Recovery:  sprint, marathon or adventure race?

A massive thank you to Roger Sutton (EA Networks) for letting us run with his fantastic analogy.

Recovery is often described as a marathon, not a sprint.  But a marathon implies a set distance, a set route and it is a lone endeavour.  Crisis recovery is far from linear or predictable and you certainly can’t do it alone.

Think of your recovery journey more like an adventure race: you, your teammates and a distant end point marked on a map.  You have to find your way through unknown terrain, unexpected obstacles, weather, emotional and physical challenges, disagreements, sleep deprivation, hunger, exhaustion, elation, excitement, and fear.  You have to work together as a team to get everyone to the finish line.  Sometimes you go the wrong way but, no matter what, you keep going.

What can we learn from adventure racers that we can apply to our COVID-19 recovery?  Below are some typical adventure racing tips that we think will help you get through.

  • Look after yourself

    • Pay attention to hydration and nutrition. If you are going to get through a long race, you need to keep up energy levels and stay healthy.
    • Have a sleep strategy. Time out is important. You need to give your body and mind time to recharge so you can continue to make good decisions.

  • Work as a team

    • Have a team goal. Make sure everyone on the team is racing to the same place, at the same speed.  And run your own race, don’t compare yourself to others.  You know what your team is capable of and you know the best strategy to get you all to the finish line.
    • Know your teammates' strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has good days and bad days and everyone responds differently to stressful situations. Teammates have to lift each other up when someone is in a slump.  Having a team with diverse strengths is a real advantage here. 
    • Communicate. You can’t make decisions that are best for the team if you don’t know how the team is doing.  Teammates have to be open and honest with each other about how they are coping and around any concerns they have about their progress in the race.

  • Pace yourself

    • Start at the pace you can finish at. It’s better to start slow and speed up than to accidently burn all your energy and resources before you reach the finish line. 
    • Think smart not fast. Taking a little extra time to plan a better route or taking time to refuel and rest can mean the difference between finishing and not finishing.  Always take time to check your decisions amongst your team and be confident that they are the best, most energy efficient decisions. 

  • Manage your crash risk
    • Avoid crashes that could end your race. There is always a risk of crashing. This is heightened during a race by fatigue, unfamiliar terrain and the drive to do well.  You will need to take risks but don’t be reckless.  Actively monitor the risk and adjust your speed to reduce the chances of catastrophic crashes that could end your race.

  • Have an exit strategy
    • Have a DNF (did not finish) policy. When you’re in the heat of a race it can be difficult to objectively know when you have reached your limit.  Pushing too far can impact your ability to compete in other races. You need to identify some clear indicators that mean it’s time to pull out of the race.  

  • Navigate well
    • Always know where you are. Know what is behind you and what is ahead of you. Know what the weather is doing and how your team is coping. Constantly be on the lookout for changing conditions.

    • Carefully plan your route. One of the common downfalls of adventuring racing teams is poor navigation. Poor navigation means teams are covering more distance and expending more energy than they need to. This can be demoralising. You need to study the map, assess the route options and choose the path best suited to the strengths of your team and any other conditions. And if you get it wrong, you need to reset and adjust your course.

Applying this to COVID-19

The recovery race ahead will be challenging for many organisations.  The exact path you will follow, the obstacles you will face and how long it will take will be unclear.  But if you look after yourself, play to your team strengths, pace yourself, and plan, monitor and adjust your course to maintain forward momentum, you will give yourself a fighting chance of reaching the finish line.

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