Discipline – How marathon training showed me the ultimate life hack
Written by: Lombe Mwansa
Published: 6 February 2023


Discipline simply means choosing the future I want over the thing I want right now.

This is a story of how I unlocked one of life’s secrets to success with the ultimate life hack. A life hack I discovered while training for my first and only marathon to date. This is a post about discipline and how setting & crushing my running goals, persevering through the many challenges I faced and finding inner strength taught me invaluable lessons that having me running towards my best self.

I don’t’ think I am alone when I say we all want more discipline than we currently have. Discipline in our relationships, in our parenting, in our nutrition, our sleep, health, our time management and any other area we want to show up in with our highest potential.

Seneca quote about discipline of self.
Seneca was right!

In my quest to master my emotions I am learning from the experiences of highly successful businessmen, women and athletes from the past and the present.Like I said this is a journey to mastering my emotions so I had to come to terms with the fact that discipline requires dealing with discomfort, something I instinctively want to avoid.

In the areas I have persevered I have been able to achieve some amazing things and because I retrained my instincts what was once uncomfortable doesn’t bother as much. I am not seeking perfection so I am happy to keep working on all aspects of my life and improve them by improving me.

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Without discipline, luck is your only other option. Luck is great when it happens, but it is a poor strategy.

When I was training for the London marathon my 26 week program required discipline in many areas. If I excluded the 113 training runs on my schedule had I would need to manage my time, my nutrition, my sleep, my marriage and family life for half a year….There is no way luck can last that long and the risks were to high for to test this out. I had to discipline myself because when life happens its easy to put off what is uncomfortable till later.

8 Things I did to have more discipline in my life.

Here are some things I did to create the discipline muscles that got me through a 26 week marathon training and the London marathon itself.

1. Practice dealing with discomfort.

Discipline is uncomfortable because you’re either doing something that you don’t want to do right now or you’re avoiding doing something that you want to do right now. Neither one is as enjoyable in the moment as following your impulses.

  • When I was out running there were always times I felt discomfort, and what I had to do was notice where I felt it in my body. Try this next time you feel discomfort, describe it to yourself. What does it feel like? Continue objectively observing it until it goes away. It will go away.

2. Choose your goal wisely.

I had to choose a highly meaningful goal that was attached to a big purpose because this was protected me from myself and my excuses. I found that you’ll do more and endure more to achieve a goal that means a lot to you.

  • Life is too short to spend your time on anything less than goals that are spectacular to you. I ran for a charity called Teenage Cancer Trust and focusing on the work they do to support young people and the families pushed me through when those long runs that seemed to on forever.

3. Do it every day.

Every day of those 26 weeks was an opportunity to practice discipline.

If it meant not going out in the pouring rain for 2 hours before I have to get ready for work I could have easily made myself stare at the wall for 10 minutes or in more realistic terms, mindlessly scroll through social media till it was too late to run.

  • I started small and each day I would try to see how far I could push my self-discipline muscles. On some runs when I felt like I couldn’t run any more I would just push myself to the next lamp post and on others I focused on how far past that point of stopping to walk I could go.

4. Reward your successes.

When you successfully show a new level of discipline, give yourself a reward that doesn’t break the bank. After a few weeks of consistent training my reward for was small but it meant a lot to me. I bought myself running lights…they weren’t much but they made early morning runs a lot easier.

before run
My head torch was my treat for persevering and pushing through the first 6 weeks of training.

5. Do it earlier in the day.

I used this to my advantage as much as possible. If I got my training runs finished in the morning then it freed up more time at home with my wife and daughters. It also took away the opportunity for other things during the day to get in my way. Discipline tends to be higher in the morning.

early morning run stats
Up and out before 6am

6. Have a plan for when you stumble.

As I said my training plan had 113 runs and I did 108 of them. On the days I missed a run I quickly moved on from it and didn’t dwell on what I should have done.

Teenage Cancer Trust group photo

During difficult days I timed my runs to coincide with my friends so we could keep each other accountable. I joined an online community of runners too so I could share my setbacks there and ask for help.

7. Slow progress is acceptable.

A little progress each day is more than enough. Big changes rarely stick unless life and limb are at risk. To get through all training plan I had to find the joy in making consistent slow progress. Even during the marathon I had to remember this.


I this picture I am walking through cramp that had started after mile 11 of 26.

Once I started the marathon I told myself I would finished it no matter what happened so when the cramp was too unbearable I stopped running and focused on walking as each step was an inch closer to the finish.

8. Focus on the action rather than the desired outcome.

If you want to lose weight, the scale matters. However, it’s even more important to follow your diet day in and day out. It’s more important to keep saving part of your paycheck than to have a specific bank balance. Focusing on my pace helped me focus on what I was doing rather than just running so it was over and done with. Many things went into achieving the outcome of completing the marathon so each week I worked on doing the right things and ignoring the results (running faster, running for longer without having to stop).

marathon finisher medal

I used to admire (still do) those people with high levels of discipline. I often associated discipline with the elite but now I know I train to have just as much discipline as they do, specific to the demands of my life and the goals I am working towards.

I remind myself that discipline simply means choosing the future I want over the thing I want right now.

Your level of discipline impacts the quality of your future.
Are you willing to give up meaningless short-term pleasures for a great future?
If so, you can have the future you desire.

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