Lessons from my Century Tuna 5i50 Triathlon
There are many similarities between career and sports. As a matter of fact, the Spanish word carrera could mean a number of things which include: a chosen course of study, career or even a literal race. From a life management perspective, all the definitions seem to add up very well, where a career connotes constant training, work performance and competition.
There are these elements in a successful life and while one definition seems analogous to another whereby the final output is measured by performance, it pays to know what actually gets you there. How do you increase life performance and impact?
Just as competitive sports can provide insights on how performance is achieved, we must also realise that these tested principles can be applied to everything in life. This is a timely article as I just finished a Century Tuna 5i50 triathlon in June. On my way back from the event, I reflected on how the preparation and training that helped me perform during the actual event could be used to provide an understanding on performance in other aspects of my life.
High performance formula
There are three elements that form the equation of performance, namely nutrition, progressive overload (or training) and recovery. The same equation applies to life and career.
Here is a simple diagram of the system I am describing.
- Nutrition: This basically means feeding yourself with the right nutrients or inputs for your training and performance.
- Overload or training: This is when you are stretching yourself beyond your usual performance.
- Recovery: This is when you give yourself time to recover from stretching beyond your usual bounds.
It is easy to surmise that the quest for performance could often be tiring. Without balancing the three, one could easily burn out.
The old paradigm of “work hard/play hard” is overly simplistic as it lacks the element of recovery and rejuvenation.
It might come as a surprise, but most performance athletes know that one actually becomes stronger when one is recovering or resting. In other words, you do not get stronger when you are training.
Eating and training alone negate any performance sought as the body needs time to repair torn muscles during an overloaded training session.
While you are sleeping, the body synthesises proteins and releases growth hormones that build even stronger muscles to help you cope with the previous training overload.
You bounce back even stronger each time you finish a recovery cycle and this in turn allows you to take on an added load every time you train. Repeating the cycle over time produces measurable performance gains.
Work and life performance work exactly the same way. The most neglected aspect of performance is usually recovery and rejuvenation.
There is too much emphasis on actual work performance and on-the-job training and coaching that we usually fail to recognise that people tend to regenerate and rejuvenate outside of work. Rejuvenation helps people spring back into better performance at work and life; just as a spa treatment does wonders to tired muscles.
In my own racing experience, pre-racing jitters felt the night before could have led to sleeplessness and drastically decreased race performance even after months of structured training. Recovery and rejuvenation should be given the proper place within the context of managing performance. Why shouldn’t the same apply to work and life performance? We are, after all human beings. The same paradigm of training, nutrition and recovery carries over to work and life performance.
In one of my previous articles entitled When sleeping on the job is a good thing, I explained that time management is not as important as “energy management” and that taking some time to take a break and even sleep helps you recover for greater applied energy and performance at work. In Japan, napping at work is looked upon more positively as a result of the belief that people deserve it after working so hard. In fact, some even go to the point of faking it to look committed.
Not that faking anything could ever be positive but perhaps a proper perspective on the need to recover as part of managing performance deserves to be given serious attention. Recovery and performance are directly correlated with scientific evidence to prove that recovery helps us bounce back better each time.
Turn over a new ‘leave’
In a bigger scale, people ought to take their annual leave more seriously with the purpose of using this as an opportunity to bounce back stronger. Using available holidays to properly rejuvenate should be a purposeful undertaking.
Using some of the principles I have learned from athletic training combined with those I practise in my profession, here are a few helpful tips.
Make sure that your boss and teammates know you are about to take leave at least a few weeks earlier. Try to finish pending tasks and start tapering off on your succeeding commitments.Manage people’s expectations by letting them know that you are trying to stave off any work commitments that could affect your performance and their expectations while you are away. Establish ground rules for getting in touch with you while you are away.
Resting does not mean vegetating into oblivion. Use the opportunity to improve yourself by getting in touch with the things and activities that give you the most joy.Review your bucket list or perhaps set some learning objectives for yourself. Realign your activities with your values and life purpose. Plan your activities during your leave according to your life’s purpose and passion.Realign your mind, body and spirit in finding your purpose and passion. Cleanse yourself of any negative feelings that could only drag you down to depression.
- Explore and discover yourself
Use your leave to engage in activities that develop a greater understanding of who you are – your strengths, limitations and talents. Get a clear definition of who you are.Validate yourself by getting advice from others. Use the opportunity to travel to stimulate your mind in experiencing new things. Start a journal.Take note of your observations and reflections in a different environment. Perhaps this perspective of learning could be carried over to your career when you return.Enrich yourself with new experiences and knowledge that can make you improve as a person. Start a new health and fitness discipline that you can sustain.
Knowing who you are and what you have to offer, develop a personal strategy for yourself. Perhaps you need to be positioned in a better place to receive opportunities that give you personal and professional growth. Develop a plan on how to get there.You might also realise that if you cannot reconcile your values and passion with your work, then perhaps it is time for you to move on. Develop an exit strategy if you must. Invest in yourself in an effort to be better positioned and presented wherever and whenever you return.
Make sure that you are coming out of your leave with a renewed positive outlook on life. By then, you should have already processed, resolved and flushed out any negative issues you took in before your leave.Your mind, body and spirit must be renewed and rejuvenated before your return to work. If you do not come back stronger, then you might have just wasted your holiday.
Just as athletes are familiar with the process of training, nutrition and recovery, use the same principles in life and work. Continue to learn, train and push the envelope at work, and recover whenever you have the chance. Use opportunities for renewal as a tune-up or possibly an overhaul towards a meaningful and purposeful high performance life that you were meant to accomplish.