Though it may not seem like it when we’re drenched in sweat and our legs feel like lead, marathon running is as mental as physical. When we’re exhausted, continuing consists of mind over matter. This takes enormous mental power. Once developed, this skill can be transferred from the racetrack to the boardroom.
Training for a marathon is an ideal place to improve the skills needed to achieve success in business: strategy, clear objectives, and a positive attitude. These techniques are also crucial to completing a marathon. Without them, even the most fanatically fit athlete is doomed to fail. Through physical training we can develop and master these skills.
In business, investment and marathon, a well-planned strategy is essential. In each situation, we must commit to our plan, yet be willing to adapt it if it isn’t working. Though strategy can be complex or simple, with our first marathon it’s best to choose the latter. Simplification is a great way to remove self-imposed pressure. This can mean concentrating on maintaining a steady heart rate or pace. We need to do this during both training and our marathon, since sustaining this relaxed-focus helps remove the barrier of performance anxiety.
The strategy of shifting attention to our body’s sensations is called association, and it’s a tactic used by many elite athletes. The self-focused introvert may find this more comfortable than directing attention outside. The outgoing extrovert, however, may be more suited to the disassociation technique. This involves turning our awareness outward. According to a report published in The Journal of Sports Psychology: “ Considerable evidence exists to link disassociation strategies with increased pain tolerance during endurance tasks.” Disassociation may also useful during a dull seminar, or an extended visit from our mother-in-law.
Just as business meetings have objectives, so should your marathon training. Whatever your personal goal, it needs to be specific, measurable, and reasonable. Similar to our professional life, these can be accomplished by choosing to focus on either the process or the outcome. In our business life a process goal would be improving our customer relation skills, while an outcome goal would be making X amount more dollars. For your first marathon, process goals are better. Since meeting them may be as simple as adhering to our training schedule, they guarantee success. As we all know, success produces self-confidence. Developing this gives us courage to challenge ourselves to achieve greater victories. Outcome goals, like beating a rival, are more risky. Since external factors can interfere with them, they are harder to succeed at.
Maintaining a positive attitude is crucial to accomplishment. Without belief in eventual success, we’ll quit at the slightest obstacle. This is true both in career and running. Everyday, marathon training teaches us persistence through discomfort. This is essential. Without challenging ourselves we can never progress to higher success. Besides the things we tell ourselves, a positive attitude also includes motivating inner images.
Many superior athletes use mental imagery, or guided visualization. These include Marion Clignet, 1996 and 2000 silver medallist on the French cycling team, and 6 times Masters winner Jack Nicklaus. Medical experts have also tested this method. A recent article published in the Journal of Sports Science states: “The power of mental imagery in sport performance has been widely noted. Keep your thinking and mental rehearsing of your upcoming races positive and it may contribute to new personal records.”
The importance of mental imagery is also noted in Olympic runner Jeff Galloway’s Marathon: You Can Do It. In this book, Galloway encourages us to rehearse parts of our marathon every day. He says that this will help us prepare for and find solutions to problems we may encounter and help us “tough it out.” This strength doesn’t end in out legs and lungs. Finishing a marathon makes us more tenacious, helping us bring home “the gold” in business.