Corporate Wellbeing Specialist


Why you should be working like an athlete

Sarah McGuinness / Blog  / Why you should be working like an athlete

Why you should be working like an athlete

As an athlete taut with exertion steps onto the winner’s podium and grasps the golden moment, the sense of achievement is palpable.

Months, years, even decades of training have gone into reaching that apex. It has been a long and arduous road, full of detours and delays, littered with hurdles, but they’ve won.


Getting to the top

Elite athletes employ a variety of training methods to gain that edge that will take them to the pinnacle. Many utilise a “highs” and “lows” approach to allow for “challenges” and “recovery”. High-performance coaches term this approach “periodic training” – short, high-intensity exercise periods alternated with periods of rest.

Sometimes, using sport as a metaphor or guide to high performance at work can be misaligned (elite athletes are highly motivated people, whereas the average workplace presents, well, a mixed bag). However, here, the high-performance lesson is clear.

Setting a fast pace as you work long, demanding hours is unsustainable.

For many of us, pressure builds across our temples and our brain signals “stop” as the working day heats up. We find ourselves staring at the screen but failing to find meaning.

So what to do? We need to incorporate more recovery periods to compensate for the challenge periods at work, just as an athlete would.


Prepare like an athlete

Ideally, athletic periodic training takes an annual approach, dividing the year into phases of training and competition.

Each phase of periodic training focuses on different goals. During the intense periods, the focus is on the balance of volume and intensity with incremental increases to condition the body and mind. At work, the intense periods could be seen as the times of high demand and pressure.

Recovery, on the other hand, is all about fun and variety, with a focus on physical and mental rejuvenation.


Step up, rest, repeat …

A remarkable amount of research and evidence points to the importance of “mental downtime”.

Quiet moments are not a waste of time. Rather, step back and welcome the space. Take in the whole picture – you never know the connections you can make or questions you might solve with a bit of time out.

While we may appear to be daydreaming, the brain is replenishing in order to achieve high performance. Meditation, time off work, a wander through a park or a quick nap can turn up the “elite mind” focus.

To enhance your recovery, consider the year ahead and identify potential “challenge periods” and subsequent periods for recovery (a holiday).

For now, take steps to:

  • Find time to be on your own, even for five minutes. Be present. Pause and notice the environment you’re in and take a few deep breaths.
  • Spend time outdoors, especially during winter when we need that Vitamin D.
  • Prioritise your sleep time.
  • Do yoga, swim or go for a walk to clear your mind.
  • Ensure you have an extended period away from your mobile device and get lost in the moment with family and friends.

Start now to be on track to join the elite, everyday “athletes” and win at work.

Sarah McGuinness

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