Motivation and Discipline: Fuelling Success in Fitness

Success. It’s something we’re all striving for, whether that’s in life, training or relationships. How do we achieve it though? Like any form of success, it comes through a basic set of actions. In the domain of exercise & fitness it’s very apparent. It’s not that most people don’t know what to do. Take weight loss for example. At a very basic level, we understand that moving more and eating less is the key to allowing us to reduce body fat and become a healthier, happier version of ourselves. Why does it seem so hard to achieve though? Why do so many people fail? Maybe it’s because we just don’t have the resources to allow us to achieve our goals? Is that really the case though? Most people you talk to likely have a gym membership and access to all the nutritional components required to deliver success. Most people also have access to high quality, valuable guidance and information whether that’s from a Nutritionist, Personal Trainer, or qualified Fitness Professional at their local establishment, we all have different levels of resources at our disposal. Which begs the question, if we know what we should and shouldn’t be doing, why don’t we just….DO IT!? It then starts to boil down to the individual personality traits. More specifically, the title of this blog, discipline and motivation. Both are important in terms of the success we can achieve in the gym. Why are they so important though? How can we continue to use them to fuel our success in pushing forward and achieving our fitness goals? Let’s start with motivation.

If you’ve followed me across any of my social media platforms or website, you’ll have likely seen me discuss the concept that motivation is a fleeting emotion and not something we should rely on if we really want to be successful in our attempts to achieve our health and fitness goals. At a very basic level, if you’re the type of person that wakes up on a planned training day and if they just aren’t feeling up to it, decide not to bother, then you’re likely not going to achieve the results you’re looking for. At this point you might be thinking, “what if I’m ill” or “my baby kept me up all night and I haven’t had any sleep”. Of course, there are exceptions in this. Shit happens. If you’re unwell, don’t train! This ancient concept of “sweating out” an illness makes me shudder. Your body is already fighting off illness so it’s maybe not the best idea to strain it further through training. That’s another topic for another day though. I’m not talking about the exceptions when it comes to motivation. I appreciate that there are a lot of moving parts in people’s everyday lives and things can change at the drop of a hat. That’s life. What I’m talking about is the little voice in your head, the voice that whispers in your ear, “you’re busy today, you’ve got a lot on, it’s totally understandable if you miss your training session”. The resistance. It’s crucial that you fight against that little voice. Crucial that you win the battle against it. It’s great when we stride into the gym full of motivation and ready to crush our training session, enjoy those days, make the most of them but be prepared to shut down the resistance inside your head on the days where you’re not so motivated.

People often ask me “how do I get motivated?”. The answer is simple. Get results. Results drive motivation more than anything else in the world. When I see a client recognise that they are starting to make physical changes, whether that’s weight loss, muscle or strength gain, improved flexibility or joint mobility, there also seems to be a psychological shift in them as well. They no longer require an outside person to “motivate” them to maintain their exercise regimen. They become self-motivated by the fact that their own hard work has allowed them to achieve results that they maybe did not think were possible beforehand and thus inspired to continue progressing. Their sheer consistency and commitment allow their training goals to evolve and develop over a prolonged period. Their new physical and mental state become the norm. The “set point” has been reset at a higher, more advanced level. This feeling of progression in our lives, whether that’s fitness or anything else, is what truly brings us happiness over time. Results drive motivation or at least discipline when the previous is lacking.

Let’s talk about discipline. We know we need it. We know it’s important in terms of our overall success, but why do so many people in 2018 seem to lack it? The definition of discipline is described as the “practice of making people obey rules or standards of behaviour”. In relation to this topic, following your own rules, your own pre-set standards of behaviour.” I am going to do 30 minutes of exercise on 3 days per week and sticking to it”. “I am going to drink at least 2 litres of water per day” and sticking to it. “I am going to eat at least 1 portion of fruit and vegetables per day” and sticking to it. For me, the concept of being a disciplined person, is removing the emotions from your behaviours and actions, getting them done regardless. There are some days where I am truly excited about my workout, days where the time inside the gym seems to disappear and I’m on top of the world. There are those other days as well though, when I’m not so excited about the prospect of a planned squat session or high-volume back day. These are the days when you need to pull from your discipline stores, remove your own feelings from your actions and get your planned workouts or activities done! I really enjoy seeing a client come in the gym full of motivation and crushing their training session. That’s great when that happens. I also enjoy seeing a client come in off the back of a tough day at work or with the kids, and still manage to push through their training session. This is enjoyable because not only have they progressed in their fitness goals, but they have overcome psychological adversity as well. Every time you win one of those mental battles, you’re more likely to win it the next time round through continued results and momentum. Having discipline or being a disciplined person allows you to move forward despite your own feelings.

How do you become a disciplined person though if, well, your just not? The same way you become anything you aren’t. You start small and work from there. Set yourself a very small, achievable goal. Something like, “I’m going to complete two 20-minute home workouts per week for the next four weeks”. Start by writing this goal down and sticking it somewhere you will see it every day. It sounds small but just seeing it every day makes you accountable. If you see it and ignore that’s your problem but you knew that at a previous time, you said you were going to take this action regardless of your feelings. Also write down the days you are going to carry out this action, “every Tuesday and Thursday at 6pm because that fits in with my schedule”. You’ve now removed some of the barriers people tend to use as a comfort for not following pre-set plans. You’ve decided where and when exactly you are going to do it, right down to the exact time! Try this and reward yourself at the end of the four weeks if you complete every workout you said you were going to. Don’t reward yourself with food, you’re not a dog! Rather, a trip to the cinema or some shopping with a friend. It doesn’t matter really, people tend to respond to and end goal or target when it comes to any pre-planned actions or behaviours. Start small, aim big. That’s how anything is achieved. Most people will likely not do this. The reward for a small goal isn’t enough for a lot of people but the discipline required to achieve a big one is too much. You can’t build a wall though without laying a single brick first. Use this strategy to build your own discipline levels by achieving small pre-set goals and evolving them into bigger ones from there.

Ultimately it all comes down to you. Motivation is important and should be made use of when it’s there but don’t rely on it all the time as it certainly won’t always be available. The most successful people in the world are not the most motivated, but the most consistent with robotic like repetition in their day to day actions. If you want to increase your motivation levels, stay consistent enough to achieve some results then you will become self-motivated or at least self-disciplined. You will need discipline to achieve any success in anything! If you’re not that kind of person, start small and work from there. Write down some small target that works around your own schedule and put it somewhere visible to you every day, so you then become accountable to it. Complete it then allow yourself some reward time because of your efforts. Do that then work from there, who knows where or what goals you might end up setting for yourself in the future. Don’t place motivation and discipline out of your own control as a way of not being accountable to yourself. You can generate and use both which can then give you the platform you need to go on and achieve your goals.




Author – Scott McBride (McBride Fitness)

Scott McBride