I did not want to ride this morning. I woke up about 4:20 (my alarm is set for 4:30, but I usually wake up 10-15 minutes before — don’t ask me why). I ached a bit from the vaccinations; my friends Justina and Prema Jeyaraj had taken Jenny and me to dinner as a nice “send-off” and I’d eaten A LOT.
The first 5 kilometers were tough; I had a kind of fun scare when a wild boar which had crossed Old Upper Thompson to seek his fortune among the garbage canisters on the residence side of the road panicked, ran alongside me for about 20 feet and then darted straight across the road back into the jungle. I see wild boars every 8-10 rides; my main learning is to not get in their way — they seem to travel in straight lines, and they must weigh 150-200 pounds. The adrenaline kick was also just what I needed to get through the ride.
Today I reflected a bit on the nature of discipline. A lot of people have commented: “you must have a lot of discipline to get up every morning and ride” or “you must have a lot of discipline to ride across the US.” Those who know me well know I am not that disciplined, but I have done some things in the last five months to do what I needed to get ready.
One reason I was thinking about this is that yesterday I read an interesting Wired Magazine article about Robert Mueller and his Vietnam service. It’s impressive — he was a Marine in a fighting unit that took some of the most intensive casualties of the war. He was there in 1968, a period when North Vietnam was on the offensive. And one way they described his discipline is that he shaved every day. For a war hero who took a bullet in the thigh that seemed like a strange anecdote to illustrate discipline.
When I googled a definition of discipline, it focused on following rules or codes of behavior. In fact, the punishment for violating these rules is also called discipline, in an interesting display of the versatility of the English language. When I looked up self-discipline, I was again disappointed with the definition: the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses.
The definition I came up with while riding is that discipline is following through on an intention. There is kind of a logic flow — I have a goal, to achieve the goal I can break that down into a program of activity; discipline is following through on that program of activity. I am going to do 25 pushups a day; I am going to clear my email box every day before going home from work, I am going to stop eating ice cream.
I think the starting point for discipline is a goal you really want to achieve and is also realistic (achievable). “I am going to ride for 1-2 hours every morning” is just a commitment to a routine; “I am going to ride 1-2 hours every day in order that I can finish a one week bike ride in Vietnam” is a routine linked to an outcome.
The main reason I work with a coach, a yoga instructor and a personal trainer is to develop the right program, but it also helps me to have the discipline to follow through. Writing a blog is another way to create pressure to follow through on the intention. Motivation and discipline are often linked.
Another way to improve discipline is to follow routines. Routines seem to take the right side of the brain out of the equation — I always get up at 4:30 to work out, so I don’t have to go through a reasoning process with my brain every morning to decide whether I work out or not. I find the more variation I allow myself, the less likely I will stay disciplined.
Friday, 18 May 2018 Training: 56 kilometer ride, 2:07. One hour circuit training with personal trainer. Felt very sluggish from the vaccinations. Had my close call for the week. I was riding through a large intersection on Yio Chu Kang (I had the green light) and two cars came off the expressway to merge into the lane I was on. One stayed left, but the other clearly did not see me and came flying out across three entire lanes at pretty much full speed. Fortunately I braked; he missed me by about 1.5 meters. It was a little silver car; I didn’t get the license plate. I assume the guy had just finished a late shift and just wanted to get home. So did I.