I recently took part in a charitable event called Challenge 104.8. The event involved running four marathons over two days (the 104.8 miles of the name) and was in support of some charities: Wings for Warriors, Bosom Buddies, SPARKS and The Not Forgotten Association.
Besides the undoubtedly worthy charitable reason for running, it’s also been a great excuse to find time to train and achieve a high level of fitness – but I have also found it a great activity for mulling over business needs and strategies.
In fact, I would recommend that anyone in business tries physical training (it doesn’t just have to be running) because it focuses the mind. Personally, I have found that the petty distractions that plague us in the office on a daily basis melt away with every mile and enable me to concentrate on the bigger picture.
I’ve found some great ways in which physical training can help with business planning. Here’s a run-down on what you can learn from endurance and fitness training as a business owner…
Dedication… that’s what you need
If there’s one thing I hear over and over again when I tell friends and colleagues about my training routine, it’s how impressed they are by my dedication. Building the endurance required for a marathon means putting in the hours every day.
That’s no different to the dedication needed to run a business. There’s no room for excuses. Things have to be done.
Business owners know this as the hum of a high functioning start-up. It’s when things are buzzing. Everything is humming. It’s that: ‘It’s working!’ feeling.
I can feel this rhythm during certain core training and running sessions. It’s when my legs are moving just right, when I’ve got the right amount of energy and when I’m firing on all cylinders. Things are flowing.
When I have that rhythm, I try to memorise what it feels like. It’s what I’m striving for every day as an athlete and as a business owner.
Go big or go home
I’ve run 5k distances before, but I didn’t understand what real training was until I committed to do a marathon. You can build a little start-up, but if you’re going to build then go big. Go really, really big. Don’t be limited by the confines of your imagination.
To train for an ultra-endurance event requires a plan. It means committing to that plan and sticking to it. There’s no: ‘I’ll just get that workout in tomorrow’ or: ‘I’ll reschedule that Saturday long run’ because there’s a limited amount of time between now and the event.
The same holds true for business. Great pitches, great products and great teams don’t just appear overnight. They take time to build. It’s that commitment to investment of time that creates value.
Training for a marathon is like making deposits in the bank over time: you have to deposit enough so you can make a withdrawal on the day of the event. There’s no cramming. You can’t just put it all off and do it at the last minute. It means hard work every day.
Many people comment on my dedication and discipline. Yet training is something I look forward to. I can’t wait until my next workout. I look forward to long runs. These are not activities I dread — quite the opposite. I draw inspiration from them, much as I draw inspiration from building great teams and great products.
Training 90 or more minutes five days a week means time really matters. Lounging around with friends is a great luxury when time is limited. It means that when people are late or fail to deliver on their commitments, I think really hard about their commitment and planning and whether they need to address these facets in their working life.
Energy and drive
Endurance activities require the right fuel and constant fuel. So does business. You have to feed the engine at the right time — too much fuel too soon and you’ll bog things down. Wait too long to feed the engine and you’ll run out of energy and grind to a halt.
You might think that training for a marathon is an external goal — something that requires external validation or motivation. It isn’t. I started training because I wanted to get back in shape. I didn’t want to stay overweight. I wanted to be operating at my personal peak. I wanted to push my limits in business and in life.
I’m by no means a natural athlete – anyone who knows me knows that. Those that don’t can see that. A commitment of this level cannot come from the outside — it must come from within. The same holds true for building a game-changing business. It must come from an internal desire to operate at your absolute best and instil that spirit in your team.
Many people view marathons as an individual event. That is certainly true on the day of the event, when although there is encouragement from friends and fellow racers, it all comes down to you and how much and the kind of preparation you’ve put in.
That said, every moment leading up to the event is a combination of individual and team effort. Without my friends, the challenge would be nearly insurmountable, not to mention incredibly lonely. With them, it is social, fun and inspiring.
Break things into manageable pieces
I don’t think about a 20-mile run as 20 miles. Sometimes I break it into quarters. Or I think in segments — easy first six miles followed by a tough hill climb, then an easier 10. The same is true in business. You have to build success in steps.
The thing about redefining your limits is that every time you break a limit and reach a new one, you build more confidence.
That confidence lets you break the next limit and the next limit and on and on. Redefining your limits is what makes great athletes — and great business owners and managers.
Incidentally, going back to the Challenge 104.8 event, it has managed to raise £8,000 so far – so thank you to all those that have donated.