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The Performance Life

3 Life Lessons Learned from Running


Martin Dugard is best known for immersing himself into cultures to produce best-selling books such as Into Africa and The Last Voyage of Columbus, collaborating with Mark Burnett on Survivor-related books, and chronicling his adventures in top magazines. His endurance sports ventures have included books on Lance Armstrong (Chasing Lance) and numerous magazine articles that have appeared in Runner’s World, Sports Illustrated, and Esquire. Somehow he finds the time to coach high school cross country in Southern California. In his new book To Be a Runner, Dugard, who turns 50 this month, weaves a lifetime of running experiences into interesting life lessons. Here, a few life lessons he’s learned as a runner.

1. Find Your Tempo Zone

Runners, like other athletes, reach a point where they enter the effortless zone of tempo running. It’s no different than the golfer who strikes a ball and doesn’t feel the hit or a basketball player whose mind seems to be on autopilot as he drains shot after shot. The goal is to reach that zone in work and other aspects of life. “We’re going to have struggles,” Dugard says. “The trick is how you deal with it. Put yourself in the moment and no matter what you do keep everything smooth and level and don’t let your fears and anxiety overcome you. It’s finding that place, that smooth place where you find that balance and that piece of mind and, yeah, that tempo. When you run, when you’re in a really good run where you find that rhythm and groove, it just carries you, and if you can find that same thing in daily life it’s just an amazing feeling.”

2. Strive for Efficiency

Dugard uses running to deal with bouts of writer’s block and to be more productive, using the endorphin rush to get through his work schedule. He strives for efficiency both in his work and in running. “A couple friends of mine have asked me to draw up marathon programs. They’re non-runners or at least first-time marathon runners and I asked them to do speed work. Not four 100s in 60 seconds but simple stuff—200 on, 100 off—and the great thing is it informs your form, and that translates into your next run even if it’s a longer run. At first they don’t think they can do it and feel uncomfortable on the track. But once you introduce them to speed as opposed to volume, they push themselves and get more competitive."

3. Keep Pushing, Always

It’s easy to make running, like life, routine. Many runners fall into the habit of a daily 3- to 5-mile jog, never pushing themselves. “We live in this world of people getting trophies just for showing up,” Dugard says. “At some point we kind of hold people at arm’s length who dare to push their limits every day, but I think that’s what running is all about. When you run, just putting your shoes on and getting out the door, you’re making a choice to be a better version of yourself. And that decision is not just with running but with work or parenting or coaching. If we push ourselves day by day to be better, we change not only ourselves but the world around us.”

What have you learned from running? In the comments section below, share any life lessons you've learned as a runner.

About The Author

Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.

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Tags: Race, Attitude, Energy System Development, Motivation, Outdoor Recreation, Cardio, Energy, Running, Conditioning