What running taught me about life and business.

Starting something new in life can be a challenge. There’s the discomfort of knowing there will be things you just don’t know. It may involve travelling somewhere new, meeting new people, learning a new skill, or be physically, emotionally or mentally challenging. You won’t have all the answers, you might feel vulnerable or helpless for a while, you may even bump into limits you didn’t know you had.

It doesn’t matter what it is, starting anything new will take you out of your comfort zone. This is how we grow.

So let me ask you this, how long do you permit yourself to settle in? How often do you berate yourself for not getting the hang of things more quickly? Do you view the inevitable mistakes or “not knowing” as a sign of your own stupidity? Do you feel you are letting other people down if you don’t know what to do next? Do you worry about being judged for continuing to ask questions? Do you feel it’s your responsibility to figure it all out?

Here’s what I’ve learnt about life and business from learning to run.

  1. It’s important to know why you’re doing it.
    For me, running makes me feel good afterwards. It’s a simple as that. Reminding yourself why you are starting something new can keep you motivated.
  2. Beginning is always the hardest part.
    No matter what time of day, what distance or what speed I run the first 10-20 mins feel pretty horrible. There’s a reason for that. I am asking for more air into my lungs, for my heart to pump blood around my body faster, for my muscles to work harder. When you start anything new you are making demands on yourself in all sorts of ways. It’s going to be uncomfortable.
  3. Go at your own pace.
    I always started at the back when I joined a running group. At my first session, the coach jogged with me and said: “Don’t worry about the others, they always start fast but they’ll end up behind you”. She was right. Find your own pace, adjust when you need to but always do what works best for you rather than trying to keep up with the others.
  4. You don’t need ALL the right gear in order to start.
    If you’re running in summer you don’t need thermals, gloves and hat. You just need to start. Same in life or business. You don’t need to be prepared for every eventuality before you begin.
  5. Getting professional help can be useful.
    Running is running right? You just start moving faster and end up running. True, but few of us have bodies that are in perfect physical shape, with all joints working correctly and all muscles balanced. Over time we can be prone to injury if we don’t learn good techniques, or we just make running harder than it needs to be. Same in life and business, there are people out there who will be able to help make things easier and more sustainable for you. Ask them.
  6. Getting the uphill out of the way first means I can enjoy the downhill that follows.
    Do your least enjoyable/most challenging tasks first so you can enjoy the rest of your day/week.
  7. When running uphill, keep your eyes on the summit, adjust your pace and use the strength of your arms and legs to get you there.
    When you are experiencing difficulties dig deep, keep your focus on your end aim and watch as you close the distance.
  8. When running downhill, lean forward, let gravity help and kick your heels up behind you.
    I always used to hold back when running downhill, scared I would fall over until I realised how much harder it made things. You need to make the most of the downhills in life to conserve your energy for the next uphill.
  9. Signal your intent to those that need to know.
    If I’m running on a road, I wear a hi-vi and if at night a head torch. Don’t expect people to consider you if you’re not telling them what you’re up to.
  10. Sometimes it’s good to run alone, sometimes it’s good to run with others.
    When you need extra support or motivation, or you’re just not sure if there’s a better way to do what you’re trying to do, get some friendly faces around you. If you need to time to think, go off and give yourself the time to do so.
  11. Build up slowly.
    Don’t expect to run a marathon if all you’ve managed so far is a run to the bus. Don’t expect your new business to start making a profit from day one or plan a massive promotion before anyone knows who you are. Enjoy the process, if you are consistent and simply aiming to improve each step of the way, you will get there.
  12. Don’t look back.
    You’ll trip over something in front of you plus you’ll crick your neck.
  13. Do take time to pause and enjoy the view.
    I run in the morning and every once in a while I’ll pause and watch the sunrise.  There’s not much point doing something new in life if you’re not going to take some time to enjoy it.
  14. Stretch after every run.
    Look after your wellbeing. Starting anything new can be stressful. Show yourself compassion, look after your needs. Too often we burn ourselves out or make ourselves ill because we don’t balance out effort with self-care.  Balance is not simply about work/life, if you don’t look after yourself there will be no work/life to balance.

So next time you are starting something new, give yourself permission to feel uncomfortable and not have all the answers. Don’t give yourself unrealistic deadlines. Go at your own pace. Ask for help when you need it. But most of all take time to look after yourself, be curious and enjoy the process

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