How Runners Develop More DisciplineDeveloping more self discipline is an essential skill for those who are training for a marathon. Completing the race is an incredible achievement, but it’s the journey of training for 12-16+ weeks, that leads to a true sense of accomplishment.  I’ve always believed that busy people get more done.  However, the fact is that people with a higher degree of self discipline spend less time debating whether or not to indulge in activities and behaviors that prevent them from achieving their goals.  For some people, simply being undisciplined can cause them mental anguish.

Over the years, I’ve encountered numerous middle age athletes who successfully achieved their athletic goals because they had the discipline to follow a training plan, even while leading busy lives.  I have also coached people who struggled to keep up with a plan because they admittedly had a hard time staying focused. Developing more discipline takes time and effort, but there are numerous ways you can make this process easier for yourself. In this article, I’ll discuss a few tips that will assist you in becoming more disciplined, so you can achieve your goals.

Finding your motivation or identifying your “why”

To start the process of getting more discipline, you need to recognize why you may lack discipline and what you stand to gain by gaining more discipline. You may be unhappy with your appearance and believe that training for and ultimately completing a race will help you lose weight and improve your health.  Another motivation may come from the desire to “get back in the game” after a long layoff from regular exercise.  Having clarity of purpose will help you with each of the next steps.

Make a strong commitment to your goals

Use a training schedule to prepare you for your race. If you work with a coach (which I strongly recommend), he or she can put together a have a schedule that fits your goals, athletic abilities and specific situation (like work and family commitments).  The workouts should be laid out for you in a calendar format. Now all you need to do is plan at which time you will complete your daily training.

Understand your weaknesses and rid yourself of temptations

If you are trying to follow a training plan, it’s essential that you plan your workouts. Just like you schedule appointments in your calendar, do the same with your workouts for the week. I like to plan the times and specifics of my workouts on Sunday.  If I didn’t take the time to plan ahead, I would find dozens of excuses or other activities to take up my time. Years ago, when I was coming off of injuries that slowed me, I had convinced myself that I had become too busy to train for races. Now I simply work around important things like Church and family commitments. I don’t neglect these important activities, instead, I ensure that I also include time for exercise. 

“Ultimately, working out becomes a part of my life.  It’s something that I just do almost everyday.”

If you want to improve something like your productivity at work so you don’t have the excuse that you’re too busy to exercise, try turning off social media notifications and silence your cell phone. Make a list of “to do’s” for each day and commit to minimizing distractions, so you can stay focused on accomplishing your goals.

Just as important as committing to regular exercise is eating healthy.  Another common weakness for many, including myself, is sweet and processed foods. I know that having these foods around becomes incredibly tempting when I’m hungry. Having the willpower to avoid unhealthy food is far easier when you are not surrounded by it. If you want to eat healthier, remove the junk food and soda from your house and don’t buy it when you’re in the store.  Shop only from your list and only go grocery shopping after you’ve eaten, so you avoid the temptation to get food you don’t need. 

The bottomline is that you set yourself up for success by “ditching” bad influences.

Create new habits by taking small actions – the key to Self Discipline

Start getting better a self discipline by accomplishing a small/easy task.  If you haven’t been working out regularly, schedule 30 minutes of exercise.  Don’t overdo things, with a workout that will leave you sore or unable to workout again the next day.  Instead, start with 20 minutes of run/walking and finish with 10 minutes of stretching.  The key is to build momentum with consecutive days of exercise. Once you start seeing results, it will be easier to make exercise a part of your routine

Staying motivated to train

Another variation is the time version

This strategy is where you say “I will spend a certain amount of time on this project.” For example, say to yourself “I will just do this for the next 15 minutes,” you may find that you actually get into the flow of what you are doing and end up spending a longer period of time on it and getting more done.  The same thing goes for exercise. Just getting out the door for 20 – 25 minutes may be enough if you only have 30 free minutes.

When you find yourself struggling, dig deeper into your motivation

If you’re training for a race so you can be healthy or for a charity, don’t forget that you’re doing something not only for yourself, but as an example for your spouse, kids and others who might benefit.

Tips for runners to develop self discipline

Plan non-working times

You cannot work all the time, or you will burn out very quickly. So be sure to schedule times where you have fun activities, or even just a half hour of relaxing. This gives you something to look forward to, and gives you a chance to recharge your batteries. This is especially important if your work requires a lot of creativity like writing, designing, and other such endeavors.

Celebrate your victories, but don’t get too down when you fail

Give yourself something to be excited about by planning a reward when you accomplish your goals. Just like when you were a little kid and got a treat for good behavior, having something to look forward to can give you the motivation to succeed.  Also, recognize that failure can actually be a victory, because failure means you tried. Hopefully you learned something too, so you now know what doesn’t work. Next time, try something a bit different. This is why it’s important to practice your pre-race routine. Whether it’s in 10k or 1/2 marathon before your marathon or just a long run, find out what foods, drinks & gels work best for you.

Get Support

Form a support team by reaching out to the people around you, and asking for their help. It really helps to have a coach who understands your goals and specific situation.  Don’t hesitate to ask for suggestions when you’re struggling to follow a plan.  Another alternative is to work and discuss your challenges with a training partner or partners. Remember, that you’re not on an island by yourself. Develop and use your support team.

I’m happy to help you.  Please contact me if you’re having challenges staying or getting motivated to train for a race or to simply resume running.

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