Improve your discipline, improve your fitness

Josef Brandenburg, special to

WASHINGTON – A lot of people experience a lack of steady motivation as the chief roadblock to any sort of fitness success. But there’s good news: You don’t need motivation to work out. You need discipline.

Motivation is great. It can help you get started on the path to fitness, but it’s not going to be what wakes you up in the morning for a workout or drives you to the gym after work. That is all discipline — an important component to any healthy lifestyle routine.

Here are five ways to be more disciplined to help you reach, or maintain, your fitness goals:

  1. Make your bed: Making your bed is what researchers call a “keystone” habit” — it’s a habit that spills over into the rest of your life. People who make their bed or focus on having better posture throughout the day find that they also eat better and manage their time better. Being disciplined about one minor thing helps you be disciplined about everything else.
  2. Guard your energy levels: Discipline requires energy. If you do not get enough sleep, have a poor diet and exercise infrequently, you’re handicapping yourself in every area of your life. Invest your discipline in taking care of your body first and it will give you more energy to do more everywhere in your life.
  3. Divide and conquer: Discipline is a finite quantity. You can indeed increase the amount you have, but it’s never going to be unlimited. Focus on only two or three things to discipline yourself to change at once. It takes three to four weeks (sometimes more) to establish a new habit. Be patient and build goals for a sustainable change.
  4. Keep it top of mind: You get emails, texts and phone calls regularly. People interrupt you at work and home on a daily basis. It’s unrealistic to expect that you will remember your exercise commitments after a day with 250 interruptions. Write down your commitments and put these goals somewhere you will see frequently — it can be a screen saver, the background on your computer, on a mirror at home, etc.
  5. Tell other people: Put a little bit of your reputation on the line when it comes to behavior. Tell people you’re going to stop drinking those lattes and that you’re going to work out three days each week. When you have a bad day, knowing that your reputation is on the line if people see you doing what you said you weren’t going to do is a good thing. It’s positive peer pressure. It’s not comfortable, but all change requires you to be uncomfortable.

If you happen to be motivated one day, that’s awesome, but focus on what you can control — being disciplined.

Editor’s Note: Josef Brandenburg is a D.C.area fitness expert with 14 years of experience and co-author of the international best-selling book “Results Fitness.” In 2004, he started The Body You Want personal training program, which specializes in helping you get the body you want in the available time you have. You can also check out his blog, follow him on Twitter, or check out his fitness videos on YouTube. Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter.

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