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Discipline vs Motivation

Let’s face it. The nightmare year that is 2020, has taken a huge toll on many of us in different ways. With health and financial concerns, being isolated from family and friends, and race cancellations, it can be easy to lose focus on our training. The pandemic has affected everyone differently and for some, weekly mileage, workouts and cross training activities have actually increased during Covid. However, for others, the lack of routine in their every day lives and with no races to train for, it’s become a struggle to get out the door.

This is where discipline comes into play. I’m making a distinction between discipline and motivation, which are often linked, but are in fact, different. It’s an issue that is debated often when discussing which is more important in achieving the goals we set for ourselves. Being disciplined is not the same as being motivated.

Some will draw inspiration from the thousands of motivational quotes and images on social media, or their favourite athletes, to help them set goals and get going on their running journey. While motivation certainly has its place, I’ve never been convinced that it is as effective as discipline when it comes to achieving success in most areas of our lives, and in this specific case, running.

It’s easy to be swept up in the enthusiasm of others and while it may sustain you in the short term, motivation has a limited shelf life. I remember an article years ago highlighting how influential the London marathon was in encouraging many to take up running, and that is certainly a good thing. However, how many of those runners stuck around months later after the novelty of running had worn off and the weather changed?

When you think about the toughest challenge you have faced, where you were at your lowest point both mentally and physically and the voice within was screaming at you to quit, what made you dig deep to make it to the finish line? It’s unlikely it was the catchy mantras on Instagram or Facebook, and more to do with that gritty determination and stubbornness you have developed through a focused training regime. It’s consistency in your routine, training your body to fuel properly, ensuring you get enough sleep to aid recovery, and developing the mental toughness to succeed when faced with the most adverse conditions. All of these are driven by discipline, not motivation.

Being disciplined also means you put your safety first, resisting training when you’re injured and instead, focus on recovery, whether that entails medical attention, full rest or other cross training activities to maintain your fitness. Many of us will have experienced a training run or race that doesn’t go to plan and we need to decide whether to push through the pain or end the run, which is an outcome no one wants. There is nothing hardcore about running in severe pain where you risk making the situation worse and your recovery longer.

It’s up to the individual to decide what works better for them but wherever you stand on the issue, it’s important to set goals and establish a training plan you will stick to that will help you to achieve those goals. There’s a quote I read a few years ago which I associate with the topic: “Motivation will fire the engine….at first. Discipline will keep you going when you think it’s out of gas.”

What drives you: Discipline or motivation or both?

Author Ruth Johnson

Photo credit Pixabay