Early in my legal career, someone said to me, “You have your family, job and you – pick two.” This held true for me for many years – especially once I had kids. I was constantly trying to be superlawyer and superdad and that left approximately zero waking hours for superhealth. In recent years, I’ve decided that, if you are creative, this adage is largely bunk. Pairing work and family with exercise, you can have it all – or at least an acceptable measure of “all.”
I believe the key is being creative in how you exercise, often combining exercise with your time at work, with your family or simply doing what you enjoy.
Exercise While Working
I’m not talking about running 5 miles at lunch every day. If that works for you – great. It’s never worked for me as I don’t have enough time for all of the administration that goes with getting all sweaty during working hours. Instead, I’m talking about really simple, low-heart-rate stuff that keeps your blood pumping and adds up. None of it will prepare you for a triathalon; but all of it will make you a heck of lot healthier than simply being a desk troll.
- Take a walk – Inside or outside your office, simply take a 10-15 minute morning and afternoon break where you say hello to people, run an errand or simply walk around the block. If you put it in the calendar, you will find that it is a welcome break.
- Take the stairs – This was one of my earliest tricks. In bigger buildings where it is hard to take a walk, make sure to take the steps all that you can. Even a couple of flights here and there help your joints and circulation. I might argue that if you work in less than a 10 story building, you should never see the elevator.
- Walk to lunch – Many lawyers get used to having someone grab lunch for them. Sometimes this is practical; sometimes it is ego; but it is never healthy. If someone is getting you lunch now and then, fine; but otherwise you’re just being lazy. Walking a couple of blocks to the sandwich shop outside gets you all sorts of fresh air and works the muscles.
- Exercise at your desk (or vice versa) – Admittedly I have done little of this because I get quite a bit of exercise in the evening and on the weekends. But the following have worked for friends:
Exercise Balls – Sitting on these rather than an office chair allows you to work your core while sitting. It is an interesting concept, and I see a lot of these balls around the Avvo offices.
Adjustable/Standing Desks – I have always wanted one of these but have not gotten around to it. Instead, I often try to stand while I am on the phone. I also try to stand and stretch a lot during meetings – especially the long ones.
Treadmill Desks – I find these really intriguing. You set a very slow pace and then casually stroll while you talk on the phone, do email, etc. So far, I’m too cheap to buy one for myself, but I can feel one in my future. I know a number of people who swear by them.
Work on the exercise bike – Save your CLEs, trade articles, simpler briefs and agreements, deposition videos, etc., for the evening while you are exercising. I have a recumbent bike which makes reading and watching a screen so much easier. But this can also work with tour-style bikes, stairmasters, etc. I also watch TV while I work out which makes it much easier to feel like I’m not missing out on some of my favorite shows because of work (or exercise).
Exercising While Parenting
This really works no matter the age of your children; but your opportunities will increase as your kids get older (and more competitive with you :-)).
- Walks or Bike Rides – One of my tricks when the kids were younger was that I would get home at night in time to take them for a walk around the neighborhood. They would often end up on my shoulders, allowing me to get a little upper body exercise as well. As my kids have gotten older, we now take more bike rides than walks together. The rides are only through the neighborhood and seldom last more than 30 minutes; but its solid exercise and family time all in one.
- Playing sports with your kids – This is mildly manipulative; but if you can successfully point your kids towards sports that you enjoy, you will have these sports in common as you get older. I love to ski and put all of my kids on skis at three years old. They now love it and we are a family of ski vacations and ski weekends. Same goes for tennis, golf, swimming and basketball – we do them all together and regularly. I’m constantly on the hunt for activities that excite the kids and get me some exercise.
- Exercise when they’re distracted – Sometimes my kids want to watch something on TV which simply doesn’t interest me. Rather than heading off to some other place in the house, I will do pushups and sit-ups while “watching” the program with them. I’m watching enough so that we can talk about what is going on, but I am exercising while they’re having fun and we’re all staying together. I also do this sometimes during their allotted video game time.
Allocating Exercise Time
Yes, you are busy. But if you do not allocate time for exercise, it will happen much less often. I play in a basketball league that is twice a week. I schedule tennis time with my wife or kids. We have designated ski days. Yes, these can be blown up; but they are on the calendar and I have to consciously blow them up rather than consciously remember to do them.
Your Family, Your Job and You – Pick THREE!