A few nights ago I was at a dinner party outside of the triathlon bubble and naturally the conversations trended towards… triathlon. This often tends to be the case when people ask what I do for a living; or at least how I tend to spend all my time. Quite often, as was the case the other night, people will look at what my peers and I do and suggest that we must have a lot of “discipline.”
This is an interesting statement that commonly comes about. In some ways the people that think I am disciplined are correct, but in other ways they are entirely wrong.
They are wrong because they assume it takes discipline to swim, bike and run. This, in and of itself, is incorrect. I suppose I cannot speak for everyone that gets a professional license in triathlon, but most of us find a real sense of joy moving in those mediums. I know I personally went from a 13-hour ironman guy to a professional because of how much I enjoy(ed) riding my bike. I wanted nothing more than to spend most of my day cruising around corn fields in Brazos County, Texas, when I was 21 years old. It did not take discipline.
What has taken discipline, and what continues to take discipline, is not doing what I want to do, for the sake of improvement and performance. When I started the sport, I could pretty much get out the door and expect to improve. After a while, the improvements were not as pronounced and the need to really look at myself and determine what my limiters were became paramount to improvement. That continues to ring true. What I came to find over time is that the workouts that often got pushed aside in the beginning had helped create my weaknesses.
Soon enough, the workouts that sounded like the worst idea were often designed for my best interests. It was easy to get out bed and do what I was good at; it was difficult to do the same when I knew my weaknesses would be exposed. By buddy Alan offered up a relevant quote from Jim Rohn: “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” It takes “discipline” to do away with the excuses.
Additionally, not doing what I want is not only limited to workouts, but to lifestyle choices. It might be fun to stay up late, eat bad foods, avoid heart rate caps (okay that’s workout related), etc., but it might not be part of the whole package when it comes to becoming a faster athlete. Unfortunately (and fortunately) we cannot rely solely on the training we do to get faster.
In the end, I still don’t consider myself to be disciplined. Even when I’m doing workouts I don’t want to or going to bed early or eating more broccoli…. ultimately it is what I want to be doing. It has resulted in a fun and fulfilling life for the past decade. And it doesn’t take discipline to want that to continue.