Sunday, March 11, 2012

Life Lessons from Running

First, a little history:
I'd been a confirmed gym rat for years, and about a year or so ago I was stuck at a plateau that I couldn't break with cardio or weight training. I'd hit a wall and no matter what I tried or how hard I worked, I just couldn't break through this final plateau. Oh those last 10#s are stubborn! Someone suggested I try running. Now, I never could run and the thought of it was NOT something I wanted to entertain. Finally, begrudgingly, I gave in and tried it.

I first started on the treadmill, could run maybe 30 seconds then walk a minute or more. I persisted until I was finally able to achieve a 5 minute run/1 minute walk. That didn't really take as long as I thought it would, but persistence paid off. I was tied to the metrics on the treadmill and had never considered running outside. First, I figured I'd just walk more frequently, sit down when I could. Also, I felt I needed the treadmill to move in order to keep me from slowing down or stopping altogether. See, I was running for the purpose of reaching a goal and not for the process. I really didn't enjoy it, but I was committed to the process.

One day a friend from the gym grabbed me on my way in and took me running outside. We ran the Silver Strand from IB to Coronado, wow that really is a beautiful run (or bike ride!). Needless to say, I was hooked and haven't been able to get back on a treadmill since. I also found, surprisingly, that I ran faster and longer outside than I did inside. I didn't need the machine to pace me. I was even able to run a full 5 miles without a single walk break. Surprised myself!

Some months later I experienced a severe high ankle sprain and stress fracture. The result of both over-training and failing to slow down on a trail. 2 months on crutches and unable to do much in the way of any training put me back to nearly ground zero on my training regimen.  Back on the road again, but with a new run/walk training method. It took awhile, but I'm back to running a full 5k without a walk break. Not the 5 miles I used to do, and not at the pace I used to run, but I'll get there. I can't say I love running, or that I'll always do it. But I don't hate it anymore, more often than not I really do enjoy it, and there's no arguing with the results: lower body fat and increased cardiovascular I press on.

I've learned a lot through this experience. Most of which I apply to my training schedule, but much of which also applies to life and business.  See, cross-training isn't just for the gym, it's also for the mind and spirit.

1. Pace Yourself:
Go at your own pace and take breaks when you need them. Walk when you need to, and sometimes when you want to. as long as the "need to" is more often than the "want to" then you're fine. This helps your training, but also your business plan. Sometimes you need to slow down, catch your breath, then pick up the pace again. You have to go at your own pace, not one set for you by someone else. Yes, a defined pace or program can be helpful, but in the end you run your own race and have to modify it for yourself.

2. Set Goals:
Set a goal and then strive to beat it. I like setting a minimum goal that I need to reach and then exceed that. Some people try and set their maximum goal and then reach it. Either way, the sense of accomplishment is motivating. Without a goal, you won't notice progress. That's fine for a hobbyist, but for serious training, and serious business, goals matter. They matter a lot. Now, once you've reached those goals comfortably, change them. Make them a bit more difficult. Rinse and Repeat.

3. Run Your Own Race:
Competition can be a good thing. It can be motivating to compete against others. But at the end of the day, the best person to compete against is yourself. Beat your own time. Exceed your own goals. Forget what's right for someone else. How fast they run or how well their business appears from your view. Your goals, your pace, that's what matters. As long as you're moving forward, you're doing great!

4. Enjoy the Process:
Find something you truly enjoy and then just dive in. Do you love to run? Then do that. Do you prefer cycling? Dance? Swimming? Machine-based cardio (Elliptical/Stairs)? Whatever you truly enjoy, start there. You shouldn't have to hate your workout, or your job for that matter. Take some time to find out what you love and do that. Within that there may be parts of the process you don't love, but you should enjoy it overall. Make it fun!

5. Cross-Train:
Now that you've found something you enjoy, switch it up some. Try something new. Don't just be tied to one thing, your body and mind need variety. If you run or bike and it's a rainy day, don't just hit the treadmill or indoor cycle, dance or do some other indoor cardio-fun. Using different muscles will benefit you in the long run.

If you weight train, and you should, then you should also do some yoga or pilates on your off days. Not only will this benefit your weight training, but it will also benefit your cardio workout as well. Yoga and Pilates, while both being a form of strength training, focus heavily on developing your core as well as stabilization muscles and flexibility. All of which you need for total body conditioning.

In life and business, find a hobby that's completely different from your job. Now that can also be your workout, or it can be volunteering for a cause you believe in. It can also be using your business skill-set to benefit another business or individual as a volunteer. Take a class. If you excel at numbers, take a marketing class. If you are a star-networker, take an accounting class. Stretch your mind and you'll find areas you never knew you could use and grow. Your primary gift remains, but cross-training your mind will help you grow in amazing ways.

6. Reward Yourself:
It's hard work, hard on your body and mind. Take time to enjoy your life, de-stress. Go shopping for something fun. Go out with friends. Spend time with family. Get a massage.  This is critical, life is meant to be lived and loved. Appreciate what you have, where you've come from and where you're going. Enjoy the process! At the end of the day, and the end of your life, these details matter.

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