Have you ever run a marathon? How about a 10k? 5k? As a trainer, you’re very familiar with the effort needed to achieve this type of demanding accomplishment. The same tenacity, persistence, discipline, patience and training required to run a race are needed for developing a successful training business--especially if you want to have a life, too!
During the ancient Greek Games, runners ran with a lit torch. The winner of the race was not the first man to cross the finish line. Rather, the winner was the first to cross the finish line with his torch still lit.
Don't you think that running to keep the torch lit changed they way the competitors ran? Do you suppose they pulled over in high winds, took detours, slowed down and paced themselves with a double goal in mind? Today, we often run as fast and as hard as we can, wanting to be the first across the finish line--oblivious of the torch that is lit (or burns out) within our hearts. In our intense passion to ‘make a difference’, we often burn ourselves or our relationships out trying to win the race.
Balance is not a static place we try to get to, it’s a dynamic process that we consciously and unconsciously live out each day by our choices. To simplify one’s life does not mean to make it simple. It means living with clarity about what really matters. Keeping these priorities in the forefront of our decision-making helps us simply our lives and take charge of our health and business.
If you find yourself running on empty, stop (the toughest part) and evaluate what you’re spending your time, energy and money on. The following training principles and tips have worked for many trainers as well as myself.
TRAINING PRINCIPLE #1 Compete at the level that best suits your abilities and strengths - otherwise the price you pay for competing may be too great.
During the October Twin Cities Marathon my friend Alice was running a personal best time when she chose to pull out at the 19-mile mark with a knee injury. The medics said if she had finished the race, she might never run again. Pulling out was tough, but it was smart.
“You’re gone too much,” a mate or child says, “Even when you’re here, you’re not here.” What is the cost of continuing at your current pace?
TRAINING TIP: Write down the three things you value most in life. Next, look through your checkbook and daytimer to see if your choices match your stated values. Ask a spouse/significant other, close friend and acquaintance what three things they see you valuing the most. Are the lists congruent? We can claim we value relationships above schedules, health above money, and peace of mind above notoriety, but choices don’t lie.
TRAINING PRINCIPLE #2: Train for the race you intend to run in. Avoid overtraining.
If you are running a 26.2 mile marathon, you will train differently than a 10K(6 miles). The time commitment will vary, as will the intensity of the physical effort. Decide at what level you can best compete in the training business. If running a full marathon is impossible given your current limitations or chosen lifestyle, compete in shorter (less demanding) races.
“Less demanding” may mean cutting back on clients, getting help with aspects of your business or finding other ways to limit your commitments and set clear boundaries around yourself. Overtraining in your professional life will not enhance your personal life. There will be seasons of life or periods that require concentrated effort. These are the exceptions, not the rule.
TRAINING TIP: Many trainers choose a certain number of clients per week or month that determine their upper workload limits. You may also want to have regular “no-appointment” days or nights. Make your own list of how you can avoid “overtraining.”
TRAINING PRINCIPLE #3 Listen to your body to avoid injury.
Athletes are very good at proprioception. They sense and relate well to their bodies as it relates and functions in the world around them. They know how loose or tight their muscles are. They listen to their level of fatigue, energy, balance and coordination. As a trainer, you may also have developed these skills.
If an athlete ignores fatigue and stress symptoms his/her performance diminishes. Even though most trainers are well aware of this, it isn’t uncommon for trainers to ignore their own signals of strain.
Before most crises, we have symptoms that indicate something is not right. It may be ongoing headaches, backaches, overeating, over drinking, fighting with loved ones or a loss of creativity. Our bodies and emotions are great about signalling for help. Unfortunately, even trainers often ignore the signals and medicate the symptoms or keep on going, hoping problems will resolve themselves.
TRAINING TIP: Slow down, so you can catch up. It takes time to be healthy, but it takes even more time to recover from illness. For example, it makes more sense to delve deeper and expand business with existing clients than conjure up new ones. The same is true for relationships. It takes courage to slow down and explore solutions. Habits that diminish our physical and emotional health are hard to break, but if neglected, ruin our professional performance.
TRAINING PRINCIPLE #4 Flexibility is essential to effective training and performance.
In sports inflexibility causes injuries. Flexibility enhances performance. In life, the same is true. Rarely does a day unfold as planned. Clients need more of me than I have to give, vendors fail to perform as expected, clients cancel coaching sessions and pay accounts late. Our kids have performances at inconvenient times; parents need our help more often than anticipated, etc. Life is unpredictable. How flexible or resilient you are will determine the amount of imbalance you will experience. The baboo plant survives the deadliest of storms because it bends with high winds.
TRAINING TIP: Practice flexibility. Physical and emotional flexibility prevents injuries to our bodies and relationships. Are you multi-dimensional? Have you become so business-focused that your only interests or friends are involved in the training or fitness business? Remember what it was like to have friends because they were fun—not just because they made good contacts? Being ‘other-centred’ also helps you remain flexible during challenging times. When in doubt, be like bamboo!
TRAINING PRINCIPLE #5 Get a coach
A coach guides, directs, encourages, corrects and inspires an individual or team. In the Olympics, there isn’t a single competitor without a coach. Coaches bring the experience and objectivity we lose in our everyday lives.
Even coaches need coaches! For example, I am part of a success team where I arrive hungry/starved for business advice, while others on the team come for personal balance and accountability. We counsel, encourage and coach one another.
TRAINING TIP: Hire a personal or business coach to help you meet the goals that have eluded you so far.
TRAINING PRINCIPLE #6 Run one step at a time.
Small means different. Small does not mean insignificant. Success is relative. An author of 15 books I know doesn’t feel he’s “made it” yet. I’d feel pretty darn good finishing the one I’m working on.
We all have to do the ‘little things’ first to achieve our own success and balance. This powerful statement woke me up: “God doesn’t give big assignments to a small character.” I need to develop my character in order to handle the bigger assignments when they come my way.
TRAINING TIP: What small steps can you make to achieve bigger goals? Is there a marketing or networking step you can take? Can you make one additional call each week? Or, find one additional insight to give each of your clients today? Is there a professional event you should attend, or an inspirational audiotape you’ve been meaning to listen to? Don’t try to take too many steps at once, or you’ll burn out before the finish line.
TRAINING PRINCIPLE #7 Pace yourself.
Ever find yourself saying, “I have to get this done by…” and then realize you alone are pushing the deadline. “I have to create my own personal training video…I have to get that speaking engagement or six new clients…I have to make 50 phone calls a day…”
You don’t have to do anything. You choose to do it. You choose what you eat or don’t eat, you choose to sit, ride or walk. You choose to get out one more letter instead of call home. You choose to have balance or imbalance.
It’s all about personal responsibility and choice. You decide to limit the sessions you give. You decide to schedule exercise time for yourself, not just for your clients. You choose quiet time to begin or end your day.
My greatest secret to successfully balancing my life is found in these quiet moments that set the day’s tone. No, it’s not easy to do, but it’s essential for me to live well and perform my best professionally.
The ultimate question for every trainer is, “What is really important to me?” Train smart, live well. Run your personal best time. Just don’t short-change yourself, your clients or the people who share your personal life. When you cross the finish line, cross it with your torch burning bright.