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Why stressed-out financial services professionals need to start running

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Against the wind - We were runnin' against the wind. We were young and strong, we were runnin' against the wind

The financial services industry is challenging and stressful – I know, because I’m a risk and compliance officer for a life insurance company. As financial services professionals, we help people prepare for the known and unknown challenges of life. Oftentimes, we need to make people face unpleasant realities and consider hard changes. But what are you doing to help yourself stay healthy and deal with all the work-related stress? If you’re not running regularly, then you should be.

“I’m too busy to run” is just an excuse

I’m lucky. I’ve been a runner since high school – not to date myself, but I’ve been running regularly for 40 years now. I often speak with people about the benefits of living a runner’s life. After listening, most of them will make a comment that begins this way: “I can’t run because…”

One of the more common expressions is, “I can’t run because I’m too busy.” I’ll usually empathize with them about how hectic life is, never doubting that they have a busy schedule. Then I’ll point out that their admission may be half false.

It’s probably more accurate to say, “I don’t run because I’m too busy.” The word “can’t” is dangerous. Using it denotes helplessness. The truth is, with a little self-confidence and planning, people can do a lot of things they may not have thought that they could do, including run on a regular basis.

Obesity epidemic

I’ve also spoken to a number of people about the obesity problem. Usually they want to know about the running program I coordinate and how people can successfully lead an active lifestyle. We talk about all of the health benefits and how physical activity is just as important as diet when it comes to losing weight.

Then I tell them something most haven’t thought about before. Improved health simply doesn’t offer enough motivation for most people to get active. If it did, then obesity rates would already be on the decline.

Depression is on the rise

Emotional health issues are growing, too. Clinical depression rates are climbing in adults and children. Basically, that means people are less happy than they once were. Obese people are more likely to be depressed, and while obesity can lead to unhappiness, the reverse is also true. Teenagers with symptoms of depression are more likely to become obese within the next year.

Does any of this sound familiar?

If weight loss and long-term health won’t provide enough motivation for you to become active, maybe becoming happier will.

Running is a panacea for what ails you

Personally, I’ve never finished a run feeling emotionally worse than I did when I started. That was true when I was racing seriously, it was true in years when I was running very little, and it’s true now.

None of this means everyone should run. There are good reasons to be a non-runner, not the least of which is a personal distaste for running.

But everyone should believe this: If you chose to run, then you can. You are strong enough and brave enough – and you can find the time. The latter is true even if you’re working long hours at a bank, private equity firm, hedge fund or long-only asset management firm.

Action steps to become a runner

Here are six ways to incorporate running in your life and achieve your fitness and stress-mitigation goals:

  1. Admit that you can – Watch the runners at any local race and you’ll see a wide variety of ages, paces, shapes and sizes. And here’s the more important point: Every runner in the race accomplishes something important on their own terms. Why not you?
  2. Make running a priority – Many runners have busy schedules, but they manage to make time to run routinely because it enhances their lives. Check your calendar and make a commitment to yourself by blocking out time to run regularly.
  3. Begin slowly – You don’t have to progress quickly to begin feeling benefits soon. Start by walking 30 minutes a day just four days a week. Once you’ve formed that habit, begin adding 30 second segments of easy running with two minutes of walking between each and continue that for the full 30 minutes.

 

Over time, gradually increase the running segments and decrease the walking with an ultimate goal of running for the full 30 minutes. This approach makes the challenge more manageable and reduces the risk of injury as you get started.

  1. Celebrate the journey – Start to notice how you feel after your walks and runs. Appreciate the feeling of accomplishment when you “get it done,” even when you’re busy or when the weather isn’t perfect. Notice the emotional stability and how it begins to make you happier throughout the day.
  2. Set a few goals – Once you’ve gotten through the early months and you are running routinely, you’ll have a newfound appreciation for your own capability. If you can run for 30 minutes, you can run even farther. With the support of some online or local resources, perhaps you can consider training for a 5K or 10K race and eventually even a half marathon.

 

Remember: You are capable of more than you believe you are.

  1. Redefine your self-image – Embarking on a running journey will teach you a lot about yourself. You can be disciplined and strong. You can face adversity and overcome it. Use your new habits, and live your best life.

 

By improving your own health and mindset, you’ll be better able to help the people who rely on you for financial guidance and other services. You, your clients and even your colleagues will all be better for it.

Dave Griffin founded the Flying Feet Running Programs, which provide year-round coaching and support to runners of all experience and talent levels in the Carroll County, Maryland, area. He writes a bi-weekly column, Dave Griffin on Running, and is the author of After the Last PR – The Virtues of Living a Runner’s Life and In the Distance: Why we struggle through the demands of running, and how it leads us to peace.

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