In the last few days I’ve been thinking a lot about the myriad parallels between running and life, both of which, in my opinion, can be competitive pursuits for many of us. The idea I’ve spent the most time on is on the importance of slowing down. As a coach, it’s rare that I need to kick my athletes in the ass; it’s more the case that I have to encourage them to reign it in a bit, whether that’s slowing down their easy days, dialing it back a bit on their key workouts (or, in some cases, both), getting more sleep, actually taking their recovery days seriously, or scheduling an appropriate amount of down time after a key race. Usually, within a few weeks of buying into this approach, we start to see some improvements: they’ve got more energy for training, they’re hitting workouts more effectively, and/or they’re recovering better between key sessions. Give it a little more time and the real breakthroughs begin to take place: they’re healthier for longer periods of time, training more consistently than ever, enjoying it in a way they haven’t before, and performing at a higher level than they ever thought possible.
The competitive pursuit of life tends to work in much the same way. Most of us, myself included, have been wired to work harder and keep pushing to get where we want to go. And for a while, this is the right approach: you need to hustle hard for a while so that you can get up to speed and build necessary momentum. But eventually you realize that it’s not sustainable, especially as you age. Yes, you still need to go hard, but probably not as hard, or as often, as you think. Over time, usually through screwing it up a few times, you learn to accept that if you want to stay in the game and enjoy what you’re doing that you need to slow down, shut off, and/or step away so that you can really bring it when it matters most. Being “on” all the time, pulling all-nighters, working through every weekend, or never going on vacation aren’t signs that you’re more committed to your craft, they’re indicators that you’re probably overdoing it and not prioritizing things in the right way.
Whether it’s running and/or other areas of our life, the truth is most of us would likely benefit from slowing things down a bit. Zooming out even further, it’s worth remembering that in both running and life we’re trying to play the long game. It takes years to really develop as an athlete, understand what you’re capable of, and realize your potential. The same holds true for cultivating meaningful relationships, building a career, gaining influence, or doing anything else that is truly worthwhile. The good shit takes time—it won’t happen overnight. Don’t let the smoke and mirrors of social media cloud your perspective. I share all of this not because I’m perfect or have it figured out—far from it, in fact. I need the reminder to slow down as much as everyone else.