Stress Affect

Building the Nation

Bodybuilding Health and Fitness

Developing Fitness Discipline

How many times have we said its ok for me to eat desert because I will run an extra mile tomorrow as read on Observer or its ok because I’m taking Lipodrene with Ephedra. If this sounds like you, you’re not the only one.

The first step in stopping this is to understand that willpower and discipline aren’t synonymous. We often associate willpower with self-imposed deprivation, and since most of us don’t have the worldview of a monk, we eventually give in to temptation. It takes a lot of mental and emotional energy to maintain that sort of willpower for any length of time, and it’s usually more than we can sustain.

Discipline, however, is different. The American Heritage College Dictionary defines it using phrases like “controlled behavior” and “self-control.” It’s a way of thinking about reaching your goals, and once you come to realize how dramatically discipline can improve the quality of your life, it easily becomes habit. At the same time that it leads to success, discipline — as opposed to willpower — ultimately makes us happier, more fulfilled, less stressed. Viewed in that light, discipline isn’t drudgery but a positive way to approach life.

Developing Discipline

By following a few simple steps, you can develop more discipline. Do so and you’ll exert greater control over your bodybuilding, not to mention your life

Set specific, achievable goalsGiven the myriad benefits that self-discipline provides, how do you acquire more of the stuff? The first thing you need to do is also the most important: Set goals, says Michael Sachs, PhD, professor of sports psychology at Temple University (Philadelphia). “Set specific-goals, not vague ones,” he adds. “Rather than saying, ‘I want to get stronger,’ say, ‘I want to bench press 400 pounds.'”

The goals should be not only specific but also realistic. As Joe Weider says, “Exceed yourself,” but if you choose a goal that’s simply too difficult to reach, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Such a setback can actually hinder both your self-discipline and self-confidence. When you set goals that are both specific and attainable, you’ve taken the first step toward building the self-confidence needed to reach your goals.

Prioritize

With a firm, specific goal in mind, you can then set priorities to help guide your actions. For instance, if you find yourself watching “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” or thumbing through the new Victoria’s Secret catalog when you should be changing into your sweats, ask yourself a simple question: “Would I rather finish watching or reading this or work toward achieving my goal in the bench press?” Putting your priorities in such black-and-white terms makes it a lot easier to resist temptations.

Stay focused

Keeping your priorities in order should help you stay focused on whatever goals you set. That’s absolutely essential to long-term bodybuilding success, says Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman. “You have to stay focused on your goals if you want to achieve results,” he explains. “Whether you’re training for a competition or simply trying to get into better shape, you still need to focus on your goals, which will help keep your actions consistent with achieving them.” Concentrating on a goal should allow you to make decisions that increase the odds of actually reaching it.

Buddy up

Training with a partner can also help you develop discipline, says Bob Weinberg, PhD, a professor of physical education, health and sports studies at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio). You may not have to look far, either — he suggests recruiting your spouse or significant other, assuming he or she also trains. Weinberg cites research showing that, when it comes to sticking to a fitness program, the support of someone close to you is a more accurate predictor of success than your own attitude is

Training with a partner gets someone else involved in your success. It’s easy to let yourself down, but when someone you respect is waiting for you at the gym door, standing him or her up becomes that much harder. (We’re assuming you have a conscience, of course.) And when you do succeed, sharing that success with a partner or spouse makes it all the more enjoyable.

Let discipline — and success — “snowball”

When you start achieving those specific and attainable goals, you set yourself up for further success, which will further boost your self-confidence. It is the latter quality, in fact, that will help make self-discipline a lifelong habit. Once you develop confidence in your abilities and experience the pleasure of attaining your goals, you begin to see self-discipline as a good thing. Rather than viewing training and dieting as tests of your willpower, you begin to embrace them as allies. Eventually, skipping that bacon double cheeseburger won’t require sheer willpower — you simply won’t want to eat anything that might sabotage your progress toward achieving the goals you’ve set for yourself.

As your confidence builds, so will your self-respect. You’ll learn to derive enjoyment from that self-respect, rather than from momentary indulgences. The word discipline will then take on a whole new meaning, one that has nothing to do with self-denial or self-deprivation.

Lifelong Benefits

Habitual self-control developed through athletics, including bodybuilding, is an important life skill. For that reason, getting to the gym regularly is an important first step on the road toward a better body, to be sure, but also toward a more fulfilling life. No matter what your age or current fitness level, you can improve how your body looks and functions through proper training and sound nutrition. And as if that weren’t enough of a reward, the discipline you forge pumping iron can spill over into other aspects of your life, including your studies and your career. Let it.

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Jaime
Jaime London is a writer, contributor, editor and a photographer. He started his career as an editorial assistant in a publishing company in Chicago in 2009.