Why Discipline Is Better Than Motivation When Training

If you have been hitting the snooze button more often than you’re hitting the track despite your burning motivation to become a better runner, then this article is just right up your alley. Read on to find out why motivation seldom works without discipline.

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The will is strong but the flesh is weak. We seriously think that is the most potent excuse to justify to ourselves and others why we’re falling behind our training schedule, simply because most people can easily resonate with it.

As runners, we’re all motivated to become stronger and faster, but life has proven itself to be a mighty running rival, in that it somehow always manages to catch up and put a roadblock for us.

All is not lost though, we do have one lethal weapon up our sleeves: discipline. Much like the hammer to Thor and the Excalibur to King Arthur, only we alone can pick it up, but once we have it…try stopping us. 

Discipline is Not Fleeting

If we have a penny for every time we fail to follow through our pledge to train our core or quads, we’ll have enough money to pay for a lifetime subscription to a gym, which will be a waste given that we rarely stick to our motivation after a few months.

That is the thing about motivation. It has an expiration date. Motivation may wane through time or after we don’t see the results that we’ve expected. But as we know, we can’t develop lightning speed, or rather Bolt speed as we’ve come to term it today, with just a few trainings.

Runners need patience and discipline to sustain the training to achieve certain outcomes. If we can condition our mind and body to train at certain time, we may find that training will no longer be a burden but just another daily habit.

Brushing our teeth before bed or washing our hands after using the toilet, are habits that are first cultivated with discipline (also known as mother’s death stare). Much like those habits, training too can be cultivated with discipline. 

Discipline is Reliable

Unlike motivation that comes after meeting up with that friend with a new hot bod or seeing your friend complete a marathon for the umpteenth time, discipline isn’t dependent on anything or anyone. That’s what makes it so reliable.

It comes from within. We can’t think of anyone better to explain the power of discipline than Cal Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown University and author of many think-pieces on productivity.

Newport cited the elephant and the rider metaphor borrowed from Jonathan Heidt’s, author of The Happiness Hypothesis.

Holding the reins in our hands, we may be able to control the elephant when it doesn’t have a desire on its own. However, the moment the elephant wants to do something else, we’re no match for it.

Now, think of the elephant as our “flesh” and the rein as our motivation. We have to be firm and strong when cajoling the elephant with the rein so the elephant won’t wander. Where could such elephant strength possibly come from? Yup, you guess right, discipline. Discipline translates motivation to consistent action.

Discipline is Non-Conditional

Have a bad day at school or work? Well, we still have to strap our boots, or in this case sneakers, lycra up and train as per scheduled. It’s raining so we can’t run outside? Watch us do 100 burpees instead.

Essentially, discipline is about #werkwerkwerk. We don’t try to wiggle out of trainings just because slight change of circumstances. 

Runtastic Fitness Coach, Lunden Souza, has admitted that even for a fitness guru, there are days when she’d rather stay in bed than exercising. But she pushes herself through because she acknowledges that as grown-ups, we’re all bound to have bad days (if you never have any, give us your contact, we’ll seriously pay to know how you do it).

Bad days don’t mean that we have to curl in and let go of everything else that we’re supposed to do. That’s when discipline plays a crucial role. In short, discipline is what stops us from throwing our phone against the wall when the alarm rings (also probably because the phone is new and we have yet to finish the phone plan). 

But, it doesn’t mean that training takes precedence above all else, such as health and safety. Being disciplined while training also encompasses the discipline of putting safety first. When you’re injured, have the strength to restrain yourself from over-exerting and give yourself proper recovery days instead.

When it’s hot or hazy outside, exercise your discipline by not training outdoor. 

So, How Do We Master Discipline?


Newport recommends to find a schedule of training hours that provides what you think is the perfect balance of work and relaxation.

Balance is important because we know over-exertion can be a pain in the butt (yes, we’re talking about possible glute or hamstring injuries). 

Eliminate Possible Interference

The second step is to do whatever it takes to not break that schedule. That means “ruthlessly” cutting off inefficient habits.

For instance, we can refrain from binging Netflix at night if we know we’re going to have to stapler our eyelids to keep us awake for morning training or we can stop checking Facebook and Youtube every 15 minutes so we don’t have to burn the midnight oil leaving no time for evening run or going to the gym.

Another tip is to stop procrastinating. Easier said than done, we know, but that’s the whole point of discipline, isn’t it?

Reflect On Accomplishments

Souza believes that reflecting and remembering the good feeling or benefits of training to be a good way to cultivate discipline. Say that we’re having a bad day.

According to Souza, we just need to power through the exercise, no matter how reluctant. After we finish exercising and the endorphin kicks in, write down how we felt initially and how we feel afterwards.

Remembering the good feelings can help us to push through the next time we don’t really feel like training. 

"Motivation may wane through time or after we don’t see the results that we’ve expected. But as we know, we can’t develop lightning speed, or rather Bolt speed as we’ve come to term it today, with just a few trainings. Runners need patience and discipline to sustain the training to achieve certain outcomes."


Of course having motivation is not a bad thing. What we’re trying to say is that motivation without discipline hardly pans out into anything. Motivation makes you want to start training but what keeps you in the game and brings you to the finish line is discipline.


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LIV3LY Editor
LIV3LY Editor

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