Updated May 1, 2014

10 Life and Money Lessons from Running

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Since recreational joggers began hitting the streets in noticeable numbers in the 1970s, running has continued to gain popularity, growing from a solely sneaker-focused industry to an entire market of full-body gear and pricey races. Still, running can be one of the more efficient and low-cost ways to get and stay fit – if you keep the spending in check. It has been proven to lower cholesterol, strengthen bones, and improve cardiovascular health. And running can also teach all of us some valuable life and money lessons.

1. Keep your eye on the goal.

Whether they want to run their fastest 5K or a complete their first marathon, runners excel at setting and attaining goals. They may spend months or even a year fine-tuning their pace and making their bodies stronger for just one particular race. Use this same kind of long-term vision when you put money aside for retirement. It’s a step-by-step process that can’t go anywhere unless you start. If the idea of a long race is overwhelming, then put just a little aside now and gradually build your way up to putting more of your paycheck toward retirement. Over the long run, so to speak, your efforts will pay off. Use these tips from the Department of Labor to help get off the starting block.

2. Measure your progress.

Runners measure their progress in the tiniest of increments, striving to trim their race times by just seconds. Watch a race participant jump up and down after reaching his personal best – just three seconds shy of his last race – and you’ll know what we mean. This type of progress tracking can help you pay down your credit card debt if you’ve been struggling to make a real dent. On a $1,000 debt at 12.89% APR, each dollar added to your payment cuts as much as an entire month off the payoff. Dollars really do count. Add a few dollars to your monthly payment, and use the CreditDonkey.com Credit Card Payoff Calculator to mark your progress.

3. Be self-aware.

Runners are attuned to their bodies and diligently tune their engine with plenty of rest and fluids before a big race. The night before, they’ll load up with carbs and plan out how many water stations they’ll hit during the run – and they’ll make adjustments depending on the weather and how they feel the next day. Too often in our busy lives, we forget to pay attention to our body’s most basic needs. It is estimated that 75% of Americans are always dehydrated. We can take a healthy cue from runners without even hitting the track.

4. Keep a steady pace.

Runners know that getting across the finish line requires steady pacing. They have to stave off the temptation to run too fast when the starting line pack takes off. This lesson applies equally to adhering to a budget, but as many as 16% of Americans indulge in uncontrolled spending binges. Blowing through the budget early in the month can force you to rely heavily on credit cards, which, if not used responsibly, can quickly spiral into more serious financial issues. This budget calculator will help you set goals, but to help you keep your pace, treat yourself with an extra budget line for an indulgence or two.

5. Be consistent to get a payoff.

Marathon runners reach their first 26.2-mile achievements by exercising all week long and knocking down milestones along the way (a 5-mile run, a 10K race, a 20-mile run and so on). Whether you are paying down debt, building up retirement funds or struggling to maintain a family budget, diligently working on your goals as often as possible will make you reach milestones and eventually help you develop new, healthier habits. Although studies show it might take a while, in the end, consistency will get you across the finish line.

6. Step out of your comfort zone.

Runners don’t improve and won’t reach their goals unless they push themselves beyond their comfort zone. They have to get past feeling tired, sore, and defeatist on a constant basis. This act of pushing personal boundaries can be applied to your private or professional life. Use this comfort zone calculator to assess your own mental restrictions, the first step toward accepting and conquering new challenges.

7. Wear appropriate gear.

Have you ever seen a runner in jeans and leather boots? If so, they were probably running from something! Runners wear appropriate gear for a reason: it improves their performance. However, there might be more at work than meets the eye. Researchers have found that dressing professionally can boost cognitive abilities. It remains to be seen if this new field of “enclothed cognition” has long-term benefits for workplace performance, but one thing’s for sure: dressing for success can’t hurt.

8. Stave off boredom.

Boredom can derail any workout program, but runners in particular are susceptible to ennui. Portable audio devices, such as the original Walkman and now iPods and smartphones, are invaluable tools for facing down boredom on the street. But familiarity and repetition can breed boredom in the workday world too. Psychologists have found that the best way to ward off boredom might be to focus on it.

9. Carb up.

Loading up on carbs before a big race is a time-honored tradition for runners. Carbs are stored as glycogen, our body’s most easily accessible energy source. In other words, carbs give runners quick and easy fuel. Caffeine is the office worker’s equivalent of carbing up. Nothing like a little java jumpstart to rev you up, but finding the balance between just enough and too much is the key to using caffeine to your advantage.

10. Get rest.

Runners know that sleep can be performance enhancing. It is the body’s natural refueling process, and getting enough rest is mission critical for optimal running performance. And that’s not just true of athletic endeavors. Many studies have shown that getting enough sleep, taking naps and going on vacations can improve alertness and productivity, giving you renewed energy at home and at work.

More from CreditDonkey:


10 Smart Ways to Save $1,000 a Month


10 Smart Ways to Invest $1,000

Credit Card Payoff Calculator

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