A Runner’s 6 Thoughts on Skill Atrophy

English: Me Running
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently I decided that I would train to run a second marathon. My first 26.2 didn’t go so well. It absolutely killed my desire to run, and has led to the predicament I find myself in as I re-learn to run.

I was never a great runner, but now, I’m pretty awful at it

Early this week, as I struggled through a run that I used to breeze through, I randomly thought about the time when I lost my job. It was the first day of my last semester of graduate school (awesome right?).  I was a victim of the old “last in – first out” rule in a layoff. It was 2009, and I was just one of the millions of people who lost their job that year.

My struggle to find work is a story for another time. But throughout it all, one of the things I feared the most was skill atrophy.

I feared losing my training, my freshly minted educational edge and a lot of the advantages that my carefully crafted experience gave me up to that point.

It’s safe to say I experienced a very different kind of skill atrophy on my run earlier this week.

As I wogged back home, I thought about all the things I could have done to prevent this.  It occurred to me that had I applied much of the same principles I used after my layoff, I would be in much better shape (literally).

Here are 6 thoughts that I keep coming back to. I think they make sense in any situation when we are not using a skill on a regular basis.

1) Any practice is better than no practice.

If I had walked 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week I would be in better shape than I am in today. The same goes for any skill you don’t practice day to day. Any movement is better than no movement.

2) Some skill atrophy is inevitable.

When you can’t practice a skill every day, you’re bound to lose some of it. Realizing this early on will help you work to maintain the skills that are most important, like what foods to eat (and not eat) before a run.

3) It comes back faster than you realize, but you have to work at it.

On the running trail I’m relearning old lessons left and right. The hard work is paying off, but it’s taking lots of practice. The same is true of an old skill that’s been sitting on the shelf for a while.

4) Don’t get hung up on regret, just get out there and do the work.

…but first blog about it (see what I did just there?).  Don’t get caught up wishing that things were different. There’s nothing that can be done about the past. Focus on the future, and how every step forward gets you closer to your goal.

5) Make a plan that gives you small victories along the way to a really big one.

A marathon is 26.2 miles of nasty. It may be true, but thinking that way won’t get anyone anywhere.  Focus on small but challenging milestones along the way. You’ll be amazed at how a series of these milestones add up to a major accomplishment!

6) Keep learning, keep learning, keep learning

I was at my running best when I regularly read Runners World. I am at my best at work when I have read a healthy dose of great HR blogs. There is knowledge to be had everywhere! All we have to do is make a little time to take it in!

The bottom line? We work way too hard to acquire the skill necessary to do what we do, whether its running or working. Don’t let it slip away!

5 thoughts

    1. I could have sworn I replied earlier…I must not have hit the submit button!

      Thanks for your comment – I couldn’t agree more! After my marathon I took a “break”, but I still should have kept a race on the calendar. That “break” turned in to a lifestyle, and well, the rest is history!


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