Words of Wellness: Training Lessons

August 26, 2021 - Culture of Caring - Claudia Finkelstein

This Culture of Caring note may seem somewhat runner-focused but bear with me. I signed up to participate a half marathon in September and have been training for weeks. Each time I run, many lessons come into my mind that are applicable to life in general. So, I’m going to share my own lessons and reflections so far.

One of the earliest lessons was to begin with the end in mind (sound familiar?) This is straight from the  Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. How far do you want to run? What do you want or need to accomplish at work or in life? What skills does the job or project require?

Comparing the desired end to the current state (ouch!) reveals what gaps need to be closed. A few examples:

  • I can currently run one mile and want to run thirteen.
  • There are currently 190 students who need rotations and there are four placed so far.
  • I want to ensure gender/race salary parity in my unit and don’t even know the status.
  • I want to have enough money saved to help my kid through college and I am behind on my bills.

In addition to the gap, you need to know the time frame. For some matters and people, longer is better. For others, tight deadlines help motivation. Long or short, the deadline needs to be realistic.

The second lesson is learning from others. I could likely invent a training schedule, but many more highly experienced runners have existed before me. There are many paths to success and looking at several, I learned how to increase weekly mileage cautiously and to alternate running and walking. Then, I customized a routine to fit my patterns of previous success. So, it’s worth looking at how similar problems have been solved. It’s equally important not to limit yourself to following a pattern that doesn’t work for you. Once your plan is set, log your progress (or lack thereof).

The next lessons can be grouped – eat enough the night before a long run, carry water and take rest days. In other words, make sure you have what you need to do what you have set out to do. This includes fuel and rest. Be real in terms of what you need (good supportive shoes, shorts, water bottle etc.) but don’t get so bogged down in choice and amount of gear that you never get out the door.

Finally, at the action stage there are more lessons. You need to look immediately ahead and down (cracks in the road, cars, etc.) and you need to look far ahead (where are you going?) When the hill looks too long and steep, focus on the here and now - one step at a time - and you will get there. When you feel like stopping, ask yourself “why?” and take stock of the situation. Sometimes you have a pounding heart or breathlessness, sometimes the legs need a break, but sometimes you just need to encourage yourself. Do I need to shorten my stride, slow the pace, drink something? I find that repeating a mantra helps me. Strangely enough, while training for this race, my mantra has been “there’s no rush, you’ve got this.” Plan for imperfection. You may miss a training run but the race isn’t ruined, you can just resume training.

As classes for our students and children or grandchildren begin again, as some employees are asked to return to the office, as routines are shuffling again, it’s a great time to ask what end we have in mind. Then, we can begin to follow the training steps.

I wish you all great success in whatever you set out to do and invite you to reach out through this virtual suggestion box with any suggestions, guest essays or photos. I’d love to post “what I did this summer” photos. Feel free to call or write to me and remember the resources below:


Read more Words of Wellness from the Culture of Caring.