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7 Life Lessons Learned From Being A Runner

7 Life Lessons Learned From Being A Runner
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Running seems so simple. You just put one foot in front of the other over and over again really fast. Who would have ever guessed there was more to it? Yet, in its elementary lack of complexity, you stumble into the profound with each swish of your shorts. If you listen, running can tell you about yourself in a way that few things can. The more you embrace each mile, the more you understand that the wisdom found in the quiet, dew-filled morning runs is unique and spectacular, all wrapped up in one heart-pounding combination.

So how can running teach you about life? Read on. Then lace up your shoes and see what you can learn!

1. Synergy isn’t just a buzz word; it’s how you get better!

Synergy simply means that 1 +1 = 3. That is, you are so much more powerful working with others than alone. If you have been a runner long, you know that we form a global community. I can pass another runner on the road, or find out someone is a runner, and we instantly share a connection that warrants getting up at the crack of dawn to meet a total stranger and go pound the pavement together. Because, if you’re a runner, then you instantly get a huge part of me—no explanation necessary. What better way to start a friendship?

Runners support each other. They push each other. They unite over running together. You find you become so much faster when you are surrounded by the sound of other feet slapping the sidewalk right next to you. With a good support group at your heels, the miles fly by, the mountains become molehills, and you suddenly discover that you are faster than you ever thought possible.

2. Your body is capable of more than you ever dreamed.

When I first started running in high school track, I never dreamed I would run farther than the few miles needed to train for the mile race in the track event. I thought a 5K race was a huge deal! Now, I’ve completed a marathon and I am training for my first Ironman triathlon; which has you running a marathon after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles to warm up first.

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I can honestly say that finishing my marathon made me realize that endurance running wasn’t something only obtainable by those born to run. Regardless of genetics, any healthy person can become a distance runner as long as they put in the proper training time. Your body can do truly impressive feats when given the right training and nutrition.

Now, when I drive distances, I think, “Hey, if my car broke down right now, I could run that!” It’s actually an empowering concept!

3. Your competitor isn’t the one beside you; it’s the one inside you!

Sure, it’s nice to outrun other runners. I like winning my age group just as much as the next girl. But, the real war is inside. It’s that voice that tells you it’s too dark, cold, and windy to get out of your unbelievably soft, warm bed and go for an early morning run. It’s the very sound, logical whisper that tells you it’s better to slip on your slippers then your running shoes after work. After all, you’ve worked hard all day. You deserve a break. If you do manage to overpower that siren of sleepiness and make it out the door, it’s that whimper nagging your mind the entire run that you’re going to get heat stroke if you don’t turn around right now and go back and get a nice, cold lemonade.

If you want to become a serious runner, you have to learn to silence that voice. I can promise you, running a marathon is not easy. It hurts. And, if you don’t learn to defeat the enemy in your head, your feet will never take you very far.

After running, I see that enemy inside everywhere. When I want to eat healthier, she’s tempting me with the junk food. When I want to be productive, she’s arguing how a movie would be a nice way to relax.

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Every time I want to move against the current of easy, my inner enemy wants me to stop struggling and just let life happen to me. But, even a dead fish can swim with the tide. I want to live! And that means defeating my mental monster and giving up what’s easy to discover that you can push past the pain to the impossible. There’s a war inside, but for now, I’m winning!

4. You are what you eat!

When I’m seriously training, I think about every meal as it relates to my run. Are my food choices helping me or hindering me? You see, some things I eat will reduce soreness, strengthen my body in muscle repair, and help keep me lean so I can cover distance more easily. Other foods will slow me down, make me feel sick when I’m running, cause me to pack on pounds, or loose my immunity to illness. While I don’t remember every amazing thing that I’ve tasted, I do remember what it feels like to lose my fitness, endurance, and health. It is directly related to my daily eating habits.

When you run, you can easily see a direct link between what goes in your mouth and what energy pulses through your feet. Once you see how much better you can perform with clean eating, you start to see a connection with how food affects the rest of your life too. I now understand how my food choices impact my mental clarity, performance, confidence, mood, and relationships. I never would have seen the causation so clearly without running.

5. A little grit is required in life for anything worthwhile.

If you want to get better at running, you have to stress your body. In order for your muscles to get stronger, they first must be slightly damaged through exertion. Then, your body builds the muscle fibers up stronger to handle the increased workload. The damaged muscles are what cause you to feel sore after a good workout.

While you should be responsible and manage how much pressure you put on your body to avoid injury, you can’t get better without adding in some stress.

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This also translates to other areas of life. People who are successful are usually so because they didn’t shy away from hard work and a little pain. They stepped outside their comfort zone. They put in the extra elbow grease that most won’t exert to reap the rewards many will never achieve.

While gaining fitness in running and life is always an uphill battle (especially if you’re doing hill repeats), the view from the top is spectacular! You learn you really can live a life of no limits, and it’s worth every painful moment needed to reach your full potential.

6. People who are better than you should motivate you, not intimidate you.

When I’m training, I love to seek out people who are just a little faster than me. It helps push me to catch up to them. I also love watching elite athletes race, because I mentally envision how they move when I’m running and strive to replicate that. Emulating someone who has reached higher levels helps keep me excited about improving, and to remember to never be content with a stagnant life.

Your life is always fluid as well. You can either be moving towards good or bad in your relationships, health, fitness, career, and mentality with every choice. For me, running is like the canary in the coal mine. I can see results very quickly for my decisions. In other areas of life, it takes more time for your choices to produce change. But, if I want to become better, I need to surround myself with people who know how to get me there. After all, who better to show the way than those who have already been there before me?

7. You begin to see potential in everyone.

Fitness is attainable to everyone, no matter what your waist size or body fat percentage. When I see an unfit person sweating and slogging through a walk / run workout on the track, I know if they keep at it in a few months, they will be transformed into a different person. A fit, fast, confident runner is being chiseled out from their exhausted attempt to move with each trembling step.

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How do I know this? Because I’ve completed that metamorphosis a few times myself. I’ve gone from an overweight, depressed couch potato to a sleek, fit marathoner and triathlete. The great thing about running is that you don’t have to be incredibly talented, just determined.

And, honestly, isn’t that how we should view everyone? As a potential success story in progress? While someone may not live up to the stereotype currently, it doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be successful when they put some actionable work behind their dreams.

Running mirrors life in so many philosophical ways. I think that’s why I love it so much. As I dig deeper into each mile, I learn so much more about myself. With each pair of running shoes I wear out, I gain a deeper perspective on life’s journey.

Plus, running gives me a valid excuse to collect copious amounts of psychedelic shoes! And, really, what girl could resist that?

More by this author

Sarah Hansen

A corporate-sales professional turned entrepreneur

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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