In Pursuit of Profit
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The Boston Marathon. Even non-runners understand that it carries a certain prestige that other races simply don’t. But aside from its cachet in the sporting world, it held a special place in my heart.
As a long-time runner it had been on my bucket list for 20 years. Along with most other runners, I never managed to qualify. In fact, after trying and trying I had never even come close. I could have counted myself out and just given up. I mean, I had failed many times before and I certainly wasn’t getting any younger.
Something interesting happened as I got older. I actually found myself getting closer to qualifying. With age I learned more about myself – about my body, about my mindset, and about my capabilities. Along the long, hard training road I learned numerous lessons that I have applied to many different areas of my life both personally and professionally.
Here are my top five lessons. Hopefully they will inspire you to achieve your dreams as well!
1. Aging has its Advantages
To qualify for Boston, you must run a qualifying marathon at or below the times specific to your age group. Due to COVID, the number of Boston participants was 1/3 less and so the race filled up more quickly with the cut off time about 7 minutes lower than normal. . Lucky for me, my time was low enough. That was never the case when I was younger but getting older has its advantages.
As we age, often the knees and hips are the first to cause most to stop running, hence the number of runners shrinks as our ages increase. Since I didn’t overexert myself running every day, my joints are healthy and I was able to keep up the training.
I feel the same benefits of aging have helped me in business. When I look around the room, I’m usually one of the more senior faces (and being a woman, I tend to be one of the few senior female faces). I use that to my advantage by providing insight that I learned from my vantage point.
2.Learn to Breathe
Due to COVID and the race getting delayed again and again, the time between my qualifying marathon and Boston was 35 months. This posed the challenge of trying to keep my level of fitness for this extended period of time. It was a rollercoaster and stressful. Plus, I had to run with a face covering (again, COVID). All things combined, it was a struggle to stay motivated because I found myself struggling to hit the paces in my training plan and I just felt generally fatigued.
…That is until I learned to breathe! I discovered The Wimhof Method and it completely changed my training and life in general. When my training called for sprints, tempo runs and Vo2max ping,, I would intentionally slow my breaths and count them, focusing on counting in for 3 and out for 3. It’s amazing how my body responded by pushing through and running faster than I ever have before. I also practiced a breathing sequence prior to every run as well. My body and mind were finally in synch.
In business I had always had a terrible fear of public speaking. Using the Wimhof breathing techniques prior to presenting in a large group, I now find my body and mind are relaxed. This method makes it much less stressful, and I do so much better.
3. Don’t Always Believe the Experts – Trust Yourself!
Most marathon training plans prescribe 5 or 6 runs per week, which works out to be about 15-30 hours per week. I tried many times to stick to these plans, and either ended up with an injury, lack of time to fit in the runs, and general burn out.
Contrary to the experts, and general professional advice, I came up with my own plan of only 4 runs per week or about 12 – 20 hours per week. This went against everyone’s advice. This schedule allowed time for stretching, strength work, and recovery time, as well as time for family and friends (and of course work!). But the most important part is that it allowed me to stay injury-free and kept me excited for the runs as I knew I had to make each one count!
The same goes for business. If people say it should be done this way, I question that. Is there a different or more effective way to get the same result? It doesn’t always work out, but at least I tried, and my coworkers appreciate that I bring new ideas to the table.
4. Rest Makes us Stronger
Running 4 days a week allowed 3 days of recovery. Again, most experts say that’s too many days off. For me, allowing my body to recover fully, made me stronger and faster, plus injury-free. It was key to being able to continue training for 35-month long haul up to the race.
The same goes for life in general. Take a break from work to walk the dog or work in the garden. Take that much needed vacation. Allowing your mind to fully rest and recover will make you stronger and better in every area of your life.
5. Ask Advice from Unlikely Sources
When we were in line to get on the buses to drive the Boston course before the race, I was secretly disappointed to find myself on the bus with a guide who did not appear like a Boston marathoner. To my surprise, our guide turned out to be an accomplished runner with 12 Boston marathons! He knew the course better than anyone on that bus. He gave me the best advice about pacing the course specifically to go slow on the early downhills. When I got back to my hotel room, I recalculated my paces. This is a big deal to do the day before a big race. The result: I ran the race faster than planned and finished feeling amazing. In fact, I finished in the top 15% of my age group!
In life and business, don’t always rely on advice from people who appear to be experts. Listen to the real experts – the people who have done it over and over. Be open to new information and learn from other’s experiences. A different perspective may make your journey easier.
Remember, all of these lessons can be applied to any part of your life – whether you want to run a marathon or succeed in business. Every day the me that my family, friends, and colleagues see is a sum of all these experiences and the life lessons I have learned along the way. I find that many of the lessons that running taught me have helped me grow professionally and I love helping facilitate that for others by sharing my story. Hopefully you found something helpful to take away from this as well.
About the Author
Jen Girard has more than 25 years of professional services experience focused primarily in consulting, client service, engagement management, and talent acquisition. She has served clients ranging from startups to those in extensive growth stages, and those experiencing M&A transactions. Her industry focus has included technology, real estate, construction, transportation, manufacturing, and distribution.
At CFO Selections, Jen’s role is focused on helping businesses succeed and grow by matching each company’s unique financial needs with the right resources and solutions.