A Logical Guide To Self Discipline.

I met Chuck Miller, a multi-time national powerlifting champion who squats over 600lbs drug free, a couple years back at a weightlifting seminar I attended in Philadelphia. Chuck, Marty Gallagher, and Brad Gillingham were teaching us their ways. Chuck quickly became a favorite person of mine. He's super cool, smart as f***, and is kind enough to still talk to me about my lifting on a regular basis. I asked him to guest blog for me, selfishly b/c I like to hear what he has to say, and also b/c everyone can learn from someone of his caliber and consistency. Read on folks!

My name is Chuck, and I have enormous problems sticking to a schedule. There, I said it aloud, confessing in true AA fashion. I just admitted that I lack self discipline, and that’s not good for a guy whose passion is strength training. Whether we’re talking powerlifting, weightlifting, strongman, highland games, or whatever, all strength sports demand consistency, and consistency can only be achieved through self discipline. The performance triumvirate of training, nutrition, and recovery hinges on this key attribute. You must have a plan, and you must have the grit to work the plan day in and day out, even in the face of obstacles such as illness, injury, social commitments, work obligations, and plain old laziness. Let anything stand in the way of self discipline and you increase the risk of not achieving your performance goals. 

I’m not suggesting you shirk your duties in other areas in order to place training at the top of your priority list.  In fact, one of the realities of life as a responsible member of society is that training will not often be your top priority. Shuttling the kids to school, meeting that report deadline at work, and even completing the honey-do list may frequently trump training on your schedule. The key is to find enough hours in the day to get all this stuff done while also training, eating properly, and getting enough rest.

 I’ve found that the simple decision to turn off the TV and go to bed at night sets the tone for everything I hope to accomplish the following day. Unfortunately, my ideal routine would be to go to bed every night at 1:00, not missing a minute of late-night garbage programming, and awaken leisurely around 9:00 with not even the faintest sound of a stupid alarm clock. That's the perfect scenario for someone wired like me.  This 10:30 to 6:00 workingman’s regimen kind of sucks. I rarely feel particularly tired when it's time to go to bed, but it's either force myself to lie down or wake up in a zombie state and drag through the following day accomplishing about half of what I planned.  

I’ve had a weird nervous habit since I was about five years old.  Oddly enough, I bite the top layer of skin off the inside of my cheeks. I don't know how I started this, but I’ve always assumed it had something to do with some minor irritation that I didn’t leave alone to heal. In any case, I've engaged in this unpleasant activity off and on for years with many attempts to stop. It's no more painful than nail-biting, but it leaves the inside of my mouth looking like I chew tobacco or snuff and probably makes me just as susceptible to oral cancer with all the constant irritation.

I recently mustered the stamina to kick this nasty habit for about the 50th, and hopefully last, time. Granted, I’m chewing enough gum to grind my teeth to nerve-baring nubs, but at least I’ve traded to a lesser evil. What’s interesting about this single act of self discipline is the snowball effect it has had. About the time I stopped the bizarre cannibalizing of my own flesh; other facets of my life began to operate with more direction and purpose. The act of becoming disciplined in one area caused my focus to spread out to other areas as well.  Soon, I mapped out a more structured training plan. I started preparing healthy lunches to bring to work instead of just running to the nearest fast food joint. I actually began diving in and finishing little 15-minute projects that I normally procrastinate and turn into much bigger ordeals than they warrant.  

Most significantly, I even tackled my biggest shortcoming by faithfully going to bed a little earlier each night. This has allowed me to stop pushing the snooze alarm in the morning, which means I now arrive at work earlier and don't have too stay late into the evening.  Nowadays, I'm home and in my garage training by 5:00.  By finishing my workouts in time to sit down to dinner with my girlfriend, I’ve also improved our relationship. Work, family, and personal time are suddenly now in better balance, all because I made the simple decision to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

This experience has taught me a valuable lesson regarding self discipline:  don't try to fix everything all at once. Just pick one thing you want to improve and do that.  Like me, you might find that if you can conjure a little self discipline in one area it will spill over into others.  I think it has something to do with building confidence in your ability to master your own shortcomings. Soon you’ll be thinking, “If I can do that, I can do just about anything.”  

In the end, self discipline comes down to a simple choice. Do you want to total elite or throw with the A group more than you want to see what slinky outfit this week’s Hollywood breakout star is wearing on The Late Show?  Remember the obvious answer to that question and you’ll be on the path toward greater self discipline.