How Being an Endurance Athlete Just Might Make You A Stronger Leader

I was inspired to write about this topic after reading an article in Forbes Magazine titled Why Ironmen and Ironwomen Make Great CEOs. The article really got me thinking about my own athletic life, and how it has had a positive impact on my leadership skills at work. It is said that leadership is about “moving the hearts and minds of people” to be at their best to support their company or agency mission. We are often judged as leaders not on how well we plan, but how well we deliver. Endurance sports also involve the heart, mind, and executing on the plan. There are many characteristics found in great leaders. But what does being a runner or triathlete have to do with leadership? I would say a great deal.

Without Limits

Over time the endurance athlete begins to realize there are no limits to what our bodies can accomplish and what is possible in the sport. We see this both at the amateur and professional level. As more and more sports records are broken, no speed and distance seems impossible.

The best leaders always explore what might be possible, and understand that we often set artificial limits on ourselves. Leadership is about the future, and helping others see a light in themselves that they can’t yet see.


Discovery is the process of learning, and is different for everyone. It is necessary for positive development as an athlete. This is something I have learned from my own coach. As a coach myself, I have grown to realize that all of my athletes discover and learn at their own pace, and bring their own lens to the sport. It is my job to figure out how my athletes best learn the various concepts of the sport so they might reach peak performance.

Strong leaders develop patience with those who allow them to lead. They understand that a learning organization leads to better outcomes and professional growth of the team. In business, the “discovery” process is critical as it creates the best environment for staff to “buy-in” to the organization’s overall mission.


Runners and triathletes are master planners. Especially those competing in ultras or long course triathlon. Endurance athletes have to do a great deal of planning throughout the week, as well as looking down the road at their training and racing year. And this is often done around a full career and family life. No easy task!

Strong leaders are able to articulate a plan for the direction of the organization, and understand that “a poorly followed plan never survives its collision with reality”.

Performance Data Matters

Let’s face it, running and triathlon is a world of numbers – it is all around us. The savvy athlete knows how to sort through all of this data and decide what is needed to enhance his or her own training and race performance. The key is to only use data that adds value to reaching their athletic goals.

Great leaders know when and how to use performance data to execute on the organization’s overall objectives. Data should help us tell a story, and lead to good questions. As the saying goes, “what’s measured gets done”. But overuse, or using data in the wrong way, can lead to poor morale and only short-term goal achievement.

Managing Scarce Resources

Economy is king for the endurance athlete. When we look at Ultra Running, or Ironman especially, it’s all about the management of scarce resources. From the time you begin your first swim stroke of a 140.6, or take your first step in a 50K trail race, you have to think about conserving energy over a long period of time.

The most effective leaders see the big picture – especially during lean times. They understand that even in business, it is a marathon, not a sprint. The strongest leaders are skilled at meeting the organization’s mission by seeking out opportunities for efficiency.


If there is one thing the sport builds in the endurance athlete, it is resiliency. Endurance athletes frequently face obstacles both during training and on race day. “The capacity to recovery quickly from difficulties” is our motto! Since endurance athletes have greater clarity around resiliency, this can translate well in the workplace.

Smart leaders know it is easy to lead when things are going well in the organization. It’s in the difficult times when we see a separation of the strongest leaders from the rest of the pack. But just like in endurance sports, resiliency can only come through experience and having a few setbacks along your leadership path.

I have had the privilege of working with many incredible leaders during my career who were not endurance athletes. And as the article referenced in the first paragraph points out, there are many endurance athletes who fall short as leaders. But more often than not, the skills and attributes necessary to find success in running, cycling, and triathlon, can also help you be the best leader you can be. And adding that “quirky” runner or triathlete to your leadership team might just bring strength to your organization!

Fight for it,



Why Coaches Need a Coach…

The longer I coach runners and triathletes, the more I have come to believe in the value of having a coach. Like a lot of coaches, I have been asked the question “if you are a triathlon coach, why do you need a coach?” That is often a hard question to answer for some coaches, and I suppose not all coaches actually need a coach.  But some of the world’s top CEOs have executive or leadership coaches, right?  So why not apply this to athletic coaching in endurance sports?  Many coaches race as well, so having a coach to take care of both your athletic and coaching needs can be a great benefit.

Let’s face it, as a coach and athlete, it’s often difficult to remain objective, whether about one’s own training, or even when working with one of our athletes.  Seeking out guidance from a successful and veteran coach can be a valuable resource to you as you excel as an athlete, and grow your coaching business.

So what are some other reasons a coach might need a coach?

Mentoring and Consultation

I am a big believer in mentoring at all levels.  As the saying goes, “if we stop learning, then we stop growing”.  This applies to us as both coaches and athletes.  Having someone serve as a mentor can give you an extra edge as you refine your coaching style and practice.  Every new athlete I take on is a new opportunity to grow as a coach.  But as the sport expands and becomes more diverse in participants, distances, and types of events (ultras, double Ironmans, extreme triathlon, adventure racing, etc.), having a more experienced coach to provide mentoring and consultation will set you apart from other coaches in your area.

Writing your Schedule

Like me, many endurance coaches also actively race throughout the year.  As mentioned earlier, it can sometimes be difficult to remain objective about one’s own training and racing.  So having another coach writing your training schedule can relieve some stress and be a big help to the busy coach who also has a demanding family life and training schedule. Having someone else plan your workouts can provide some accountability and give you a fresh perspective that you might not have on your own. This is also a task that can be a shared responsibility between you and your coach.

Business Support

Supporting the business end of things can be of great value to someone new to coaching, especially during those first few years.  Making decisions about pricing, web design, social media, and what services to offer can be overwhelming in the beginning.  But even to the most experienced coach, having someone who has traveled down the same path you are on can be priceless in avoiding problems and concerns, and in advancing your business.

As busy entrepreneurs who are often trying to manage the business, as well as training and racing, having a coach can be beneficial in many ways.  From planning your training, to consultation and support, dollar for dollar, hiring a coach can definitely be an investment in both your athletic and business future.

Fight for it,