Why Remodeling is Just Like an UltraMarathon

Posted by Christine Da Silva of Paintscapes Fine Interiors

The longer I’m in this industry, the more I notice how similar it is to one of my favorite hobbies- running long distances through the woods for several hours (often alone and at a slower pace than most people assume). It’s a love-hate feeling and most of it is type 2 fun at best. But like this work I’ve chosen, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

When I first started thinking about writing this, the negative self-talk began immediately. What could a painter possibly have to say that would be of value to an established group of builders, contractors, designers, and architects?! This thought leads perfectly to the first similarity between this work and my beloved (but sometimes hated) hobby.

1. Imposter Syndrome
Have you ever gone to an event or seen a stunning project and thought, “What am I doing here?” “My projects don’t look like this.” You have to be fairly discerning to make it in this industry, and we often turn that on ourselves by questioning what business we have doing this in the first place.
At the start line of every race, the comparison to other runners always creeps in. I suppose this is normal and probably indicates we are in good company, surrounding ourselves with accomplished people that we admire.

2. It takes longer than expected (and ALWAYS costs more)
Does a remodeling project ever end on time? Did anyone expect that the windows, which took 47 weeks to get, would be the wrong size? Flexibility isn’t just important, our sanity (and survival) depends on it.
The similarities? Running a lot of miles simply takes forever and it’s not nearly as free as it seems. I remember proudly telling my husband how practical and inexpensive my new hobby was. That was before I realized I needed more shoes than a Nike store, and that there were other necessities such as headlamps, GPS watches, sports massages, and physical therapy appointments (my bad).

3. Multi-tasking is not a myth
I’m always impressed by how many things we do at once. Problem-solving on the job, taking a few minutes to utilize a “teachable moment” in the field, and taking photos of the site because it’s impossible to get employees to do it. They say you can only do one thing at a time but if that were true, nothing would ever get done!
If I couldn’t remember to pace a long run appropriately, eat every hour, hydrate enough but not too much, replenish salt, think positively, and not trip on that rock, I’d probably end up curled up on the side of the trail calling for an Uber (almost did it once).

4. It never always gets worse (that’s not a typo)
Things will go wrong. Don’t ever make the mistake of saying, “It can’t get any worse than this.” But 99% of disasters will turn out fine in the end, which basically means that if your job site isn’t underwater, on fire, or your shipment of handmade Italian drawer pulls wasn’t seized by pirates, then you’re probably doing okay.
On long excursions in the wilderness, there are blisters, sprained ankles, lost maps, and sometimes tears of frustration, but luckily few things are terrible enough to keep one from going back out the next time.

5. “I’m too old for this s***”
We’ve all said it, regardless of how old we actually are. This is hard work and it’s often repetitive in nature. I remember saying it even in my twenties, painting baseboards for days and feeling like my knees would hate me for life. Perhaps that’s why I started running (?!).

6. Seeing something so beautiful it nearly breaks your heart (and not everyone else will get it)
You notice the way the black cabinet knobs accentuate the veining in an exquisite stone countertop. You savor the multitude of textures and colors in a well-executed design, and you see the precision and planning that went into the construction of a gorgeous foyer stairway.
I liken this to the hundreds of seemingly identical trail photos in my phone. When you find profound beauty in something, nothing can keep you away from it.

7. You meet all kinds of people and make some friends for life
This industry attracts all types of people and the client base is endless. The relationships we build are such a huge part of why we do this in the first place. Just think of some of your favorite people on the planet, dearest of friends, and there’s a good chance you met them in this business.
I’ve shared many magical miles with runners in their seventies and as young as 8 years old.

8. It’s always worth it (except when it’s not)
It’s not easy to say no but it’s truly a valuable life skill. There are some projects and some clients that set off every warning alarm in our sympathetic nervous system, and we should heed that warning without hesitation or guilt. There are times when we don’t figure it out right away, and at that point, the best thing to do is just grit it out. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and eventually, it will end (hopefully injury-free!).

9. So. Much. Planning.
The amount of planning, emailing, calling, site-visiting, and researching to make these renovations happen is immense. Sometimes it’s best not to even think about it or we might not ever get started. What other industry needs its paperwork to be printed on 3.5-foot sheets of paper?!
Training takes so much planning too. I remember my husband seeing me at the dining room table with all my training calendars printed out. He thought I decided to go back to school without telling him.

10. You love a challenge and actually thrive on it
Do you ever wonder why you say yes to so many things? Many of us take on a project without knowing exactly how we are going to do the thing. That feeling of challenge can sometimes be tiring, but we choose it because something in that process makes us feel alive. Happiness is overrated. Alive is where it’s at. (I should probably print and laminate that to read while I’m questioning my life choices at mile 57.)

Hopefully, you enjoyed this list and feel like some of it resonates. It’s awfully special what we do, and it takes some really special people to do it. Each day is different and not without its struggles, but hopefully, when you reach the finish line you can always feel proud of your unique and epic journey. Celebrate it, reflect on it, tell everyone how hard it was, and do it again tomorrow.

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