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My COVID-19 Mentality – Sprint or Marathon?

on March 19, 2020

One week ago, my wife and I sat down to catch up on This is Us. By the time we were finished, the NBA had suspended its season, and well, we all know the rest. A lot has happened in a week.

This Monday, I tried to quickly embrace the new reality and kicked it into high gear. I woke up early to get a head start on some things, and then engaged in a full day of COVID-19-related meetings. To be honest, much of it was invigorating. My strategic wheels have constantly been turning. I’ve been energized by how quickly our organization has mobilized and innovated to engage one another and our clients through all this.

That evening, I was supposed to coach soccer practice. After it was canceled, I took my three boys to the field and held practice anyway. For 60 whole minutes, I didn’t think about social distancing or the worst day in the stock market since 1987. I was just enjoying kicking a ball around with three people I love dearly.

After bedtime, I opened up my computer again (as I’ve done this evening), enjoyed a glass of water, and cranked again.

When I woke up Tuesday morning, I felt like I had a hangover.

The wheels in my brain were again moving fast. Too fast. And too frantically. I was already feeling the stress and strain of trying to help lead a business and a family in a quarantined world. After another long day, on Tuesday evening, instead of opening my computer at 9:45, I went for a brisk 2-mile run.

During my run I started thinking… is this whole thing more like a marathon? Or a sprint? Or even Orangetheory?

I decided it isn’t like any of those.

I have no idea what we will face at mile marker 4, let alone 24. Treating this like a marathon is a hopeless attempt to predict what lies ahead and stubbornly plod forward.

Alternatively, if I try to sprint through this, I’ll quickly tire, and start to spiral physically, mentally, and all the other -lys. I’ve done that before in a job and have no plans to do it again. Similarly, I can’t be in the “orange zone” all the time either – my heart can’t take it.

Embracing an Interval Training Mentality

So, my mindset can’t be that of a marathon runner or a sprinter. Instead, I think we should embrace an interval training mentality. Here’s what that can look like.

  • Give yourself deadlines. We are all used to moving quickly from one task to another. Now, most of us have more margin in our work lives and personal lives. It can be tempting to just try to endure and hold on for the ride. But that can lead to lethargy. And with lethargy, comes atrophy. Instead, decide to learn a new skill – in the next 48 hours. Identify five people to check in on, and do it – today. With various work tasks or projects on hold or being canceled, what daily and weekly goals and deadlines can you set for yourself?
  • Pause before proceeding. Everything is changing incredibly fast. Who knows where things will be by next Wednesday. If your first interval was a sprint, maybe the next one is some sort of strength training. And along the first interval, look to your left and right (virtually of course). What are others working on that might connect in some way to what you’re doing? If you’ve been sprinting to salvage that project, or learn how to use Webex more effectively, is it time to pause to identify your next interval?
  • Hydrate or die. I once worked at a summer camp in Evart, Michigan, and we counselors would always tell campers, “Hydrate or die.” I’m not sure I’d endorse that quote for use with children, but the phrase has always stuck with me. As we continue with an interval training mentality, we have to hydrate metaphorically. Tuesday, for me, it was that run. Yesterday, it was grabbing an umbrella and doing a one-on-one with someone via Teams video while walking through a local ravine in the rain. Today, it’s leading a two-hour chunk of home-schooling (as a former teacher, yes, I will actually enjoy it!) How are you hydrating to keep your body, mind, and soul ready for the next interval?

 What can this interval training mindset look like for you? How can you help your various teams think and act with an interval training mindset? Let’s get stronger together.

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