Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Incredible Aluminium Runner

In my quest to become a better runner I have to face reality.

I am no “Iron-Man”.

And at 42 I am definitely not a “Man of Steel”.

But I think I might just be an “Aluminium Hero”.

A story about Alcoa Inc., the third largest aluminium producer in the world, might just hold the key as to how we can all become better runners, running longer and faster way into our old age.
Like running, aluminium production is nearly always beset with injuries, many people almost view aluminum work related injuries as a necessary evil. It’s similar to the way runners talk about impact injuries, shin splints and runner’s knee as an unfortunate side effect of training.

In 1987 Paul O’Neill became the CEO of Alcoa. When he took over he didn’t talk about profits and shareholder dividends and the type of things a CEO normally talks about. Instead he talked about safety and how safety was going to be his number one priority.

Of course everyone thought he was insane and the share price of Alcoa immediately dropped.

But it turns out that the best way to create a safer work environment is to make sure workers do the right thing every single time. And of course, if you do it right every single time, if you create the right procedures, then not only is it safer, it's also more efficient. Very quickly after O’Neill took over Alcoa was producing better quality aluminium, for less, with happier injury free workers. Oh and the share price quickly exceeded what it had been when he took over.

All too often as runners we view injury prevention; stretches, ice baths and recovery days etc. the same way many CEO’s view worker safety – an annoying add on that we’d prefer to forget if we could. All too often a runner’s primary focus is on achieving that new Personal Best time (PB) or to run longer than we’ve run before (the CEO’s profits and share price).

But what the story of Alcoa clearly demonstrates is if you put safety at the very centre of what you do you achieve all your goals.

A well stretched, healthier and rested body will be able to run faster than muscles and tendons on the constant brink of injury. Like Paul O’Neill prioritise safety and everything else will fall into place.

As far as I am aware there is no superhero named after aluminum but from now on all readers of this blog should feel free to call me the “Amazing Aluminium-Man” – putting safety first.

(The picture today is pretty self explanatory)

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