Friday, July 31, 2009

Discipline begets Discipline

'Discipline' is a word often associated with punishment or chastisement for an action of wrong-doing. Discipline is also the word triathletes use to describe each of the sports they compete in: the disciplines of swimming, bicycling, and running. Merriam-Webster's online dictionary describes it as, "4: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character" or "5 a: control gained by enforcing obedience or order b: orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior."

While there are different meanings for this word, formed from our own contextual experiences, there is no doubt that
for the triathlete "discipline" is a bit about self-inflicted punishment, and a little about a lifestyle of discipleship to training and fitness. Recently, I started my second period of base-training for a long-distance course race I will be competing in this Fall. There are days that I have long rides or runs scheduled, and for whatever reason or another, I neglect to complete them. It is in these days that I experience, not so much remorse for my disobedience to the training plan, but the realization that I am prepared slightly less than I ought to be for the race. On the flip side, there are days when I finish a long swim workout and get every last one of my 100-metre splits on my target time, and I walk away with a feeling of elation and accomplishment for the 'discipline' I have mustered to finish strong.

It is said that, "success begets success," and I would say the same is true for discipline in training and fitness. Not only does the accomplishment of sticking to our schedule give us a feeling of structure and commitedness, but there are actually chemicals that our bodies produce which reinforce the labors of our efforts.
Beta-endorphins, chemicals secreted by our bodies, are one of the positive effects of training and exercise. Not only do these beta-endorphins give us that feeling of "runners high" but there have also been studies which support a positive correlation towards their combatment of stress related maladies like migranes. These chemical endorsements are similar to the way the body becomes addicted to drugs. In our case as athletes however, this chemical-dependancy might not be quite so bad.

In addtion to the scientific research, I have found that when I stick to my training, for a short period of time, it encourages me to want to stick to it for the long haul. A disciple is a person who is characterized by the lifestyle to some kind of discipline. For us as triathletes, this includes a life epitomized by continual education, healthy diet, and balance. When we make the small sacrifices of immediate desire and gratification, we ascribe to the path which will allow us to accomplish long-term goals. When we put our legs to the hills now, we will be able to muster through the 70.3 race later this Summer. When we eat the veggies and fruits instead of scarfing down the Mc D's fry-fest, we keep off unwanted pounds and empty calories and thus keep our bodies groomed for the splits we are aiming for.

Although this concept is not revolutionary and certainly not one that I have monopolized, it can change the way you look at your training and racing. Instead of worrying about what you are going to do in your training next week, focus on the here and now. Wake-up with the goal of finishing the tasks you have for the day. When you complete your long run, or that hard bike ride, give yourself a pat on the back and remember that you've just positioned yourself one step closer to your next personal best.

Discipline yourself today and enjoy balance and health for a lifetime.

-Coach K

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