As young lawyers, many of us are overextended. We work full time (on a good week), some of us are starting families or taking care of aging parents. We are encouraged to network, build a practice, and engage in firm citizenship. Billable hours are always calling and so is that partner for whom you are penning that appeal. Many times, our health and wellness are the first to unravel. But why? Because it is not an immediate concern. You are probably just trying to get through the day with your ego intact, perhaps make a small dent in your to-do list and go home to your family so you can decompress. The last thing on your mind is your long-term health goals and concerns.
But, all the evidence tells us that should not be the case. It is important to examine the toll this type of latent neglect is taking on our overall well-being. This is especially true for those of us young lawyers who lead largely sedentary lifestyles. The risks of physical inactivity are now well established; it is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality according to the World Health Organization. More importantly, the benefits of exercise are especially critical to young professionals trying to keep it all together; it promotes feelings of satisfaction, boosts energy, promotes better sleep, combats chronic diseases and controls your weight.
After all, if you lack health and wellness, nothing else matters. Not the billable hours, not the vacation you are planning, and not the soccer practice you’re rushing to at the end of the day. You simply cannot function at full capacity when your health is neglected. In other words, exercise should be a critical component of any busy lawyer’s lifestyle.
But, as an overextended professional, you are probably wondering, “Where can I find the time to fit in exercise on top of everything else I have to do?” It is possible! Here are some ways to fit a workout in to your already-packed day:
- It starts on the weekend. While many of us use our weekends to revitalize, part of your weekend should also be about setting up for a successful week ahead. That means preparing as much as possible so that your weekend can seamlessly flow in to your weekly routine. This will eliminate the need to consume your meager spare time on weekdays with chores that take you away from exercising. You may prepare your meals in advance, get all of the laundry done, prepare your clothing ahead of time, etc. In other words, any task you can complete on the weekend instead of during your precious free time on weekdays: do it! That way, you can replace your early morning chaos with a yoga class, or your after-work dinner preparation with a jog outside.
- If you are exercising in the morning, prepare everything the night before. That means everything! Your workout clothes should be folded and stacked at the foot of your bed or on your dresser. Your wallet, water and running shoes should be packed away in your gym bag so you can just grab it on your way out the door. Prepare your work clothes that you will change in to, without any extra thought, when you return from the gym and take your shower. Pack your children’s lunches and your own lunch so that they are waiting in the refrigerator for a quick grab-and-go. The more you prepare in advance, the less likely you will use your morning routine (or lack thereof) as an excuse to stay in bed.
- Get enough sleep. It is no secret that getting enough sleep is vital for your overall health and ability to function. This is especially critical if you are aiming for a pre-dawn wakeup or a post-work exercise class. Experts recommend seven-to-eight hours of sleep per night. You may need more or less, but if you are not well rested, your chances of emerging from your warm cocoon of sleepy delight or dragging yourself out after a full day at the office is nil. It may mean less TV time, but it will be well worth it.
- Mentally prepare yourself. At the end of the day, your workout may be more about getting over the mental hurdle than a physical one. It is easier to have good intentions when you are comfortable on your couch than when your alarm goes off at some ungodly hour. Knowing your morning or evening will be calm and predictable because you have prepared in advance will allow you to get to your workout with that feeling of comfort and confidence you had when your intentions were set.
Now is the perfect time to start a workout routine. Check out local gyms, download a running app, or sign up for a race. That will provide all the motivation you need to establish some healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
On a final note, if you are ever experiencing a crisis with your mental or physical health, seek help from a qualified health professional.
Happy sweating, young lawyers!
The NJLJ Young Lawyers Advisory Board is a diverse group of young attorneys from around the state. Follow them on Twitter, @YoungLawyersNJL.