3 Things I Learnt From Running
Hi guys, welcome back to another episode of the weekly mentorship Series by Noobie Dentist Podcast! This week, I want to follow up on a blog I recently wrote for CPD Junkie about some real life lessons I learnt from running.
Running has become a big part of my life in the past couple years. To be honest, I have had a love hate relationship with running till now. Back in high school, when I was younger, I really hated running. I remember in gym class when we were required to go for a run around the park, I would hang back from the crowd and try to lose them whenever I could. I would duck into the trees and bushes in the park, and hide until my classmates got a little away from me and out of sight. I would then make my way across the park to the running loop and join the back of the pack as they started headed back towards school. The things I did to avoid running then, phew!
I always felt a negative connotation attached with running and didn’t particularly enjoy it back then. Fast forward three-four years to dental school and a good friend of mine convinced me to train with him to run a marathon. The only reason I agreed was so I could tick one thing off my bucket list. The entire marathon training, I put in the work just for the heck of it. I didn’t enjoy it and or consider myself a runner, but I trained conscientiously and finished the marathon. After that I didn’t run again for the next three years until recently, when I turned 30 and decided to get back to running again. Since then, I’ve been running regularly for the past year and a half.
The consistent effort I made in keeping up my running practice, taught me alot about life in general. So I want to point out the three things I learnt from this aspect of my life, and discuss how you can apply this to dentistry and improve as a dentist as well.
The first thing I want to talk about is deliberate practice. Deliberate practice goes hand in hand with the famous “10,000 hour rule” by Anders Ericsson, who’s a psychologist and Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote the book “Outliers.” Just going out and doing something doesn’t mean that you will improve in it. If you want to be a good runner, then you need to be conscious of things like the intensity and duration of your runs, your running form, as well as track different running parameters, so you know whether you are actually improving or not.
Similarly, if you go out and do dentistry everyday without any conscious effort or deliberate practice, then you are not going to improve. You may end up five, ten, or fifteen years into practice and still be doing the same thing everyday without improvement if you move forward without conscious efforts or actions.
If you want to improve, it’s extremely important to measure whatever you are doing and put forward deliberate thoughts or actions to improve in it. Set yourself a time goal, a procedure goal, a production goal, or whatever you want to achieve. It should be something that you deliberately work towards, keeping a bigger picture in mind. If you work without any aim in mind, there’s a big chance you’ll get stagnant and not improve at all.
Run Your Own Race
The second lesson I learnt from running is that it’s really important to run your own race. We all finish dental school with different levels of abilities. Some of us have those “hands of God,” and can just do everything so well! We’re quick learners and we hit the ground running, immediately after dental school, and end up doing really well for ourselves. But this is not the case with everyone. A lot of us may struggle with the basics of dentistry, or have issues with our confidence and communication skills. The vital thing to realise is that growth happens at a different trajectory for everybody,and I think this relates to running perfectly.
For instance, you could be out on a weekend run, and you might end up flying past a lot of people on your run. You feel really good about doing this. At the same time, there will also be people who might come up behind you and run past you. This may make you feel really bad for not being faster or fitter.
The same goes with dentistry. Don’t compare yourself to your friends, your classmates, your colleagues or people on social media. Focus on yourself. Focus on your own progression. Focus on putting in that deliberate practice and track your growth. Only if you track your growth will you know if you are improving within your own scope or abilities.
Run Slow To Run Fast
The third lesson when it comes to running is to “run slow to run fast.” This one is huge, because when you start running, there is an inclination to go all out and run as fast as you can. You completely exhaust yourself on your first run and end up feeling super sore. You may not feel like going back to run or may want to take a few days off. You just don’t have the energy to go back and keep going at it.
The big lesson here is something called the “Maffetone training” or “heart rate zone training,” where instead of going all out and running as hard as you can, you restrict yourself and run at a comfortable pace in the beginning. This allows you to gradually build up your aerobic base and aerobic fitness so you can start to run faster and faster without much exertion. This applies perfectly to dentistry as well.
For instance, if you want to get into implants or orthodontics and in the very beginning you start putting in massive amounts of energy, doing different courses and seeing lots of patients, you may fizzle out quickly because you might not be able to maintain that pace of work. Take it slow. Take it one step at a time. Gradually improve and don’t bite off more than you can chew, clinically! Start within your comfort zone and slowly up your game. Make your basics really strong and add more skills as you go on.
These important lessons I learnt from running, made me completely change my identity and turned me into a runner. The lessons also helped me in other parts of my life including dentistry, and made me a better professional as well.
Slowly But Surely You Improve
To recap, the first thing you need to focus on is deliberate practice. Make sure that you are actually putting in thoughts and taking specific actions to improve and track your progress. If you aren’t tracking your progress, you aren’t going to improve. The second thing I want you to do is to run your own race. Make sure you’re competing only with a previous version of yourself, and that you’re growing at your own pace. Don’t try to compete with others or beat them at their personal races. The best kind of satisfaction you get is when you are acing your own race.
Finally the last tip I have is to “run slow to run fast.” Put forward small steps each day, so you can move ahead without fatigue, burnout or exhaustion in the long run. Slowly but surely you will improve, and outlast others who go hard from the very start. Build strong foundational skills first, then work on getting faster and better. As a clinician, take up complex clinical procedures one by one and really see your growth over time.
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If you want to read the blog I wrote about lessons I learnt from running on CPD Junky, then head over to cpdjunky.au/newsletter and you’ll find the blog there.
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I’ll see you guys next week!