Sport is as much about the mind as it is about the body. Self-discipline significantly influences your athletic performance, determining the rate of your progress. Goal-setting and embracing physical exercise with both its pleasant and unpleasant parts are excellent approaches enabling you to boost motivation and commitment.
What makes sport a complex experience which develops not only your body, but also you as a person, is the psychological dimension encompassing numerous mental processes such as the ability to deal with success and failure, determination, competitiveness, rivalry, decision making and finally, but perhaps most importantly, self-discipline.
For amateurs and professional sportsmen and women alike, this trait is a vital component of performance. Although the athletic challenges the two groups are confronted with differ, psychological obstacles such as distractions, temptations and a lack of motivation intervene in the same way for both experienced sportspersons and occasional gym-goers, highlighting the inescapable traits of the human nature. In both cases, it is the individual’s capacity to tackle them that determines the efficiency of exercise.
Although, like any other mental skill, self-discipline heavily relies on one’s personality, upbringing and experiences, thus making it extremely difficult for any strategies of educating oneself in this sense to prove efficient in the long run, the following tips could help you stay motivated and maximise your results.
1. Learn to love sport with all its ‘flaws’
In sport, just like in life, there is no such thing as cherry-picking when you hope to achieve something.
There are no shortcuts on the way to your goal. The talents you were born with will not grant you direct access to the top. However, there is a high likelihood that hard work in the form of training will, which means that there is no way around the sweat, the exhaustion and the sore muscles. Faced with this situation, there is no better approach to accepting the inevitable than trying to take pleasure in the downsides of exercise.
Learn to appreciate pushing your body to the limits, feel the excitement of reaching the edge of your physical ability and the satisfaction of resisting under such circumstances. This will offer you self-confidence, keep alive your passion for movement and allow you to view the unpleasant side of sport in a totally new light, thus chasing away any pre-workout thoughts of repulsion or feelings of hesitation. Try to take every moment of your training one step at a time, enjoying and admiring the way in which your body obediently responds to your requests.
2. Enhance discipline – Set precise, realistic goals
When you engage in a long-term undertaking such as exercise, getting some form of recognition along the way will make the entire process significantly more pleasant.
This will also allow you to feel the satisfaction of having accomplished something, increasing your enthusiasm and self-confidence and thus enhancing the self-discipline which will keep you going. Set specific goals in your training, which are to be met by the end of the week or over a few weeks. In this way, you will gain a sense of urgency to respect the deadlines you have established, and will also obtain concrete results which you will be able to regard as achievements.
Resolve to lift a certain weight or complete a specific number of repetitions, then work towards your goal methodically and self-consciously. It is also important to set goals with a reasonable difficulty of being achieved: standards that are too low will not really help you increase your self-discipline, while overly ambitious plans may lead to your abandoning them. Try to realistically asses your pace of making progress in a certain period of time by taking into account the hours you have available for training, any injuries or physical discomfort (colds, etc) you are dealing with and your usual performances in the area you are working on improving at that particular time.
3. Write them all down
An approach providing practical help in implementing the previously described recommendation is having a visual reminder of what you have planned to achieve in a given period of time. After you have carefully determined your training goal, write it down on a piece of paper, a post-it note or in your agenda, so that it becomes one of your to-do tasks of the week, just like your department meeting or university lecture.
The more visible it is, the more you will perceive it as an obligation, which will in turn make you more disciplined in your training.
4. Team up with someone
Two reasons speak in favour of training with a partner. First of all, this approach will activate your competitive side, thus significantly improving your self-discipline and your commitment to your training program.
A study conducted by a researcher at Kansas State University has shown that subjects who exercised with someone who was a little better than them increased the intensity of their workout by 200%.
Also take advantage of the social side of crossfit and keep an eye on those at the box who have a level similar to yours. If you are an elite athlete and you already know who your adversaries are, having an occasional look at their workout videos might help boost your motivation to outcompete them and subsequently your self-discipline as well.
Second of all, bringing someone along to training is particularly efficient in motivating amateur athletes. A friend’s enthusiasm on a day when you are feeling lazy could prevent you from underperforming or skipping your workout altogether.
5. Visualise your success
Daydreaming may be an excellent procrastination method, but in this case it could also have a positive effect. Whenever you feel disappointment, boredom or laziness, just picture yourself nailing that snatch or those many repetitions of a certain exercise. Think about the well-deserved rest you will have gained by the end of the training session and about the satisfaction you will feel after finally achieving your goal. Then get up and work towards accomplishing just that, for real.
6. Make it worthwhile, financially speaking
Here’s one for the more economical among you. What better motivator than the money you have invested in your training? Be aware of how much is lost if you skip your workouts or exercise without making any progress. So take the most out of your training and feel happy with your investment in your performance, health and wellbeing.
Self-discipline cannot really be trained. There is no magic formula turning you into a more committed person in the long run. However, following the tips presented in this article could help you stay aware of your goals and maintain your sports enthusiasm, which will inevitably lead to an improved athletic performance and more satisfaction coming from this important part of your life.