Motivation vs Self-Discipline: Why You Need Both When Training

”If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you.” “Suck it up now, so you won’t have to suck it in later.” I am sure we have all come across at least one of these motivational fitness memes, and perhaps hundreds of others at some point or another, on various social media platforms. Motivation is empowering & electrifying and makes us feel like we can really reach our goals. Motivation is that fire inside that gives us a glimpse of our own personal victories. But what happens when that fire burns out? Sometimes it’s a battle between motivation vs self-discipline.

Let’s take New Year’s for example. Year after year, becoming more fit and healthy, losing weight, or other fitness related goals are the most popular New Year’s Resolutions. The new year & new beginning is so motivating for most that it’s no wonder that 12% of gym members, in the US, sign up in January. The downside is, according the Fitness Industry Association, the motivation only lasts roughly 24 weeks, and then those members either discontinue their membership or just stop attending. Why? The motivation fire burns out, and there is no self-discipline to come into play. Motivation will get you started, self-discipline will ensure you don’t stop.

Let me be honest with you, even as a fitness professional, I don’t always feel motivated to go workout. Some mornings I wake up and my bed seems much more appealing than any sort of physical activity. I don’t wake up every day saying “Oh yay, I am so motivated to work out today!” Some days I wish I had a hammer to shatter my phone when the alarm goes off. Do I work out anyways? OF COURSE!

Let’s face it, very little in life comes easy. There are some parts that may come easier than others, in which it can be very effortless to be and stay motivated. Then there are other more challenging parts where you have to just go for it regardless of how you’re feeling that day. When you’re a kid, your parents have the responsibility to discipline you and make sure you are getting everything done that needs to be. As an adult, nobody has the right to discipline you but yourself- exercise that right (pun intended).

How to stay disciplined in health & fitness:

1. Take note of how you feel

On the days when you just don’t feel like making your workout happen, do it anyway. When you’re finished, and feel fantastic, write down how you initially felt and how you feel afterwards. Next time when you feel like pressing snooze, or just hitting the couch after work—you’ll learn to focus on the way it will benefit your future self, not just on how you are feeling now.

2. Make a plan & create a habit

It varies from person to person on how long it takes to form a particular habit. It’s not supposed to be automatic, it’s not supposed to be simple, but YOU can do it. Sometimes I start to doze off on the couch & feel too tired to brush my teeth before I head to bed, but of course I do it anyway- it’s a habit. While my mom had to remind me a lot when I was younger, as an adult I just do it because it’s good for my health. Everyone can benefit from making health and fitness, in some form or another, a habit in their life.

3. Accept that bad days happen

You’re going to have days where you wake up in a bad mood, or have a horrible day at work- that’s life. The difference is your attitude. When I was younger, and in a bad mood, my dad would say “Are you going to be negative today (holding his pointer finger out to display a ‘–‘ sign) or are you going to be positive (using both pointer fingers to create a ‘+’ sign).” The choice is yours. Remember: A negative thinker sees difficulty in every opportunity. A positive thinker sees opportunity in every difficulty.

Motivation may fluctuate, but it’s your self-discipline that should remain rock solid. Stay focus & stand strong- you CAN do it!


Lunden Souza Lunden Souza is an Online Fitness & Lifestyle Transformation Coach. She helps people all over the world create a sustainable healthy lifestyle, so they'll never have to "start over" again! Connect with @lifelikelunden for real-life strategies to get on track for long-term health in both body and mind. View all posts by Lunden Souza »