Discipline vs. Motivation: Which would you choose?

Discipline vs. Motivation: Which would you choose?

Fall running season is just around the corner. In fact, it’s so close you can almost feel the brisk breeze and smell pumpkin spice in the air everywhere! However, while it might be close, there are still a few weeks left of training in the summer heat. If your motivation is starting to waver, know that you’re not alone. One of the number one questions I personally get asked as a runner is “How do you stay motivated to run or train every day?” I think I can speak not only for myself, but for most runners when I respond, “the answer is simple, we don’t!” There are many days when motivation is not there, and we must rely on discipline to get out the door. While there are many reasons to run, for me this discipline is driven from my long-term running goals and knowing that it’s going to take hard-work, dedication, and determination to achieve them.

Think about the quote, “When you lack motivation, rely on discipline”. This is arguably one of the best running and life quotes of all time because it applies to so many areas. However, this is easier said than done! Discipline takes practice and training to develop as a skill, but it is a skill that is absolutely worth having. Therefore, even the most disciplined runner you know most likely did not become that way overnight. The other thing about discipline is that once you have it, it’s a skill that can be continuously improved. So, no matter where you are in your running journey, we’ve put together a few tips to help! The best part is these will carry over not only into running, but to all areas of life.

  • Find your WHY! This is the first and most critical step. Without a strong why, it is easy to tap out when motivation is not there. When finding your why, ask yourself the following reflection questions:
    1. What do I want to achieve short-term and by when?
    2. What do I want to achieve long-term and by when?
    3. Why am I passionate about this?
    4. What do I hope to have gained when I achieve this goal?
    5. Who am I doing this for? (Hint: do it for YOU!)
    6. Am I going to have FUN doing this? (You won’t have fun ALL the time, but the goal needs to be something that makes you happy and that you enjoy working toward in general!)
    7. Am I willing to do whatever it takes to achieve this? *
      * Note that if you’re not willing to do whatever it takes or if your why is not something you’re passionate enough about, then it will be easy to skip training when (not if) times get tough.
  • Expect that you WILL experience adversity. It’s not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of WHEN and HOW you handle it. If your why is strong enough, remembering your goals and how you will feel when you achieve them can help get you through.An exercise that can help with this is meditation! Close your eyes and envision how you will feel when you cross the finish line and achieve your goal! What will you wear? Who will be there? What race will it be? Set the stage down to the last detail so you truly feel the excitement. Then, lace up your shoes and head out the door!
  • Have a vision board and look at it every day! A lot of times when we hear the term vision board, we think of a creative bulletin board that took hours to make and is hanging in an office somewhere. While that is a great option, it doesn’t have to be that fancy. Something as simple as writing down your goals on a piece of paper and taping it to your fridge or mirror (something you see daily), is just as effective! You may even prefer a note in your phone or a photo that symbolizes your why as a lock screen. No matter HOW you do it, the key is to look at your vision and goal daily. Repeat it to yourself. Write it down every day. Really commit to it so that you become laser focused. When you truly master this, nothing will stand in your way!
  • Tell others about your goal, but don’t let their opinions deter you; stay the course. This can mean anything from sharing your goal via word of mouth to your closest family or friends all the way to posting it on social media for the universe to see! Either way, by putting your goal out there and telling others you’re going to go for it, you’re more likely to follow through. However, when you do this, expect all kinds of reactions. Most people will be supportive and beyond excited for you. Those are the people you can lean into when you lack motivation! But know that others may not understand your goals because they seem big, scary, and unattainable to that person. It is tough but know that any naysay is not a reflection of you and what you are capable of.
  • Have a plan to keep you on track. Whether you’re working with a coach, running club, or simply training along with a fitness app, make sure each workout is planned out, including rest days, and add the workouts to your calendar. Practice making this part of your day just like any other work or personal appointment. Knowing what you have coming up takes the guesswork out of it, that way when motivation is not there, you have something to hold you accountable. The goal is that eventually this will become as much of a daily habit as brushing your teeth, so that you don’t even have to think twice about going out the door no matter how you feel.
  • Finally, be flexible and give yourself grace. At the end of the day, we are humans, not robots! There will be days when things come up, when you aren’t feeling well or get injured, or when you need to put family first. Do what you need to do, but then jump back in right away! If you find yourself continually running into situations that allow you to talk yourself out of your goal, re-evaluate. Did your goals change? Are you still bought in and excited about them? Sometimes plans change and you need to “move the goal posts” which is okay too! The key is to do what makes you happy, stay disciplined and consistent most of the time, and give yourself grace for the rest of it.

Written by: Ashley Morrison

Ashley has over 18 years of running and racing experience and is both NASM CPT and RRCA Certified. For more running tips and tricks, find Ashley at Run With Ashley on Instagram or on her website and blog.

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