fitness · motivation

Making a Habit of It

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
Aristotle

In his blog post, “Get Disciplined, not Motivated”  Joel Runyon writes that to achieve our fitness goals, we need discipline, not motivation. Though I prefer the language of “habit” to “discipline,” I think this is exactly right. Runyon describes motivation as fleeting, everywhere and nowhere, and situational, whereas habit is regular, routine, and consistent. Certainly this is true for writing. Wait for inspiration and you’re doomed. Instead, the best, most productive writers, schedule writing and make it happen whether or not they are motivated or inspired.  I think it’s also true for physical training.
What do I do to make it happen?
When I’m training in the morning, I go to bed early. I drink lots of water the night before. I pack my bag or lay out my clothes. When I’m on my bike, I check the tires the night before, make sure my lights are fully charged, and that I know exactly where I’m headed.  When the alarm goes off at “stupid o’clock” (as my Australian friends call 5 am)  I get up I go on auto-pilot to get out the door. I don’t think about it. Hard for a philosopher!
But I think Runyon is right when he says, “Remove your brain from your equation. Your mind sucks. It will tell you all of the things you’re not capable of doing because it wants to protect itself. It wants to play it safe. It wants to be comfortable. Meanwhile, your body will sit there and not say anything to the contrary even though it knows it can run triathlons, marathons, climb mountains, and get a six pack if you just give it the chance. Do a manual override. Tell your brain to shut up and just go do it anyways. Turn your brain off. When you brain tells you it’s impossible, tell your brain, That’s nice, I’m going to do it anyways.” (Six pack abs aside, so not my goal!)
This is for training. There’s lots I do for fun too. I don’t need habit to get me out the door for soccer (yay, kicking a ball around with friends!) or  casual bike rides with friends (yay conversation and coffee!). I want to write about the difference for me between “training” and all of the variety of things I do that count as “exercise.” But that’s another post!

6 thoughts on “Making a Habit of It

  1. thanks! habit is a better way to think about it than discipline. My autopilot begins at stupid hour plus 10 minutes and I’m on the road by 5:50 nearly every work day. It did require an adjustment to the sleep hour, but I quickly discovered I wasn’t missing much anyway. Although I agree that the habit may not be required for the “fun”, building the fun in is part of the habit. Thanks for the great post!

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