Triathletes are fairly disciplined individuals.
We like to get up early – before everyone else – and take our body through sessions of necessary conditioning so that we can perform in our chosen arenas.
For the most part, we like this. We relish that disciplinarian approach to our sport; the early starts, the gruelling sessions, the focused ‘diets’, the sacrifice in the name of success.
But what are we missing? Is it that beneficial to place such heavy restrictions on ourselves?
Yes it is.
But only if those restrictions actually serve a purpose that correlates to our success. And only if those limitations allow for self-awareness.
So if your discipline is taking out all the crap foods that you eat (or simply not buying them in the first place), or going to bed earlier (to beat the birds) then that is good discipline. Acts or behaviours that develop into habits that (obviously) help to create the athlete that you want to be.
But when does discipline become a a saboteur? When does it HINDER our ability to perform?
When it limits your ability to self-assess – or rather you are blinded by the need for discipline over the need to be more responsive.
Discipline is great for setting guidelines and boundaries to keep you on the straight and narrow – to stop you from lingering too long in places you shouldn’t. But it is the linear nature of applied discipline that can actually prevent you from truly improving.
But when you become so strict in how you approach your training that you lose focus of what really matters, then you lose your ability to perform at your best.
Discipline isn’t just about turning up to every training session and ticking the box. Yes, sometimes this is important – but other times the self-imposed expectation that you MUST complete everything, everyday is precisely what is holding you back.
It is about listening to the body before during and after as to how it is performing, what it is feeling and what decisions should be made as a result.
This is TRUE discipline, because it is so easy to be regimented in your approach – but completely misinterpret your performances. It is easy to get caught up in the OUTCOMES, rather than than the process. And if you are continually fixated on a particular outcome then you lose your ability to reflect and assess the current situation.
The result can be that you have no idea how you are actually performing – are you getting stronger, are you getting faster? Or are you just running with the blinkers on.
It’s about making the tough choices when maybe you don’t want to. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we have to do a session – even when our intuition tells us that the body is not able – because that is what is required to get that goal, when the right thing to do is listen to what the body actually needs, and not what we think it needs.
Sometimes this easy, because we know that a particular choice will help or hinder. But other times our discipline – our regiment – creates such a linear focus that we miss the point entirely, and make snap-judgements or decisions that actually take us further from the goal. We keep digging and digging and digging but don’t actually stop to pop our heads up and see where we really are.
Discipline really is about listening. Not just hearing – we are talking comprehension. Its about understanding. What is really going on? Are you tired? Are you fatigued? Or are you sick? And if you are one of those – then what do you need to do? What does that body require?
Being self aware requires discipline.
Pushing through training when you are sick or injured is the opposite of being disciplined.
It might seem like the right idea (against better judgement) or even heroic – but it’s not. The outcome will be compromised for the sake of not giving up (there is a right time and wrong time for doing so). Likewise when you think you need to “do more” instead of doing the right amount of training. Piling on intensity and volume (without any understanding as to why) doesn’t allow for true intuitive responses along the way.
And this is why we Coach the way we do – we want to create intuitive athletes that learn to understand their own discipline and how to use it to their advantage; to get the most from their situation to better their ability. That’s not to say that we want athletes to leave things to ‘chance’ or who, when it comes to training. What we are developing is athletes who can manage their expected outcomes with the rawness of reality – they become reflective in their reposes to ‘bad’ situations or circumstances rather than reactive. That is true discipline.
It doesn’t come easy – particularly when the carrot on the stick is big (and it should be). You have to be flexible in your approach – always being aware of what is happening in your training, why you are doing things (and most importantly) how your body is responding. There is no point in grinding away at something if it isn’t evoking the correct response.
Training for endurance competition requires you to be flexible in how you respond to things – not reactionary. This can be a tough one if we over-invest in the outcome, rather than learn to live with the process. What you do in this sport should be fun (otherwise the sacrifices are meaningless). You can still enjoy what you do and be successful.
So set out the RIGHT disciplines – the ones that allow you to adapt and reflective. These should be choices that allow you to live – not a set of rules that can only be sustained for a short period of time. Your discipline should be something that integrates with the rest of your life, not something that inhibits your ability to function.
As athletes we love (and encourage) placing high expectations – lofty aspirations, but it is a danger to be overly-regimented in doing so – it create limitations. A smarter approach would be to set those lofty aspirations, and be flexible and adaptive during the process.
To become a better athlete you need to be disciplined yet responsive, take the necessary time to stand back and re-balance your agenda so we can focus your energy on what really matters.