For more than thirteen years I have been a runner. It started with a need to lose weight after I had gained 20 pounds over three years working and doing graduate school full-time. But, it has evolved into an important part of my life both physically and mentally. Though its physical benefits are obvious, the other advantages are less valued. In fact, I have discovered five leadership lessons reinforced through running.
As a runner, I really value a quote by Oprah Winfrey that goes as follows “Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.”
I am proud that I’m a runner. Not because I run some extraordinary distances because I don’t. My runs are typically 3-5 miles in distance—sometimes indoors and at other times outdoors. In fact, my longest run to date was a 10-mile competitive run that I did in 2014 (Philadelphia’s Broad Street Run).
Not because I have blazing speed because I certainly do not. I have a fairly slow pace at slightly under 10 minutes a mile. In other words, a world class long distance runner could run well over two miles before I would complete one mile.
So, why am I proud to be a runner?
It goes to Oprah’s quote, “running is the greatest metaphor for life”.
I see running as part of my life course in two ways, physically and psychologically.
Physically, running helps me maintain good health. It strengthens my heart. It strengthens my musculoskeletal system. It helps alleviate stress and anxiety.
The physical benefits are most obvious to the casual observer.
But, the greater benefit of running extends beyond the physical. Running is the greatest metaphor for life because of its psychological benefits.
Running requires mental discipline and stamina. It requires the ability to stay focused even when you are physically struggling.
Despite a busy schedule and a body that sometimes doesn’t want to cooperate with me, I don my running shoes and hit the pavement.
Though I like many other sports, running is personal. It is you against the road—no need to find a partner.
I run to have space away from the computer, the Internet, and emails. I run to think and to listen.
Running is a great metaphor for life because like life it requires a consistent commitment from you to be successful.
Running is a great metaphor for life because it demands physical and psychological fortitude to maintain your pace.
Running is a great metaphor for life because it requires that you make space away from the computer, the television, the Internet, and the emails.
Running creates space for you to think, to listen, and to search your soul—all prerequisites to living well.
If you want better conditioning, stamina, or speed you can adjust your running program to get there. Likewise, if you want more out of life you have the power to adjust your mindset, experiences, and relationships to better pursue your goals.
Becoming a better person (and influencer) at work, home, and in the community is a matter of your personal investment in that endeavor.
From my own experience as a long-term runner, I’ve observed five lessons that are critical to living your life to the fullest.
The Runner’s Five Lessons for Life
Lesson #1: Set Your Goals
Adhering to a running regimen requires that you have goals. Runners without goals are not runners very long. Goals can be as simple as saying I will run twice a week for 30-minutes per run. Or a advanced as a marathon (26.2 miles) training program that you tackle over the course of a year.
The key is that you have a goal. Personally, I use a running app (Nike app) that allows me to set monthly challenge goals. This year I have the goal to run my first half marathon. It requires me to do some training for it. That training will require a gradual increase in the distance that I run in order to meet the challenge.
Life is also about setting goals—if you are to live to your full potential. Here at the beginning of 2015 what will your goals be?
If you don’t have goals, you will likely fall into the same unsuccessful pattern that you did last year and the year before that.
If you haven’t yet set your goals for this year, do it now. It is never too late. If you don’t have your priorities, other people will give you their priorities.
Action Step: If you’d like a set of goals to consider for this year, take a look at one of my previous posts on the 15 goals that everyone should pursue for 2015.
Lesson #2: Pace Yourself
Running is about knowing your pace. Beginning runners flame out because they try to run too fast too soon—sometimes even injuring themselves in the process.
The inexperienced runner is tempted to try to run someone else’s race rather than their own. They start out too fast trying to keep up. But, their body fails them. It isn’t conditioned for someone else’s race.
Conversely, experienced runners know their own pace. They know when they can speed up when they have something in reserve to tap into. They know when they need to pull back and recover.
The experienced runner sees the run as a marathon not a sprint.
Life is a marathon. Those who are most successful remain undaunted by the ebbs and flows of life. They know their pace. They don’t try to do life like the proverbial Jones family. They keep their expenses, relationships, and commitments at a pace they can handle.
Action Step: Check your own life speed. In what areas are you running someone else’s race rather than your own?
Lesson #3: Partner with Others
One of the most enjoyable things about running for me is challenging and being challenged by others. Though I run alone, I am able to stay connected with other runners through my Nike running app.
Using this app, I am able to participate in monthly challenges with other runners. What will it be this month — 60, 75, 80 miles?
Other people get a lot of satisfaction from running in groups. Though running is ultimately an individual sport, it can have a social dimension that makes it more enjoyable. When you are able to directly or virtually partner with others, it creates an accountability system that propels you forward.
Great living is also about partnerships and accountability.
The people with which you partner says a lot about how well you will meet your life’s full potential. Jim Rohn famously said that “We are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time.” In other words, you are the average of your partnerships.
Personally, I created a mastermind group with an amazing group of high achievers to elevate my partnerships to the next level. What steps will you take?
Action Step: Identify one person with like interests to you and encourage them. They will likely return the favor.
Lesson #4: Measure Your Results
There is a well known adage that “what gets measured gets done”. Many runners, including myself, have devices that we use to gauge our running distance. I have a Garmin GPS watch in addition to my Nike app that capture my distance, pace, and other metrics. At any given time, I can tell you the miles I’ve logged in a month.
I know how fast I run 3 and 5 mile distances. Whether logged manually or using technological devices, many of us runners measure our results. Because we maintain measurements we can see the trends over time. We understand our behavior on the road. We can log the impact of changes in environmental conditions on our performance.
Most importantly, we know when we can move to the next level.
Life is also about tracking your results. A person who doesn’t track progress doesn’t achieve goals. Actually, this person probably never set very tangible goals in the first place. Without goals in life there is no next level for you. There is no pursuit of your purpose.
Action Step: Regardless of where you are in your life’s pursuits, take note (measure) the accomplishments that are taking you towards your life’s purpose. If you don’t see how these accomplishments are going to take you to the next level, odds are that they aren’t.
Lesson #5: Go Farther
When I first started running, I only ran a half mile. It took me a week before I got myself up to a mile. It was a slow mile. But, it was a mile.
After I consistently and comfortably ran one mile, I tackled two miles. Then, I started working to run two miles faster.
Then, I went to three miles, then four, and now five.
Each time, I pushed myself to go farther because I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone.
It is impossible to live a life to your full potential and stay in your comfort zone. You have to grow as a person. You have to form new relationships. You have to learn how to master new skills and overcome bigger obstacles.
None of these things are possible within the parameters of your comfort zone.
You have to go farther to find your life’s full potential. The challenge, however, is that it is nearly always impossible for us to push ourselves out of our comfort zone with those big life decisions. Typically, there are people and circumstances that push us—much to our chagrin.
Running and life are about going father than you have before. Your dreams and destiny are there for your pursuit. Run towards them. That is what life is all about.
Action Step: Always run towards your dreams. And, when your running days are over you will feel intrinsically satisfied that you got out of life just what you put in—just like Oprah said.