So I sprained a calf muscle…
The truth is… when I flipped my leg onto the bike seat in the photo, I got a bit of a Charlie-horse in my calf. Once it relaxed it felt okay but the next morning it was clear I’d upset the muscle.
And what possessed me to flip my leg up onto the bike seat in the first place? Inspiration people, inspiration.
Sooooooo, my weekend training ride was thwarted.
As a result, I decided to go for an “easy” run instead.
Now, here’s the thing… I don’t do “easy” very well.
It could be the competitive-type-A-overachiever streak in me, but going “easy” just isn’t in my wheelhouse.
Most of my exercise takes place at tempo. Hard enough to be tough but maintainable. Not so hard that I blow up. But slow and easy… ummmmm… mostly never.
And then there are the little sprint sections… you know the ones… you see a mom jogging with a stroller and you speed up to pass her… yeah, those sprints. (Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about here!)
The problem with this training method is it’s not as effective as it could be. Turns out to build endurance and stamina one needs to do the hard efforts, the tempo efforts, and the easy efforts. Who knew?
Okay, well I knew, I’ve just ignored it all.
The brilliant insight in all of this is that I realized how apropos it was to building and growing a small business.
Training plans are designed for a reason. The body needs various types of efforts in order to help the body build resilience and strength.
Your business is no different.
So let’s look at how to build a small business training plan!
1 – Hard Efforts
We need the stress of hard efforts. Hard efforts help us to learn to deal with the exertion and stress associated with doing something outside our ability.
We face hard efforts in business weekly. These are the moments when so much is going on you want to hide under the blankets with Ben and Jerry… maybe even Little Debbie.
Our heart rates increase, we start to sweat a little, our stomachs might react, the whole lizard brain goes in to fight or flight mode, and we have to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other.
The hard efforts could be dealing with an irate customer, a stack of long ignored business cards, a meeting with a prospective new client whose project could fill your year, a presentation to a room full of people, testing a new design… you get the idea. If it makes you uncomfortable or stressed, then it’s big and therefore, a hard effort.
Every time we engage in a hard effort, we create new muscle memory, and next time, we can go a little bit harder or faster.
Training with hard efforts makes future hard efforts easier and allows us to handle even bigger efforts.
But, you can’t live in the land of hard efforts. Too many and we become fatigued, we can cause damage and injury. Most of the time that translates into stress, overwhelm, fatigue, negativity, and anger.
So remember that while hard efforts are super important, they are something that should take up only 20% of your business life. The bigger chunk of your business should be set in the tempo efforts.
2 – Tempo Efforts
There’s a training space between hard efforts and easy efforts; I call them tempo efforts. A tempo effort for me is a run that gets my heart rate up but doesn’t have me huffing and puffing. It feels like an effort but I know I can sustain it for a specific amount of time. I’m definitely working but I’m not going to blow up.
It’s my favorite place. I feel like I’m working so I feel like I’m moving toward improvement. At the end I’m tired but not wiped out, and I feel happy.
When things are sailing along smoothly in your business, then it feels much like a tempo effort. You are busy, active, but not overwhelmed. It’s the sweet spot.
Tempo efforts keep us strong, keep our skill level up, challenge us but don’t create overwhelm.
Most of our business life should be spent in this space. It’s a space where we feel invigorated and it’s a space where we accomplish a lot.
The key is to understand the space between hard and easy. Tempo is not simple. At any moment you can tip right over into the hard and get overwhelmed.
Tempo efforts require that we pay attention to our daily activities, it means we are, tracking data, adjusting processes, doing the work. It is operations plain and simple.
We should be spending 50% of our time in the land of the tempo effort. It isn’t easy to do unless you are paying attention. It can be very easy to fall into a hard effort.
The more we train in this area, the more natural it becomes. When we can be in our tempo efforts and not have to spend a lot of brain energy but rather we use muscle memory, then we are creating a sustainable business.
3 – Easy Efforts
Just as important as any other effort we undertake in training is the easy effort. I used to hate the easy effort.
I’d head out trying hard to relax, to slow down, to keep my heart rate down. I’d think… why don’t I just walk!
But the key to the easy effort is endurance. Slow down and you can go farther, you can keep going for a longer period of time. It trains your body to keep up an effort for the long haul.
When folks train for marathon length races, the long slow run is a staple. Once a week you head out for a 90+ minute run, nice and slow. You can converse with someone or solve life problems in your head or listen the entire Barry Manilow collection.
It’s taken me years to find the value in an easy effort and still… I resist.
When it comes to business life I find myself resisting as well. The problem is that without the easy efforts, we can’t grow our businesses.
The easy efforts mean slowing down, taking time out to plan, to strategize, to think about how things are going, to think about what we want to do better. Easy efforts are super important because they prepare us for the long haul in our businesses.
It’s common to resist the easy efforts because we might feel like we are relaxing a bit but that’s not what an easy effort is. Easy efforts are not lazy days spent by the pool with a mimosa.
Easy efforts are work efforts that have us slowing down and stepping away from the constant of day-to-day operations to work on our business and not in it.
The easy effort is a space where we can grow our businesses.
Soooooo… with calf muscle a bit battered I set out on the “easy” run. Yup I’m working hard to change my ways.
We can’t be at full-speed all the time it’s just not possible – things break – mostly we break. We can’t be at a slow and easy pace all the time either or we don’t make progress.
We need a nice mix of all of them to really be a successful business owner. There will always be highs and lows, how you handle and manage those is where the best stuff happens.