I keep returning to this theme of understanding, loving, and respecting one’s body because every week I’m reminded of how many people don’t fully grasp the ideas. So I try to come up with new ways of saying the same thing. You, the fearless reader, probably suffer from deja vu every day my column appears.
Today I want to explore the ideas of discipline and norms as they relate to our bodies because I think there are some misconceptions packaged within these concepts that require some scrutiny.
I often talk to be people who tell me that they need to be more disciplined, and I’d say the majority of the time what they’re referencing is an inability to wake up early and work out. They think that fit people live like a boxer in the Rocky and Creed franchise, waking up at the break of dawn to run five miles, drink a raw egg, and do one-arm push ups. With this type of mindset–only slightly exaggerated here for underwhelming comedic effect–it’s no wonder that many people intimidate themselves out of getting fit.
Not everyone reading this is a morning person. I happen to be able to function rather quickly upon waking, so getting in a workout in the early morning hours is something that’s doable for me. That doesn’t make me more disciplined, it just means that when I was in kindergarten the neighborhood mother who drove carpool called my mom to tell me once that she really loved driving me, but my energy and mouth were a bit much in the morning.
My point is that we are who we are to a large extent, so you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you can’t quite make the morning workout happen.
BUT, this shouldn’t be an excuse for staying up later than you know you should. Not being a morning person is one thing, but lacking the processes in the evening that allow you to get to bed at an hour that would allow you seven or eight hours of sleep is quite another. You might not be a morning person because no one is on five hours of sleep. If this sounds familiar, then maybe the problem isn’t that you’re not a morning person so much as you’re just not going to bed on time. Know the difference. If, even after a decent night of sleep, the thought of working out just isn’t something that’s going to work for you, then you need to troubleshoot ways of getting in a lift during the day or evening.
Now that we’ve dispensed with the idea of “discipline,” let’s tackle norms. During an initial consultation, new clients often will say to me preemptively, “well I know I should…” Sometimes they’re right, as in, “I know I should be eating more vegetables,” but often they’re wrong, as in “I know I should be eating low carb” or “I know I should be eating low fat” or “I know I should be running more.” What they’ve done is adopted questionable conventional wisdom as an accepted fitness norm with little relation to the actual science. Worse, they beat themselves up for not following a norm that doesn’t really exist in the first place.
When the idea of discipline meets false norms, fitness becomes an overwhelming, all-encompassing project rather than the beautiful, mind-opening, life-enhancing journey it can really be.
How do you know the difference between a true lack of discipline and a false narrative you’ve adopted?
1.) If you haven’t worked out at all in more than two weeks, then you need to troubleshoot what’s going on that’s not leaving you the time to care for the one body you’ll ever have.
2.) If you have worked out in the last few weeks, but your consistency has been sporadic, then you need to figure out why. Often this is a process issue–meaning, your days are not organized enough to allow you the time to be good to yourself. Do you use a calendar? How often do you check it? Better organization usually trumps discipline for busy people.
3.) Are you happy with the way you look naked? Do you have unexplained aches and pains? Do you have energy crashes during the day? A negative answer for the first question and affirmative answers for the latter two could mean that something needs to change in your diet. Remember, you have to be eating for YOUR goals. When I’m in a heavy training cycle, I’m eating as many potatoes as I can get my hands on. If you’re trying to decrease body fat to get ready for a photo shoot, then reducing the amount of starchy carbs you’re consuming might be a good idea. The key is to understand that there are different ways of eating for different people. There is no normative diet, in other words. There’s just the right way of eating for you.