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6 Things I Learned From Running That Changed My Life

How running became my greatest mentor

Running across Joshua Tree 

I have always jokingly referred to running as my moving meditation. I never knew why I liked it, I just knew that it was challenging and it made me feel really good after. As my relationship with running began to evolve, I started pushing myself, signing up for races and learning more about sports nutrition. Looking back, I realize how much of an impact running has had on my life and how it has been one of my greatest teachers. Everything I learned while I was running has helped me improve the quality of my life and become a more successful entrepreneur. It hasn’t been until recently that I started making those connections. Here is what I have learned and how it can help you even if you are not a runner!

1. Posture

Running Lesson: When I started training for my first marathon my coach would constantly talk about posture. Make sure you know where your body is landing, how your feet are hitting the pavement and what your shoulders are doing. Whenever I run, I think about several things; Are my shoulders pulled down? Is my chest open? Am I breathing? Where is the power in my legs coming from? Am I squeezing my glutes, engaging my core and moving forward or am I falling into my legs and just crunching my joints? Those little shifts help me improve my endurance and have made my runs more enjoyable.

Life Lesson: Posture can change your emotional state. When you are sad and depressed you are more inclined to be hunched over, shoulders slumped and looking down. However, if you shift your body posture to be more open to happiness your mood will change. Stand up, roll your shoulders down your back, lift your arms in the air and smile. See if that doesn’t turn your mood around or at least take some of the edge off. Or better yet, if it’s in your practice, go for a run!

2. Fueling for Performance

Running Lesson: After getting my degree in nutrition and getting into a rhythm with running, I learned that food was more than just a meal, it was fuel. The way I ate before and after my runs impacted my performance, endurance and recovery. I wanted to learn everything I could about how to use food to improve my running and started to experiment. How did I feel when I ate carbs before and after a workout? What happened if I skipped food right after my run? I was very in tune with my body and knew how to fuel it to get the results I wanted.

Life Lesson: Food is medicine. The choices we make impact the way our genes express themselves, how our hormones respond and most importantly how the health of our gut microbiome functions. As an entrepreneur growing a business, focus and attention are critical. If you aren’t fueling your body for optimal brain performance and overall health, you will only be able to get so far. Make sure to eat a balanced diet of whole unprocessed foods, kick the garbage to the curb!

3. Language

Running Lesson: After my second marathon, I beginning to train for a third and totally burned myself out. I didn’t complete my third marathon and I desperately needed a break. I took that break and enjoyed every minute of it. When I was ready to run again, I found it difficult to get back into my routine. I compared myself to the runner I used to be. I kept trying to force myself to run. I was saying to myself, “you should be running.” This never inspired me to change. It wasn’t until I changed my language that I was able to get back on the road, and it felt so good. I shifted my language and started asking questions that had definitive answers. “Would it benefit me to run today?” The answer to this question was always YES. I would celebrate the runs I went on and would focus on the joy I gained from them versus my speed or distance.

Life Takeaway: Looking at the language used when talking to yourself can make or break you. Asking empowering questions, removing the questions with “should,” and being kinder to yourself have the ability to shift your emotional state. Instead, calling yourself a failure when something is challenging, start looking at what you do well in those situations. Our language is a powerful tool and we get to control the way we use it.

4. Stretch Goals

Running Lesson: After watching a video about Elon Musk, I learned the term “stretch goals.” A stretch goal seems impossible to achieve in order to raise your standards. That is how I felt when I signed up for my first marathon. How the heck was I going to run 26.2 miles? The most I had ever run in my entire life was 10 miles and the thought of adding 16 miles onto that was overwhelming. I broke it down into months, weeks and days and each day I did a little something to move myself closer to my goal. Then one day, I crossed the finish line. There is nothing more rewarding than setting a stretch goal and achieving it.

Life Lesson: Setting stretch goals takes you outside of your comfort zone and gives you the opportunity to do something you never thought was possible. The confidence gained by progress and achievement fuels you into the next activity. Set a goal, break it down into manageable chunks and get out there and achieve it!

5. Community

Running Lesson: I trained on my own and I trained with a group. Having a group of people to go through the ups and downs of training is a transformative experience. My running community became the people that really knew me. They saw me at my absolute worst and at my absolute best, and loved me through the process of it all. One of our training locations had a co-ed bathroom. If you can go number 2 next to one of your training buddies of the opposite sex, then you can do just about anything.

Life Lesson: Did you know that when women get together dopamine is released, a feel good hormone. This is called a “tend and befriend” response which highlights the power of community. Community is ingrained in our DNA as humans and finding a good group of people that love you no matter what, makes going through the trials and tribulations of life just a touch easier.

6. Working with an expert

Running Lesson: I ran races on my own and had a good time, but when I started working with trainer everything changed. Learning from someone who has gone through all the ups and downs of training and has solutions for everything, is a gift. My running coach for my second marathon was at the top of his game as an endurance athlete and trainer. He ran 100 mile races and knew not only the physical side of training, but also the mental side. He gave pointers for running stronger, faster and brought in other experts to go deeper into running techniques. It was truly a gift to my running career.

Life Lesson: Work with a mentor or a coach. Learning from someone else with the experience and knowledge can give you an advantage. Working with an expert allows you to grow in places you never knew existed.

Whether you are a runner or not, thinking about posture, fueling, language, stretch goals, community and working with an expert are relevant to everyday life. Think about areas where you feel stuck and want to move forward and try applying one of these tips. We all deserve to feel our best and reach our highest potential. 

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