kate strong triathlon cycling

Why Running a Business Is Like Training For a Triathlon

Triathlon is a demanding test of endurance, calling for stamina across multiple disciplines. Training for such a challenge requires time, commitment and hard work – a daunting prospect, particularly for first-timers. All of this while attempting to balance time for yourself, your family and friends. Sound familiar? Perhaps that’s because running a business and training for a triathlon are not so very different, after all.

You must be a master of multiple disciplines

A triathlon is made up of three sequential endurance sports: swimming, cycling and running. For beginners, the learning curve is often steep – not to mention the hills. Professional triathletes make a habit of constantly working on their technique to become better, faster, stronger.

Being an entrepreneur or small business owner is one of the most challenging missions you will ever undertake. In order to do so, you’ll need to become a master of many skills: strategy, sales, admin, networking, financial management… the list goes on.

We all have natural strengths and weaknesses. It’s up to you to recognise the gaps in your knowledge and either work out how to fill them – or find someone else who can.

kate strong triathlon

Endurance is everything

Completing a triathlon is not so different from running a marathon – at the heart of it is endurance. Improving your endurance (or to put it another way, your fatigue resistance) is the goal of all that training, wherever you’re a seasoned athlete or just starting out.

When you’re in the thick of it, some days are harder than others. It’s not always clear why. Triathlon training is mentally and physically tough: the best we can hope for is to feel ‘uncomfortably comfortable’ and accept that feeling uncomfortable is part of the process of growth.

Being a business owner takes grit. Improving your endurance is only possible when you continually push your limits. It’s a balancing act: you are the best judge of your own inner strength and how much it can take. Challenge yourself, little by little, and you’ll start to feel the difference.

You’ve got to get back on the bike

In a triathlon, the cycling part is often the longest. It’s not a sprint; you’re aiming for a steady effort that will enable you to cover the distance. We’ve all ‘fallen off the bike’ in our personal or professional lives at some point or another, but a successful outcome is determined by whether you have the mental resilience to get back on, despite the setback.

Nothing worth doing is easy – triathlons and entrepreneurship included. In both cases, building your resilience will help you cope with the ups and downs. It can help you excel in all areas of your life, giving you the strength to make tough decisions and learn from your mistakes.

New business owners face a number of struggles every day just to stay in business, whether it’s lack of time, lack of funding, lack of experience – maybe all three. If things don’t go your way (and they won’t always), you must make a habit of getting back on the bike.

kate strong triathlon running

It takes time

Training for a triathlon? You’ll need a training plan. Starting a new business? You’re gonna need a business plan. Success in either scenario doesn’t happen overnight. As Jeff Olson puts it in his book The Slight Edge: “simple disciplines repeated over time create success”.

Repeated over time. This part is key. Society celebrates seemingly supernova success stories (such pleasing alliteration), but that’s not the way it happens for 99.99% of people. And if you’re a person of average fitness, the Ironman World Championship is probably not for you. Just yet.

Instead, you start with a training program that is appropriate to your present level of fitness. Then you increase the workload incrementally, allowing time for rest and recovery. Your body, and your mind, will need time to adapt.

The length of time it takes to form a flourishing business naturally depends on the type of business, but all must go through the startup phase. There is no way around it – and doping isn’t the answer either. Think of the journey as part of your training.

You need realistic goals

Setting realistic goals – in business and in sport – gives you a roadmap to achieve long-term success. It all starts with a vision, whether that’s completing your first race or meeting your first customer. In both scenarios, it helps to set short, medium and long-term goals that can be easily quantified.

Following a set program will improve your focus and seeking objective feedback along the way will help you finetune your approach. Working with a coach gives you that extra level of support and advice on setting yourself achievable goals. Whether you’re a triathlete or business owner (or both), the right goals will keep you moving forward and motivate you to go the extra mile.

Training for a triathlon and starting a business both take mettle. It’s tough out there for budding entrepreneurs; the process can be both punishing and rewarding. You’ll need adequate rest and recovery, plus outstanding emotional control – because it will get emotional. It’s absolutely worth doing, if you’re ready to give it everything you’ve got.

Kate Strong is not your average entrepreneur and business coach – she’s also a world champion triathlete. Find out more about business startup coaching and let’s bring your business dreams to life.