I graduated from law school in 1991 and began working 80 hours per week. I was newly married, without children and had an exercise routine already established. I always managed to fit exercise into my day. In 1998, we were lucky enough to have our first and only child and I took a hiatus from law to raise our child. I could have easily given up on an exercise routine, but instead readjusted to figure out how to exercise with a baby, and then readjusted with each phase of his life. (Toddlers don’t sit still in jogging strollers, and they throw tantrums at the YMCA’s kid’s club.) Two years ago, I experienced a major life transition and began to work full-time again. I could have easily given up on an exercise routine. I didn’t, once again readjusting to keep exercise a part of my life.
In the past year, I returned to the practice of law and living the billable life. Having written this column about the importance of health and wellness for lawyers for the past seven years, I realized that staying in shape in the legal profession was easier said than done. I am humbled at how difficult it is to juggle family life, schedules, work, clients, house/yard duties, exercise and having a healthy home-cooked meal on the table every night. I needed to readjust my routine once again to fit it all in. As I made this transition, I wondered how my colleagues at Riley Bennett & Egloff mastered their healthy lifestyles despite the demands of Lady Justice. Here are some of their ideas — they work!
A colleague who “doesn’t consider himself to be the poster-child for health and wellness” stays in shape by:
1. Playing basketball two mornings a week before work and playing “Old Guy” basketball outdoors on Sunday nights from spring to fall.
2. Playing softball on Thursday nights in the Lawyers’ League.
3. Riding a stationary bike trainer in the basement during winter.
4. Walking with his wife and their dog after dinner every night.
5. Golfing nine holes at least once a week.
6. Using a stand-up desk at work and taking frequent walks around the office to deliver things, using the stairs.
7. Keeping nothing to eat in his desk drawer, because has no will power to let it sit there; splitting meals with his wife at restaurants.
8. He credits the firm’s wellness coach for educating and inspiring him with the “New Year, New You” challenge, drinking more water, and scheduling an annual physical examination in January to keep holiday eating and drinking in check.
A colleague who is just as fit now as he was in high school, about 45 years ago:
1. Uses the stairs to go down five flights to the first floor.
2. Runs or uses the Pacers bike share to attend meetings downtown.
3. Works out three nights a week at home.
4. Keeps a jar of nuts in his desk for late nights at the office.
Advice from a young lawyer colleague who uses exercise as her “quiet” and stress relief time:
1. Find something you love to do. Not everyone likes to run and swim.
2. The hardest part about getting into an exercise routine is getting started. Team up with a friend because it’s always harder to cancel on friends; sign up and pay in advance for classes so you won’t skip.
3. Exercise first thing in the morning; set out your clothes the night before.
4. Develop the mantra “No excuses.” Saying, “I’ll start tomorrow,” never works. Get out of bed when that alarm goes off and get moving. She has yet to regret a workout, although she has regretted snoozing one too many times.
5. Going to the gym Monday morning sets the week off on a good, healthy note, wakes you up, and clears out the weekend cobwebs. You’re more likely to get up Tuesday if you did so on Monday, because “Mondays are the worst.”
6. Exercising regularly causes her to eat more healthfully.
From a colleague who says that “commitment” is key to his healthy lifestyle:
1. Build healthy living into your life and change it with each new stage (marriage, children, getting older.) He used to play a lot of basketball in his younger days and now meets with a trainer a few times a week after work and walks a lot.
2. Keep a set exercise routine and adjust it when your life adjusts.
3. Have some “skin” in the game: pay for a trainer, gym or class and tell other people you’re doing it to be held accountable.
4. Drink water and have fruit on hand at work every day.
5. Take a daily walk outside at the “witching hour” (2 p.m.) when that “slump” feeling attacks.
A colleague who lost 40 lbs. with Weight Watchers:
1. Weight Watchers made her aware of the emotional aspect of her weight loss journey; she became aware of what and why she was eating, was held accountable for what she ate, and she found solace in hearing that other people had struggles too;
2. She initially joined a gym, starting out by walking and using some machines, but now finds she doesn’t have the time or inclination to go to a gym, so she walks, offers to walk her neighbor’s dog and finds a reason to be outside doing something.
3. She doesn’t deny herself the food she loves, but enjoys it in moderation, making smart choices.
A colleague who began her weight loss and healthy living journey at work, using the stairs instead of the elevator:
1. She began by making it a habit to use the stairs between our floors each time she needed to go from the 4th to the 5th floor. (She makes many trips a day.)
2. When this was no longer “difficult,” she began walking up two flights of stairs (to 6th floor) and then back to the 5th floor. Then, she added walking down one extra flight (to 3rd floor) and back to 4th floor. She occasionally runs up one to two flights a day.
3. This healthy routine takes no more than 45 seconds each time she does it and she’s lost 10 lbs. since March!
4. She has an activity tracker which encourages her, she uses her bike instead of her car to run errands at home, and she does all her yard work.
And finally, from a colleague who detests exercise or anything remotely associated with it, offered to be used as the bad example, describing himself as, “a virtual wreck of a human being, who has somehow defied the odds by living as long as he has.” One of his favorite sayings is, “No life is truly wasted if it can at least serve as a bad example.”
I assured him that I won’t give up on him, and I won’t give up on you. Try a few of these ideas and adjust (and re-adjust) your routine as your life does the same.•
Sharon Buechler is an attorney with Riley Bennett & Egloff LLP and a certified personal trainer, health fitness specialist, and life and wellness coach. The opinions expressed are those of the author.