…you need discipline. What do you think about that? As Jim Rohn famously said, “Motivation is what gets you started; habit is what keeps you going.” Habit. Discipline. Maybe in a season of resolutions and goal settings, we don’t need to look for passion, motivation and drive as much as we need to buckle down and be disciplined. Hear me out.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to un-complicate and demystify all things fitness and food related for my clients and for myself. There’s something very appealing to me about keeping these pursuits of health simple, and as I’ve blogged about before, “discipline = freedom.” This idea comes from a retired Navy SEALS director, Jocko Willink, and you can read about the concept behind this idea here, but to paraphrase (and from the article),
“‘…what’s interesting,’ he said, ‘is that the more strict we were with our standard operating procedures, the more freedom we actually had to operate faster and more efficiently because everyone knew what to do.’
Willink said that he was inspired to take this approach as a new SEAL when he observed that the highest performers were those who had the most disciplined morning routines, waking up to prepare for the day’s missions while others slept.”
(photo by Jeremy Fokkens)
Isn’t that a neat concept? It’s not that discipline makes us not have fun at birthday parties with food, or never go out with friends on a Friday night but instead stay at the gym and lift weights; it’s more that when you’re disciplined, you’re able to live life more freely. Discipline displayed through consistency throughout the year in the gym means I’m able to hike hard, to ski on any given weekend, to jump in the bouncy castle with my friends’ kids and in fact enables me to take some time off now and again from the gym and not worry about it. Discipline with my nutrition means sticking to the good ol’ standby that works for me: 80% real food, 20% whatever-fun-food! It means eating a majority of vegetables, proteins and fruits and being mindful of my fat and sugar intake most of the time, while still loving my almost-weekly licorice fix, some handfuls of chocolate chips when they happen to be in my cupboard, and a glass of wine with friends at someone’s house.
(or bubble tea with ice cream and chocolate sauce!)
But it’s discipline for the majority of the time that enables this balanced approach and freedom.
What kind of fitness routine are you willing to commit to in order to see change while still giving your life flexibility in and out of the gym? What type of meal prep and actions do you need to take in order to set yourself up for success nutritionally so that you can have freedom from time to time with friends or enjoying your favorite meal at a restaurant? You see, we can’t commit to something for a week, 21 days, 3 months, or even a year to see change and be able to live in that freedom; it needs to be the result of repeated, actionable commitment that happens consistently and then freedom is gained.
There are far too many ways we make this discipline complicated when it comes to fitness and nutrition. You might follow one Instagram fitness guru who is a powerlifter and love her confidence but also love the body of a girl on Facebook who is a bikini competitor. Maybe you travel a lot and want to use resistance bands, but then you see a new program in Men’s Health and think you’re doing it all wrong and change your game plan. You got a cookbook for Christmas full of paleo recipes because you’re a Crossfitter but then discovered that vegan girl on YouTube who is so skinny but eats like 6 bananas at breakfast alone, which from paleo you know are very high in carbohydrates…
It can be a confusing space when you’re trying to navigate how to make change and get disciplined, so here are some basics and what discipline can give you in these spaces:
It takes discipline to get up in the morning and not skip your workout when it’s cold out and the sun doesn’t rise for 3 more hours.
It takes discipline to go for a walk at lunchtime to get some more steps in to your daily total, or to take 20 minutes for a workout while on vacation.
It takes discipline to know when to take a rest day when your body is fatigued from your routine.
It takes discipline to do your workout well, focusing on each rep and not half-assing your way through your movements. It also takes discipline to do the not-so-glamorous things, like foam rolling and stretching (ahem, Bonnie!).
It takes discipline to order a side of broccoli more often than a side of fries.
It takes discipline to spend 2 hours on the weekend meal prepping so that you’re set up for success during the busy week ahead.
(It doesn’t have to be pretty for it to be healthy, quick, tasty and nourishing! 😉 )
It takes discipline to not finish off your husband’s plate of food or nibble the rest of the cookies that your toddler doesn’t finish when you’re full from your own lunch.
It takes discipline to learn how to track your macros (protein, carbs and fat) and then it takes discipline to understand portion sizes and find a sustainable way of eating longterm.
The Rest of Life:
It takes discipline to not just flop on the couch at the end of the day, but to [insert what you need here: play with your kids, ask your wife about her day, go for a walk instead, cook dinner instead of ordering out…].
It takes discipline to read your Bible in the morning rather than wasting your pre-work time working your thumb out while scrolling on Facebook (guilty!).
It takes discipline to listen in conversation with others and really hear them, to make them feel known and loved, and not just consider your own answer or get lost in your to-do list.
It takes discipline to create the career you want instead of complaining about the one you have.
It takes discipline to not let Netflix roll on but to create an evening routine so that your sleep hygiene is top notch!
Discipline. It takes discipline. And in the discipline? FREEDOM! Freedom to play rough house with your kids without getting breathless; freedom to get dessert when on date night with your husband without any guilt of indulgence; freedom in choosing time worshipping Jesus rather than your phone and not because of a sense of duty; freedom to sleep in occasionally because you need rest and not worry about losing gains at the gym. Freedom. But it all starts with discipline.
So let’s keep it simple. Maybe tracking your food isn’t the best because you feel overwhelmed by the numbers and barcodes. Okay then, let’s start with whatever meal is your “weakest” and make it stronger. Make your own lunch daily, then worry about that daily Tim Horton’s double double and chocolate croissant. Make a rule to “say no to free food” at the office and stay disciplined; a lot of needless, extra calories (mainly from free muffins or those candies that Sherry has on her desk) are gone from your day with that one simple discipline. Maybe you need a bit more structure in the nutrition department, so find a friend who can get on board with you. But keep it simple: keep your foods mainly real and you’ll be okay! I promise.
When it comes to fitness, let’s keep that simple too. Remember that so much can be accomplished with just your body weight. Focus on the big movements: push, pull, hinge, squat and core (rotation or stability). A quick way to hit all of those with just body weight? A push up, a row on a TRX or with a broomstick between two chairs, a one legged deadlift (perhaps while picking up your boy’s Legos), a squat (maybe with baby in the Ergo!) and a plank or side plank with a twist. Keep it simple.
Bands provide amazing resistance for your muscles while being incredibly easy on your joints, you can always use your body to walk (check out my ideas for and the value of LISS – low intensity steady state movement – here or below!) and you can swim if you love being in the water and enjoy class with friends.
Don’t overwhelm your body with choices or try everything available, but shoot to be consistent and you WILL see change. I promise.
How will you keep it simple, simple enough to stay disciplined, in order to see change, create new habits and live in freedom? Maybe it’s something spiritual in your life, unrelated to fitness and nutrition. Or maybe it’s more interpersonal and you want to commit to calling a friend once a week or writing a letter of encouragement to a family member once a month. Whatever it is, let’s commit to keeping it simple and staying disciplined together as time continues to march us forward into 2017. I’d love to hear about it if this post resonates with you in any way and what area you want to forget about motivation and see some disciplined action take place!
Keep it up, and remember that in the midst of discipline there needs to be a clear WHY. Why do you want to stick with your gym routine? Why feed your body healthier foods? It has to be more than to look a certain way or because you know the alternative, junk food, isn’t good for your body and health. Dig deep, find out why, and let that help drive your discipline. And in the midst of your why, and of discipline? Grace. Always grace for yourself and the process. It’s not about perfection! Keep the bigger picture of life and reality and eternity in mind because at the end of the day, a workout is just a workout, choosing frozen yogurt for dessert is actually okay, and life will go on. Really believe that.
Live well & be well, friends! With discipline and in grace and freedom,