Lessons of an athlete: how to perform at your best in the long run
I run. I run fast. As a US Olympian, I have competed in the 10,000m, marathon and 5,000m distances at three different Olympic Games. At 41, I still enjoy racing at a competitive level for the B.A.A. High Performance Team. I don’t like to take it slow. The same is true for many other people living in the large cities of this world. Juggling demanding jobs, family and social life results in many pushing the limits of their capacity. What keeps them awake at night is thinking about how they can keep their energy level high at all times. The answer is pretty simple and I have learned it through sports.
I regularly host training groups at the adidas Boston RunBase, the first of its kind in the US. It opened its doors in mid-April prior to the 119th running of the Boston Marathon. Located near the marathon finish on Boylston Street, the RunBase aims to be a successful retail space while also acting as a community hub for all types of runners. It is equipped with showers and locker rooms to help further that feeling of being a home base for training. The people I meet at the RunBase are a diverse group, because Boston has a unique age demographic. On the one hand, it is a college town with 20% of the population between ages 18 to 24. This young urban crowd is very tied to social media and is looking for fun, social events. On the other hand, Boston also has an older crowd that is very tied to tradition.
Hosting group training runs and events provides the opportunity to connect with runners of all ages and abilities. This spring, I hosted a series of 10k training runs for women on Saturday mornings leading up to the B.A.A. 10K on June 21st. I kept the workouts fun and relaxed, taking the women to different parts of the city that are close by but they maybe didn’t know about beforehand. It gave them an opportunity to do an organized workout and have company while doing it. Women of all ages showed up for the Saturday runs, from college students to women in their seventies. Many were beginner runners and were very grateful for the group training.
Besides the actual running, I also gave them the opportunity to tap my knowledge to further fine-tune their training plans.
How does taking it slow make you faster? My athletic career showed me that achieving my best does not mean running as fast as I can all the time. In fact, it’s counter-productive and makes me slower. I think this is universally true for business and life. Nobody can sustain a constantly high energy level and stay healthy. That is quite tough to understand when you are young and ambitious – believe me, I have been there. Instead it’s about having a clear game plan to achieve high-level performance long-term:
1. Set yourself a realistic goal and work towards achieving it
2. Celebrate your success
3. Take a break to relax and regroup
4. Connect with other people to learn from their experiences
5. Set yourself a new goal
What is your strategy to perform at your best in sport, life or business? Is taking it slow an option for you? I would love to hear from you!