Bringing Balance Back to Discipline

Bringing Balance Back to Discipline

The pendulum is always swinging from one extreme to the other.

Like most ideas, anything taken to the extreme must eventually swing back the other way.

Hyper-rigidity in organisational structure can only work for a time before those involved become shackled by the very thing that led to their initial success. Eventually, the pendulum swings back the other way. In an attempt to break free of these shackles, individuals crave freedom and chaos – until this boils over and results in absolute anarchy.

Eventually, the pendulum will swing back the other way. It takes time, but it does.

On the topic of health, the pendulum swung towards being ‘disciplined’ and ‘calculated’ all the time. All programs had to be calculated and measured. Food had to be calculated and measured. Sleep is now also being calculated and measured.

If you’re one of these people already involved in a very calculated and measured routine, then you are very much a part of this pendulum swing. As a trainer and/or concerned friend, perhaps you’re also encouraging those around you to adopt this approach.

Make no mistake, calculation and measurement are useful to achieve whatever health outcome you want. In fact, I would argue it’s likely the most efficient way to do so. When you are calculating and measuring, you minimise error in your decisions. By minimising error, you minimise the delay of reaching your goal.

So we should all be disciplined with our measurement and calculations, right?

Not so fast.

Remember that the pendulum will always swing back another way once it reaches the end. It will swing that way because there are positives AND negatives to taking an extreme approach – in any setting. This is no different in calculation and measurement.

Allow me to explain.

Calculation and measurement require instruments and pre-acquired knowledge. For example, to measure your food, you need a scale or at least your own palm size to give a rough estimate. From there, you actually need to know what you are measuring and how that affects your macronutrient breakdown (another thing you must know).

Is this protein? Is this carb? Is this fat?

Next, measurement accuracy relies on specificity. Food isn’t specific. It’s actually an explosion of flavours – which is part of its’ beauty but also why it’s hard to measure. In order to be absolutely accurate, you need to actually separate components (which is a hassle and a half). It also unfortunately takes the magic out of food.

The same can be applied to exercise programs. Some things can be measured. For example, how far you run, how heavy you lift, how long your workouts are. But, in the context of interval training, classes that have variety as opposed to monotony are harder to measure. How do you measure 30s of burpees, followed by 45s of ball slams, followed by a 30m run apart from using a time domain? I suppose you could count every rep but who’s going to do it? You? During the workout? Or are you going to have a helper do it?

I believe you can see my point I’m trying to make.

Measurement is useful. But it is tiring. And it can absolutely overcomplicate how we feel about our food and exercise. Once you’ve done this for too long, eventually you’ll shift either towards a less ‘measured’ way or give it up completely. This is the pendulum effect.

So, how does it swing the other way? Well, as measurement and calculation is closely tied with the idea of being ‘disciplined’ with our health, we must think the opposite of discipline.

Discipline in this context, simply refers to making the RIGHT choice as opposed to the WANTED choice. It’s about making decisions that reflect some sort of long term goal, as opposed to a decision that goes against it.

So, in the opposite end, we will have the inability to make the RIGHT decision for a long term goal. It’s knowing that what they’re doing is NOT good for them in the long-term vision, but going ahead to do it anyway.

Sounds like stupid thing to do, right? Except isn’t. It actually is more common than not. In the context of measurement and calculation, it’s not having ANY plan at all. It’s not measuring, it’s not calculating, it’s just eating or training for the sake of.

Is this helpful in the long run? Absolutely not! Can doing this actually achieve long term health benefits? Actually, yes it can.

How? Let’s always remember that there are people who stay physically healthy their entire lives never calculating and measuring anything. They have just been instilled good habits from a young age. Some of these people eat until they’re satisfied, not knowing that this actually protects them from overeating. Or, these people just like moving – walking, playing sports with friends, going for a run on the weekends… for no other reason than just doing it.

Both ends are able to achieve long-term positive effects. Both ends are also able to achieve negative long-term effects.

The hyperdisciplined become obsessive, unable to move themselves away from an empirical view of health.

The opposite can lose their physical health by over-indulging.

What can we do as coaches?

Encourage the middle. There are times to be firm and strict. But there are plenty of times to be relaxed and absent.