5 Productivity Pitfalls Learned From Marathon Training

This is a guest post by Tor Contantino. I had the pleasure of meeting Tor at Catalyst this year. Tor Constantino is an ex-journalist, current public relations professional who has worked for CBS Radio and ABC, CBS television stations. He contributes to RELEVANT magazine, ChristianPost.com, SCL and his blog, www.torconbooks.com.

Here are 5 Productivity Pitfalls Learned From Marathon Training:

Prior to my 40th birthday I decided I wanted to run a full marathon. I found a training regimen, stuck to it and successfully completed my first 26.2 mile distance within the top half of finishers for my age group – with energy to spare!

That experience for me was akin to successfully finishing a large project at my job – on time, under budget with the desired positive result. I then decided that “marathoning” would be my hobby. I followed the same plan for five months and had a similar outcome with my second full marathon.

Then things changed.

Six months later I ran my third marathon. It took me nearly seven hours to finish – that was more than three hours longer than my fastest race – a productivity loss of more than 40 percent. I was one of the last people to cross the finish line. Every joint and muscle in my body ached. Plus, I was 20 pounds heavier running the third race than the previous ones.

What happened? I allowed my past successes to undermine my future objectives. Specifically, I fell into five productivity pitfalls that led to my diminished performance.

I assumed my performance would improve with each race. I mistakenly believed that simply committing to running the third race, coupled with my “proven” past success, would be enough. Unfortunately I didn’t take the necessary training steps to amp up my pace such as strength training and speed work. To avoid this productivity pitfall in other areas of life, ensure you conduct the necessary due diligence, preparation and secure proper training for the desired improvement.

I thought that I had cracked the marathon code. I had become too comfortable with the idea that 26.2 miles was the same everywhere – but the hills of Baltimore shattered that myth for me. Every marathon is different – from the elevation, terrain surface, weather and number of participants. Beyond racing, it’s critically important to remember that each project is distinct as well, offering unique productivity opportunities packed with its own challenges.

Overconfidence allowed past bad habits to resurface. I’ve been 10-20 pounds overweight most of my adult compared to standard body mass index charts for my height. During the training for my first two races I ate more and healthier fuel than normal to sustain my higher energy output. But for race three, I started eating more empty calories and processed foods which hindered my training. So much so that during the six month “training” window I had gained almost 20 pounds. I didn’t even notice, because I told myself I was training for a marathon and I deserved it. The takeaway here, make sure your project has the absolute best inputs whether it’s data, information or resources – give it the best chance to succeed.

I rationalized training less. As previously stated my diet changed dramatically which negatively impacted my ability to finish my long training runs. Most marathon training programs have 3-4 shorter maintenance sessions during the week that are less than six miles. These are intended to keep your body primed for the long runs that build a mile or two on the weekends, usually maxing out at 20 miles. Training for the third marathon, I was not able to finish a single long run of the program. I shrugged it off since I’d already run 26.2 miles – twice. This showcases the need to be honest with yourself and your team the moment problems start arising on a project or job, work to identify corrective measures and implement them as soon as possible so as not to jeopardize the final output.

I allowed modest success to leech my passion. Successfully running a full marathon not only requires a lot of physical discipline but a lot of mental discipline as well. For the first two races, I was more mentally prepared than I was physically. That’s the only way you can get your body to continue to keep moving through the fatigue and aches. I was passionate and committed to finishing the earlier races at a predetermined pace. But that passion ebbed in preparation for the third because I adopted a lazy “been there, done that” mentality, which hurt my performance. Avoiding this pitfall requires a conscious effort to find or create your passion about each project, because productivity will suffer absent passionate commitment.

The epilogue to this story is that my botched third marathon served as a painful wake call. I’ve gotten back on track and have since completed three more full marathons, plus a handful of half marathons as well as lost the extra 20 pounds of excess race weight. I’m living proof that avoiding productivity pitfalls can help you run the good race – literally.

Thanks Tor. Have you ever trained for something as intensely as you do for a marathon? What did you learn in the process?

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Ron Edmondson
Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping churches grow vocationally for over 10 years.