The Real World
Making the shift from university life to the “real world” is tough. You thought 10AM classes were early? Try being up at 6:30 in the morning, 5 days a week. You thought 6 hours of class a day was a lot? Try 8-10 hour days. You have more responsibility, accountability and expectations. While some thrive in this transition, others don’t fare so well.
I did alright. I started my “real life” career working remotely, meaning that I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn, look presentable, and get myself to an office by 9AM. I did, however, have a ton of responsibility. As my career progressed, I shifted into the office environment, was client facing, responsible for large projects, and accountable for tight deadlines.
How did I survive?
I swear training for a marathon had a lot to do with it. I started training for my first half marathon about two years ago. It was exciting, sometimes overwhelming, exhausting and extremely rewarding. I not only learned a lot about the art and science of long distance running, but also about myself. Marathon training taught me numerous invaluable skills and lessons that have not only helped my personal life, but also my professional life.
1. Goal Setting
Training for a marathon teaches you about short and long term goal setting, and rewards you along the way as you reach those goals. At first, running a marathon was incredibly daunting. But as I reached my weekly long run goals in my training of 18km, 24km and 30km, as well as my pace goals, I gained confidence and saw how I was improving each week and realized that I would achieve my end goal of 42.2km. Setting short and long term goals, both personally and professionally can yield similar results. If you don’t set professional goals, one day you will get to work and wonder what you’v been working towards for the past 3 years.
2. Time management
We’re all busy. Between work, the dog, family, social life and personal hobbies, I sometimes feel like I don’t have a single night to just relax. It can be very overwhelming. Last night I was looking over my training schedule for the marathon this coming spring. For 18 weeks it has me running at least 8km a day – some days as much as 32km. And, there are a grand total of 7 off days during that time. My weekly kilometre totals range from 65km to 95km. At a 5:00 min/km pace, that’s about 5.5-8 hours of running per week. That doesn’t take into account getting ready for your run, stretching afterwards, refuelling, showering, etc. So how do you squeeze 6-8 hours of running into each week? You just do. You commit yourself, and you find a way to make it work. The same is true in the workplace. Being able to effectively and efficiently manage your time to reach your daily and weekly goals is crucial.
3. Daily Routine
When training for a full or half marathon, you’re running on average 5-7 days a week. Your run becomes a part of your daily routine. What was once a challenging aspect of my life is now as natural to me as walking my dog or brushing my teeth. Challenge yourself at work. Find something that you want to achieve, and work towards it. Engrain it into your daily work routine, and it will start to become second nature. Nothing happens overnight. But over time, you will work your way towards that goal.
When you’re training for a marathon, it’s just you. Sure, you can train with friends and you have moral support from others. But at the end of the day it is up to you to train, day in and day out. If you miss a day, well – that’s on you. And trust me, missing a day sucks. Not only does it set you back in your training, but if you’re like me, you feel really guilty. Marathon training like nothing else I have ever experienced in my life teaches you about responsibility and accountability. Sure you have supporters, but you are accountable for your training, for your runs and for your result. This is maybe one of the most valuable lessons running has taught me that I have applied to my personal and professional life.
5. Strengths and Weaknesses
Early on in my training for my first half marathon I learned that I was fast. As an aspiring marathon runner this was my greatest strength. Shortly after, I learned about my weaknesses. Long distances. Endurance. Hills. Cold. While it is important to know your strengths, it is even more important to know your weaknesses. Marathon running isn’t all about speed. Yes, it is a race, and the person who runs the full distance the fastest wins. But it is just as much about your endurance. Being able to maintain a consistent pace for over 40km. Being able to handle wind, cold, and hills. I’ve since learned how to manage my speed into a realistic pace. How to run up hills, and down hills. How to deal with cold, wind, snow and ice. How to run in the scorching hot sun and humidity. I’ve been realistic and identified where I was weak and worked on those areas. Professionally, do the same. If you’re not great at teamwork, focus on that. Have trouble managing your time? Work on it. It will not only make you a better employee, but a better person.
6. Health Benefits
Training for a marathon will improve your health. There is no doubt about that. When you’re running, you’re probably also making better food decisions. You have more energy and live a more positive life. Being a morning person, I usually do my weekday runs in the morning before work. This would set the tone for the rest of my day. Up early, run 10km, healthy breakfast and then work. I’m bound to have extra energy, productivity and positivity. And it shows.
This is just the start. There are countless ways that marathon training has helped me improve my personal and professional lives. My advice: if you’re interested in competitive running, sign up for a race. Start small if you want. Define a training schedule that fits your needs and stick to it. The process and experience of training for a race will change the way you live your life.