I have never been a runner. In fact, I’m not really a huge fan of exercise in general. My relationship with exercise has always been sporadic – I’ve played tennis, gone swimming, done a couple of years when I was really into spin classes, dabbled in yoga, but apart from a three month stint when I was 15, I’ve never been a runner. But recently I took up running and had an epiphany that changed the way I look at my business.
How running changed the way I think about my freelance writing business
You might be thinking, what does running have to do with writing? Bear with me.
I love the idea of running – its simplicity, the flexibility of it, but I’ve always found that almost as soon as I start running, I want to stop.
I’m someone who likes structure and courses to guide me through certain experiences so I downloaded the Couch to 5km app.
I first tried it last year and made it through the first couple of weeks, but about two weeks in I got sick with a heavy cold and stopped following the program.
I decided to give it another try five months ago (I know, it took me a while to get back on the horse), but I ended up injuring my ankle, which took me a few months to recover from.
All the while, I was telling myself, I’m just not built for running.
I thought: My injury, the fact that I don’t enjoy it, that I’m not good at it, that running is hard for me – these are all signs that I’m not meant to be a runner.
It’s easier to quit than to continue.
I was full of self doubt.
And then I hit a bump in my business.
The thing is, I didn’t handle this bump the way that I should have.
I’m not going to detail the issue here, but let’s just say that I was in a professional situation where I really should have stuck up for myself.
I had so much going on at the time that I took the path of least resistance rather than having a difficult and uncomfortable conversation with the other person.
For days afterwards, I was so cross with myself that I hadn’t been more courageous (like my friend Ginger Gorman) and stuck up for myself.
That experience made me determined to get a bit tougher, braver and stick with things even if they are difficult.
Just after this happened, I began the running program for the third time.
I’m now eight weeks in and a few days ago I ran for 28 minutes without stopping.
I know that for lots of you that will be a piddly achievement, but for me, it’s a big deal.
Not necessarily because I ran for 28 minutes, but because I kept going. I persisted. It hasn’t been easy or enjoyable but I’m trying to train myself to keep doing despite discomfort.
But this post isn’t about running. Well, not really.
As I’ve been running, I’ve had so much time to reflect.
In lots of ways, running is similar to being in business.
You have some false starts and in the beginning when you have a goal you want to achieve, it’s not easy.
You feel like you’re not making enough progress, you’re not getting there fast enough.
You look around at other people and they are seemingly doing so much better than you are.
It seems easy for them.
But the thing is, you can only ever run your race.
For me, running has been about making a commitment to myself and sticking to it.
And not taking the easy way out.
Does that mean when my alarm goes off at 6am that I jump out of bed with my arms raised ready to do victory laps of the block? Um, no.
It takes almost everything I have not to turn off my alarm, close my eyes and go back to sleep.
But you know what? I can feel that I’m developing a habit.
And it started with a small commitment. 30 minutes three times a week.
As I’ve written about before, I’m quite the procrastinator, so I have to prepare the conditions so I can’t make any excuses.
I choose to go running in the morning because I know if I leave it to the afternoon or evening I will have too much time to talk myself out of it.
I get my clothes out the night before so when my alarm goes off, I get up, get changed into them right away, have a drink of water and then I’m out the door.
And as I’ve been running, I’ve been thinking about the parallels with my business.
That small efforts add up.
Over the past seven weeks, I’ve covered over 90 kilometres (55 miles) of ground.
That’s just from walking/running three times a week for half an hour.
Imagine if you did that for your business.
Imagine if three times a week for half an hour you focused on just one thing you know you need to do to make your business better.
It might be following through with your marketing efforts, it might be getting your systems in order, working on your website or portfolio.
The things that you feel like you never have time for.
I bet you’d see results.
Maybe not fireworks and confetti results, but this is a slow burn.
This is about developing a habit that is eventually going to feel so automatic that you don’t notice that you’re doing it. Or rather, that regardless of whether you feel like doing it or not, you still do it.
That’s what I’m hoping for with my running.
In my seven years of being a freelance writer and having coached so many writers this year, and very often the thing that sets ‘successful’ freelancers apart is that they have stamina.
It’s not about going the hardest or the fastest but all about having the ability to keep on going.
Putting one foot in front of the other.
Making progress isn’t about doing something once and seeing results – it’s about putting in consistent effort and eventually you might be able to do it without running out of steam.
For me, sticking with running has taught me that if you have a plan and just a bit of commitment, you really can achieve your goals.
I really started running because I wanted to test myself. I wanted to see if I could do something I really didn’t want to do and grow from it.
I’m actually looking forward to the next time I need to have a difficult conversation, because I think my tolerance for discomfort has increased tenfold.
How do you go with difficult conversations? What do you think you could achieve if you did something three times a week for 30 minutes?