How Running Triathlons Can Help You Run Your Business Better

Triathlons and Business

This article originally appeared in Inc. Magazine.

The life of an entrepreneur and leader can be full of struggle and adversity. You’re continually working to make something happen, sometimes with considerable effort, little support, in the face of outright skepticism, and with no end in sight. It can feel like you’re up against impossible odds. Maybe that’s why I love triathlons.

I encourage all entrepreneurs to have a physical regimen. If you’re a participant in the optimization of your health and wellness, it’s better for you, your company, and the people around you—the ones you work with and the ones you love.

Triathlons are challenging as hell. Training for them is a lot of hard work and preparation. You have to be willing to put it all out there. It’s not until you’ve actually participated in one that you truly learn what it takes to ‘compete and complete.’ It can be brutal. Nevertheless, I love them, because each time I finish, I feel I can take on anything. I’ve learned some valuable things training for and participating in triathlons that have helped me as an entrepreneur, which may be useful in your business life.

Small things can make a big difference

One of the fantastic things about triathlons is it makes you realize how much difference seemingly small improvements can make. When training, incremental improvements, such as faster time results, go a long way to motivate me. The same is true in business. I encourage you to identify the meaningful metrics in your business, and celebrate the incremental but instrumental gains.

Without a blind spot, we’d see nothing

There is always the danger of putting too much emphasis on one area at the expense of another. Triathletes, for example, are less inclined to focus on upper body strength. It seems evident that strong legs are what you need for running and bicycling. But a strong core, back, and shoulders help generate arm swing when running, stabilize your bike on climbs, and help put power in your swim. There are parallels in the business world. Ask yourself, “What is my entrepreneurial blind spot?” What are you sacrificing by overemphasizing something else? What in the core of your business needs strengthening?

When we first started to bring CELLIANT to market, I couldn’t rely on just my business skills and enthusiasm to launch the company. I had to demonstrate my understanding of the science to both the layperson and those with a deep science background. This was a muscle I had to learn to flex. What’s yours?

Learn how to take a beat (not a beating)

Running a business and running a triathlon are both demanding physically, mentally, and emotionally. But unlike the dogged pursuit of success in business, participating in triathlons, for me, is an excellent release from the stress and the tension of corporate pursuits. How do you wind down from a discipline so focused on winding you up? We can learn from athletic activities like triathlons how to apply stress-relieving techniques to our business practices.

Through triathlons, I’ve learned about the importance of rest. They’re not a “one and done” sport. Neither is entrepreneurship. The minute you believe you’ve nailed it, everything can fall apart. Know that resting is not giving up. If you work out intensely every day, you risk going beyond your body’s capacity to recover. Likewise, in running a business, lack of rest can lead to exhaustion and negative effects like lowered enthusiasm, reduced optimism, perpetual fatigue, and poor decision making. Let’s face it, business is a marathon, not a sprint.

What winning’s (really) all about

One of the most important things I’ve learned from competing in triathlons is what winning means. It’s not about competing against everybody else; it’s about competing against yourself and being lifted through the camaraderie of your peers. That, to me, means working to realize my potential, but it also means working to help amplify the potential of others.

Healthy competition happens when you create an environment where people know they are accountable yet supported. And that’s at the heart of sports and triathlons—pushing yourself and your peers to be the best you can be. To me, that’s winning.

Photo credit: Getty Images