You’re going where?

That was the response I kept hearing when I told people of my plans to spend a long weekend at a Running Camp, with the follow up question usually being, “What is a running camp anyway?” I guess it’s not the kind of vacation most people envision as enjoyable. After all, what kind of people pay good money to leave cell phone service and WiFi behind, drive up into the mountains and spend 4 days being punished by pro running athletes and coaches?

The answer, as I found out during my stay at Zap Fitness, is people of all types. Some as young as 14 and some as “old” as 70. An ultramarathon runner, along with some who had never run more than a 5K. The real answer was people of all types and backgrounds, but with one common thread—a desire to push their limits, up their game and challenge themselves. Gathering the “whole system” in the room is one of the main ideas we use at Insight Solutions when planning retreats and workshops. The theory is that the diversity in the room is actually a strength and leads to greater learning opportunities for the participants, who are all connected by the same task or goal of the retreat. 

You get out of it, what you put into it!

We weren’t given too many details of our camp schedule ahead of time, which had my imagination running wild with nightmares of being woken up before dawn for the first of many daily runs and strength training regimens. After a 3-hour drive north, I arrived in the mountains of western North Carolina and was greeted at check-in by two very laid back, chill guys. Pete, the camp co-owner and Ryan one of their lead trainers, greeted me with warm smiles and strong handshakes. They seemed more interested in where I drove in from and making sure I knew the fridge was stocked with a variety of beer, than my split times or personal records (sigh of relief).

Founded in 2001, the primary mission of Zap Fitness is as a nonprofit training center for post-collegiate, Olympic-hopeful distance runners. Zap offers adult running camps to the public during the summer months. The camp itself is designed as a somewhat isolated “getaway” so the athletes can focus on what’s most important to their success, simply: running, eating and resting. Visitors who partake in the running camps are treated to a rustic camp setting, limited connectivity and some of the most delicious and nutritious food ever! In my estimation, the perfect recipe for focus and personal growth.

The premise of a running camp experience is simple—serve as a destination for people who love running. While you’re there, mingle with pro athletes, Olympians, expert coaches and participate in as much or as little of the planned activities and runs as you want—all, nothing or anything in between.

So what did I learn?

This was my first immersion experience for running and it definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, which was great and I came away with some very valuable lessons.

Rest isn’t absence from training, rest is part of training

Just as rest is a necessary part of any professional athlete’s training regimen, we all need rest, both physical and mental, from our daily routines. Make time to actively disconnect from technology, define “screen-free” zones and times, prioritize both physical activity and rest for your overall health.

When designing a training plan, the theory is to make your hard days hard by including long runs, drills, and strength training and then make your easy days easy, with shorter runs or a rest day. This allows you to push hard when you need to and dial it back after an extreme effort. Take a similar approach with your daily routine. Tackle your most challenging tasks early in the morning when you’re fresh. Plan your week ahead of time and dedicate more energy to the tasks you know will be more challenging. Make time to reward yourself and celebrate accomplishments on the easier days.

Train to train

Simply put, we often think we’re working hard, but in reality may have massive untapped potential that we can harness if we so choose. Develop a training plan that will prepare you to really train, in a sense, “level up”. Consider the untapped potential in yourself, your team, your organization, your community and even your family. How can you help each prepare to face the challenges that lie ahead? How can you ask them to access their untapped potential? One answer is to ask for a little bit more than you normally would and then see the results. 

Connections, community and the power of the group

When you have amazing people in the room, you don’t have to do much else. The opportunity to eat, train and talk with some of the sport’s most impressive athletes and learn from their knowledge, was reward enough for attending camp. The power of the connections and the community created at these camp experiences lasts long after everyone goes home. It creates lasting friendships, inspires achievement and creates accountability to succeed. Similarly, the connections you build with co-workers and others in your organization will have the potential to create a deeper understanding of each other and a real human connection. Each of which will be valuable as your work to deliver results for your company. 

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