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LAS is an award-winning provider of elearning consultancy, design, development and training services in the UK and internationally. 

Established in 2005 as LearningAge Solutions, we work with some of the best known organisations in the world to boost their performance through the innovative use of learning technologies. Working in partnership with our customers, we draw on proven principles from human behaviour, how people learn and how the brain works to create impactful digital learning solutions with real return on investment.

About Tess Robinson

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Tess is a director of LAS. She has worked in a learning environment for over fifteen years. First, as a senior manager in universities, moving into digital learning seven years ago.

Learning lessons from half marathon training

By Tess Robinson
Posted 7 September 2017

Four months ago, in a moment of madness, I agreed to run a half marathon with 20 of my old school friends to support one of our number who has been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. Now, I’m no runner - I never thought I’d be capable of doing this, but now, with only 4 weeks to go, I’m starting to believe that I can do it. The journey has been an interesting one and there’s a lot of parallels with learning.

Here are 5 elements that have helped my training: 

1. Having a goal – my goal is to get to the finish line in one piece and to raise money and awareness for MND at the time. Interestingly, I’ve found it more motivating that the goal is not just about me and my development, but it’s for a higher purpose and that it’s shared with group I will be running with. I’m more concerned about letting others down by not completing it than letting myself down. This is interesting when applied to learning. There is often an assumption that ‘what’s in it for me’ WIFM is the strongest motivator, but humans are social animals and a sense of shared destiny and aspiring to a better future can be very powerful, particularly when it comes to behaviour change.

2. Spaced repetition – anyone who’s ever seen a running training plan will note that there’s a lot of repetition of distances. You run the same distance but try to get a little faster each time, leaving rest time in between. In the same way that this type of training builds muscle memory, spaced repetition in learning can build neural networks and increase retention of learning.

3. Social and peer support – this has really been important to me as a beginner. There are people in my group who have run marathons and I have benefitted hugely from their experience. They have shared their failures and the things that work for them,  so that the less experienced among us can avoid some of the pitfalls they have found. We encourage each other and help each other move towards our shared goal. Although company culture has a significant role to play in whether this can work in corporate learning, an element of ‘appropriate social’ can help unlock knowledge networks within the organisation.

4. Learning from failure – there has been a fair bit of this with my training. Some days it goes really well and others just feel like an unbelievable slog. Working out my best time of day to run, what to eat (or not to eat) beforehand, the most comfortable clothes to wear, who I prefer to run with, has all been a learning curve. After a few months, I feel like I know myself better and I know what works for me, but I have only got to this point by getting it wrong – a lot! With learning, it’s so important to have the opportunity to try things out, to see what works and what doesn’t and to make mistakes in a safe environment.

5. Performance support – We’ve all been using the app MapMyRun to track our progress. There’s a social element to this as we can all comment on each other’s training but you can also record times and see how far you’ve come. It tells you how far you’ve run and at what pace as you are running and even nags you when you’re not achieving the target pace you’ve set for yourself. You can see other people’s routes and how long they are and use those so you don’t have to spend ages planning your own - particularly useful if you’re running somewhere new. This performance support and monitoring means that I can just get on with my run and use the stats to improve as I go. Performance support within the organisation means that time is not taken away from the job for learning and that support can be accessed in real time as it’s needed.

It’s so interesting that a lot of the things that have supported and motivated me whilst beginning my running journey can also be equally effectively applied to organisational learning. As it turns out, getting your trainers on in general is good for learning. A study done at the University of British Columbia, found that regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the size of the hippocampus - the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.

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