The Three Rules of Intelligent Restraint

In endurance training, you can apply simple rules of restraint to ramp up and ramp down your training program ahead of a race. These rules of thumb help you make important trade-offs between exertion and recovery.

For example, one rule of restraint I’ve always found helpful for running is the “10% Rule.” This rule says that each week, you only increase the length of your longest run by about 10 percent. You also can apply the 10% Rule to the total volume of running in a week. What’s important is ramping up running volume in a disciplined way.

Rules like the 10% Rule enable you to increase your training levels, but not so fast that you get hurt. At the same time, they restrict exercise volume to allow the body to recover and get stronger so that you're ready for the eventual race.

There also are rules of restraint that guide recovery if you are hurt or injured, perhaps as a result of failing to pay heed to the rules about training volume! My sports coach advised me not to train for three days after experiencing a sharp pain, and to go see him if the pain didn’t go away.

Applying these rules of restraint helps me and other athletes build capacity without getting hurt. As the weeks pass, the body is able to go faster and farther without breaking down. The practice of restraint in endurance training is often the difference between an athlete who is still going at 60 and one who burns out or injures herself to the point of quitting the sport.

Unfortunately, we don’t have simple rules of restraint to help us build capacity in an organization or a team. The rules we have in business prevent us from breaking laws or standards of governance. For example, we have limits on the financial value of a gift, or a policy on what can or cannot be said in public about the firm’s strategic plans.

Rule #1: Focus Overrules Vision

Vision is important and gets you going, but focus is what gets you across the finish line. The right focus clarifies how to allocate resources like time, money, and support. Growth Leaders use focus to drive behavior that’s consistent with important values, and to build both “vertical alignment” and “horizontal alignment.” Focus conserves energy that is needed to perform today as you transform for tomorrow.

Rule #2: Routines Beat Strengths

Strengths are useful, but they can become a liability when overused. The right routines efficiently shape the new ways of thinking and behaving that we need for growth. Effective growth routines allow small change that can trigger larger changes to happen across the organization. Growth Leaders create and utilize routines that conserve energy as they make it possible to learn or change faster.

Rule #3: Exert, then Recover

Exertion and recovery need one another for maximum effect. You have to train with the right levels of exertion to build your capacity, and you have to engage in the right kind of recovery to allow your body and mind to keep exerting. To deliver results and build capacity for growth at the same time requires high levels of exertion that consumes personal and organizational energy that must be replenished.

These types of rules are important. But, while they keep us from doing bad things, they don’t help us drive positive things, like improved customer service or successful execution.

This post is an excerpt from chapter 1 of Pacing for Growth by Alison Eyring.

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