For Women in Law By Women in Law

Dear LiL: I often hear “we do better when we feel better” but this is easier said than done. On top of a full practice and kids, how can I fit exercise into my day too? ~ Fitting in Fitness

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Joseph Pilates said, “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness”. I believe this to be true.

I know as well as anyone that it’s difficult to fit everything into a day. You have work commitments and family commitments that often take priority over your own mental and physical health. Personally, I am selfish when it comes to fitness. I knew from early on in my career that I was going to have to navigate those other commitments tugging at my sleeve because fitness is such a big part of my life. Having said that, the process of getting to where I am was not without feeling guilty. The good news is I don’t feel guilty anymore and I don’t think you should either. Your happiness, health and mental strength, in all aspects of life, require you to commit to yourself first.

In my view, the foundation for any schedule that includes allotted time for physical fitness requires you to be organized. I had the benefit of spending some of my formative years as a competitive swimmer. I learned dedication to sport early and this has helped me ensure I remain committed to that single daily goal. How I have maintained that goal has, however, changed over time. If you were to have asked me this question 10 years ago, when my daughter was young, my answer would be different than it is today. My answer would have reflected her age and needs more than anything else. Today, I have a different regime and a grown-up daughter, but I still work out daily as it is the foundation for my own happiness, mental stamina and strength.

When my daughter was younger, I would try to fit my workouts in early in the morning long before my commitments to work or family would begin. I found that an early morning run, cycle or CrossFit workout would provide me the opportunity to set the foundation and focus for my day. Realistically, every workout requires a little extra time before (to get there) and after (to get organized for work) and I found that I could use my time more efficiently in the mornings. Getting my workout out of the way early also allowed me to avoid the guilty feeling of losing time with family or work. Neither were needing me at 6am.

Lunch time sweat sessions never worked for me because I felt my work productivity was interrupted and I lost far more time during the day than I did working out in the morning or at night. I think if you are going to workout at lunch you need to make sure that your time commitment allows the extra time around that workout to get to and from the office. I just never found a way to take one and a half to two hours out of the middle of my day, but everybody is different.

As my daughter has grown and became more independent my approach to my practice of law and commitment to fitness has changed. I still maintain my early mornings, but my life is different now and I have flipped my schedule on its head. I still workout almost daily, six times a week, but now I begin my office day earlier. I start work by 6:30am and generally try to work through until 3pm. I now covet my afternoon time as my daughter is busy with her own fitness and school schedule and does not need me during this time.

So that covers the average day but what about trials? I have found that during trial it is even more important to exercise, even if you can only fit in thirty minutes. My practice has always been to work out in the morning before trial. I have never been able to work out after trial as there has always been so much to organize and get ready for the next day. I found that if I waited for the end of the day it just never happened. I might compromise the length of my exercise routine during trial, but I never stop doing it. In fact, it is probably more important that you keep active during this time. Some of my best cross examination ideas or arguments have come with my pretrial workouts.

Now how do I make sure I get it done? It is simply a commitment I hold in my calendar just like an appointment with a client. Years ago, I would write it into my calendar. Now I don’t need to do that as I have an established routine and it is reasonably well understood by my colleagues and staff that I am unreachable between 4pm and 6pm most days. My advice to you is to add this important appointment to your calendar, at least initially. It requires prioritization, commitment and organization but it is doable.

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