Why running is good for your career

Everyone knows it's smart to exercise, but there are some specific ways in which being a runner can make you a smarter worker.

Kelvyn Steggles, a leadership development consultant and facilitator and 14-time marathoner (2hrs 56min PB), identifies six key cross-over traits between your career and running.


Successful running and good work habits require having the discipline to do stuff you don't necessarily want to do, says Steggles. “For example, as a runner the last thing you want to do some mornings is get out of bed to train. You've maybe had a late night or the kids have kept you up yet you have a goal that drives you to do it. There might be people you are going to meet that depend on you being there.

“Being a runner equips you better to get on with doing the tough stuff at work and being a reliable team member. It's about having short-time horizons for the bad stuff but knowing tomorrow will be better in the long term: 'I've got a horrible hill session today but tomorrow I'll get to do the speed session that I love'.”

Sticking to a training/project plan

Steggles says there are two different personality types in the workplace: those who tackle a project day by day, week by week, month by month or the personality types who do a lot in the first few days then nothing till there's pressure to deliver just before deadline.

“As long as they deliver, it doesn't matter whether they're in the second category, but it doesn't really work for a team in the workplace and it seriously pisses people off. If you're a boss who likes structure and likes deliverables along the way, that's not going to work either.

“Runners who have a long-term goal like a marathon or half-marathon need to be in the first category of personality type. They need to be able to stick to a training plan. Leaving preparation to the last weeks is going to increase their risk of injury and they just won't have the mileage in their legs to pull off the race.”

Time management skills

“If you're doing a marathon you have to be really honed to get your training in,” says Steggles. “Do you run to work, or perhaps at lunchtime? If you're really committed, you do it. This hones your time management skills at work as well, making the two directly complementary. You get more out of life if you're busy and really committed to what you're trying to do.”


This is about having something in mind, like a marathon, and going for it and believing you can deliver. “Runners have what I call the stretch factor,” says Steggles. “In running we push ourselves pretty much every race to do a PB [personal best]. In the workplace there are parallels: do you push for coming in under budget or to deliver early, or can you do a bit more in some way? That's a mindset; it's about having a bit of self-competitiveness and self-efficacy.


“Also, the marathon is so long-term that no matter what time you set yourself to complete it in, you need interim goals along the way to prove you're on track. In a work context, monthly or quarterly reviews to see how you're going are similar to having interim training goals. For those of us who like feedback, it's a way of seeing how we're progressing.”

Reflection and resilience

Runners who have set themselves a goal tend to check in regularly on how well they are doing physically, mentally and diet-wise, says Steggles. “By taking time out to think about those things, it allows room to replan and reset goals if you get injured, for example, or if any other impediments come up, which invariably they do.

“From a leadership perspective in the workplace it's important to check in on how well you're doing, how well you're leading and how well your team is doing. It's not just a case of 'here's a plan we're going to follow', it's 'lets adjust along the way as we need to according to circumstances'. For leaders it's about responding to what's going on around them.”

You acquire resilience from the work environment that you can use in your training and vice versa, says Steggles. “Things never go quite right so you use one to play up against the other. The mark of a good leader and good marathon trainer is to be able to correct your path when adversity strikes.”

Clearer decision-making

“Often whilst running I have pondered a difficult issue and by the end of the run the 'answer' has somehow miraculously gained clarity,” says Steggles. “It's almost like the conscience is working away in the background and because of the rhythm of running, you're not aware of it.”

And depending on the time of day that you run, your work can benefit in different ways, he says.

“Morning runs give you energy, focus and time for planning the day. Lunchtime runs are a fresh-air break and an opportunity to re-charge for the afternoon ahead. Evening runs are great for stress relief and an opportunity to reflect on the day.”

Has running helped your career?

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