Whether it’s a colleague “making it to the finish line” on a major project, or a project manager “calling the shots” for a quick turnaround, we draw parallels between business and sport every day. Even as consultants, many of the processes we face in business equate to what we experience in our own athletic pursuits.
I’m a novice runner, amateur cyclist, and clumsy but enthusiastic Ultimate Frisbee player, and I can attest to the important role that my fitness pursuits have played in my growth as a consultant. Anyone who has ever laced up their sneakers and felt a droplet of sweat bead their forehead can tell you that what you learn in the gym, out in the water, or pounding the pavement (just ask our Montreal or Madano running clubs), teaches you important lessons to apply in your professional life.
I know that it’s been a great way to connect with my colleagues, and made me more cognizant of the habits that I can use both on the track and at my desk. Here are my favourite lessons that I’ve learned from exercise that apply to my work:
- Put the work in: In fitness and in business, goals are reached through a combination of hard work, commitment, time and energy – and you can’t take shortcuts. It can be challenging, inconvenient, and sometimes requires late nights and early mornings. But if you don’t put the work in, you won’t see the results.
- Be accountable: For many of us, life is too chaotic and busy to have exercise fit naturally into the empty cracks in our schedules, especially when the choice is between watching Netflix and going for a run in the rain. Sticking to a schedule, allowing room for error or the unexpected, and benchmarking along the way will get you to your end goal, and remember: if you don’t plan it, it won’t happen.
- Don’t fear the finish line: Exercise teaches you to believe in yourself. If you don’t start something because you think the end goal will be impossible, or you let the fear of failure get the best of you, you won’t try. Don’t let the loftiness of your goal scare you, or you’ll never even toe the line. If you don’t even try, you’ll never see what you were capable of.
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable: This is one of my favourite expressions from a local trainer, and never fails to make the toughest workout seem doable. Realizing that it’s supposed to be hard will help you appreciate the effort you’re putting in. Professionally, it’s safe to say none of us began our careers wanting to be unchallenged. We want to face obstacles, and overcome them. We want to learn, to grow, and be better at what we do. So when the going gets tough, remind yourself: you didn’t want it to be easy.
- Don’t give up: “Run if you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must. Just never give up.” This quote from Dean Karnazes is a favourite for many runners. In exercise and in work, you’re going to have some tough days, some days when everything goes your way and seems easy, and some days where it’s hard to even start. You learn that success can be as small as putting one foot in front of the other. Often just when you are ready to give up, you have a breakthrough. You will reach that finish line if you just keep pushing.
- You don’t have to do it alone: Whether it’s your first marathon or an especially challenging project, trying something new can feel overwhelming and isolating. During these times, it’s important to trust your plan, your hard work, and most importantly, your team. You may cross a finish line by yourself, but there’s absolutely no way you got there on your own. Guidance, support and help from a training buddy or a colleague is what truly carries us forward and delivers our best performance.
Fitness has so much to offer: it makes us physically healthier, keeps us mentally sharp, and teaches us about our world and how to work within it. Whether you’re new to exercise, a veteran, or just considering getting started, the lessons you learn from it are truly applicable to your professional life and will help you succeed. Just keep pushing!