- Hollis Johnson/Insider
- Former Navy SEAL officer John “Jocko” Willink said that discipline is the most important factor in getting fit.
- Rather than waiting for motivation, he recommends waking up early and doing 100 burpees first thing in the morning to help cultivate good discipline.
- Willink recently partnered with The Vitamin Shoppe to promote his brand of protein shakes, energy drinks, and supplements.
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The secret to getting in shape isn’t motivation, it’s discipline, according to former Navy SEAL commander John “Jocko” Willink.
Building discipline, like building muscle, takes work. If you want to achieve both of those things, Willink recommends getting up early and doing 100 burpees first thing in the morning.
“That kind of discipline will extend through everything else that you do,” he told Insider. “We make excuses that we don’t have enough time to work out or train or gym. But we need to make time for it.”
Willink, who had two decades of experience in the US Navy before retiring in 2010 – including as lieutenant commander of an elite special operations SEAL team – has made his career about teaching discipline, publishing books like New York Times bestseller “Extreme Ownership,” co-authored with fellow SEAL retiree Leif Babin.
Doing 100 burpees at 5 am isn’t the only way to build a strong body and mind (Willink also recommends that you never skimp on squats, for one thing). Here’s what else the former elite SEAL commander advises for setting goals and sticking to them, both in and out of the gym.
- Courtesy of Jocko Willink
Most people look for motivation to get healthy, when what they really want is discipline, Willink said
Discipline is distinct from motivation, which is many people mistakenly think they need to get to the gym or eat healthier, Willink said.
“People want motivation, but it’s an emotion, like being happy or sad or frustrated. It comes and goes,” he said. “If you wait to be motivated to work out, or eat what’s good for you, you’re not going to do it when you need to.”
Discipline, on the other hand, is a structure that you actively maintain in your life, according to Willink.
“You can count on discipline because it’s a structure in your life that you put into place. You can own it, you impose it,” he said.
Willink’s motto is “discipline equals freedom” – for example, the better you manage your money, the more you’ll have leeway to spend it on things you want, he said. The same is true of health.
“If you want the freedom of being mobile, moving your body, and not getting sick, you have to have discipline with your health,” Willink said.
Willink also stressed the importance of good nutrition
Part of health includes good nutrition, Willink said. His brand, Jocko Fuel, recently partnered with The Vitamin Shoppe to make his supplement products widely available.
Willink said he developed the products – which include protein powder and a “pre-mission” energy formula available as a powder or canned drink- based on what he needed for his own daily exercise routines, including jiu jitsu.
“I used to just hodgepodge other products together to get what I needed and decided to just do it myself,” Willink said.
But it’s not just for people in combat, or combat sports, he added. Whatever you’re using to fuel your daily activities, Willink recommends avoiding anything with a lot of caffeine, added sugar, or artificial ingredients.
“Everyone needs fuel, whether that’s to go to work, to the gym, to a meeting, everyone needs to perform every day,” he said. “But people are also busy, so having something convenient making it easier to stick to that discipline.”