. Discipline requires building daily and weekly habits. Pay attention to the patterns that you repeat on a daily basis because they will eventually form the identity that you believe in and the actions that you take. For example, put your gym bag in the car every morning or take the route home that passes by the gym. Pretty soon, your pre-game routine will not only be a trigger that kick starts your habit, but also a reminder of what you’re working towards and the type of person you are becoming.
This is crucial to success in any area of life. When motivation and energy inevitably come and go, habits can help you stay consistent. If training is a habit in your weekly routine, you will persist through those tough times. If you only do things when you feel motivated, then you’ll never be consistent enough with your habits, career, health, relationships, etc. You must discipline yourself to do the mundane work week in and week out like mobility and getting to bed on time so you can recover from the “fun” part of training. Discipline also requires you to be in control of your emotions.
Training progress isn’t linear. It’s not a straight line up.There are peaks and valleys in performance the longer you train. We’ve all seen athletes who allow themselves to make poor decisions (unscheduled PR attempt) on the upswing of performance, and then mentally destroy themselves and panic when they experience the downswing. Recently, I deadlifted 555 lbs for a triple and then couldn’t deadlift 515 lbs for a single rep the following week. I didn’t magically get weaker in a week. In the past I would have let my failure ruin the rest of my day, but i’ve learned to detach myself from the peaks and valleys that come with training. Part of discipline is knowing that things don’t always go according to plan, and riding the highs and the lows as they come.
Discipline is not easy. It doesn’t come to us naturally, and it takes time to build. We’re all human and struggle, and it’s important to have patience with ourselves as we grow and develop. Know, that it’s unrealistic to feel motivated 24/7 365 and sometimes you have to do the THING to feel like it, as opposed to waiting to feel like it to do the thing.