Denise DuBois: Rely on discipline, not motivation

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I’ve had a gym membership for years. Before Anytime Fitness, it was Max Fitness and Gold’s Gym before that. I remember waking up at 4:45 a.m. three mornings a week and at 5 a.m. two mornings a week to attend spin and power classes at Gold’s Gym on Manchester Expressway.

For months I would get motivated before the sun rose to get on a bike or under light weights with 15-25 people around me. It was the same on the weekends, although not as early.

I would attend a cardio kickboxing class and follow it up with a cardio dance class. If you think spinning is tough, try one of those two classes. It was fun, because we ended up unknowingly learning the movies to “Thriller.” We all had a common goal: to get fit. I wanted to lose 10 pounds.

One morning I missed a class and slept in. It may have only happened once that week. But the next week, I missed two classes. Before I knew it, I was making excuses to sleep in my warm bed rather than get out in the cold morning air. My motivation was gone.

At Max Fitness, I liked to run in the movie theater room. It was dark. There were five or six cardio machines and a few TV screens. No one could see you. I was separated from everyone else. I wasn’t intimidated or made to feel badly about my snail-like pace. I eventually got to where I could run three miles. That’s not a lot for some of you fitness junkies, but three miles was a milestone for me. I wanted to compete in a sprint triathlon. I didn’t have a plan other than being able to run a few miles. I ran a few 5K races, but I eventually fell out of the pattern of going to the gym and running. It hurt and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I still had weight I needed to lose, but my motivation was gone again.

At Anytime Fitness, I fell into a similar pattern. I worked out a little bit but I had no idea what I was doing. I finally found a trainer who asked me my “why.” Why are you here and what do you want to accomplish? I wanted to lose weight. But that wasn’t good enough. Why did I want to lose weight? I wanted to be healthy and eliminate anxiety. Those were better answers. It was my motivation. The motivation worked for a little while. I saw a little bit of change, but it wasn’t what I wanted. When I started working with Jim, it took some time but we focused on very specific goals. We worked together to decide how we would accomplish those goals. There was a plan in place and I had to stick to it.

I learned early in our training that motivation is great. It’s the reason you do something. It’s the reason you work out. It’s the “why.” But I also learned that the “why” may change weekly or monthly with how you’re feeling or the results you’re seeing. That’s why discipline is better. Discipline is a habit. It’s how you control yourself. The dictionary gives a definition that includes punishment for disobedience. That’s not applicable in gym training unless you consider not getting results a punishment.

Motivation comes and goes. There are plenty of days that I walk into the gym and don’t “feel” like I want to be there. But discipline tells me I have a workout to complete regardless of my mental state. That’s why we’ve gotten results.

Gyms are full this time of the year. And why not? It’s a great time to get started with something new. It’s also pretty widely known that by Valentine’s Day, most newbies aren’t showing up anymore. In less than a month away, that could be you. Your motivation could be failing you. But now you know discipline is greater than any motivation. Now you know you need to make your New Year’s Resolution a habit. Don’t be vague with your goal. Write it down and be specific. Research how to get there. Make a plan of action. Then crush your goals. Rely on your discipline. It won’t fail you.

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