Fatness v. Fitness – Life, Law and the Pursuit of Happiness

By Doug Sedwick
Originally appeared in January 2008 OSB Bulletin

When many of us started practicing law, quality of life wasn’t part of the equation. A successful practice meant challenging work, respected colleagues, a nice home and an occasional vacation. Many of us made it — and still feel incomplete. We’re out of balance, like a broken set of scales. Trying to protect our private lives from our professional duties, we’ve removed the crossbeam that balances them. Restoring equilibrium depends on restoring the linkage. The bar has a committee to promote quality of life and to provide resources to encourage happiness, fulfillment and well being. Why talk about such things here? Because a working balance works both ways.

A key element of quality of life is health. That’s just common sense: being unhealthy is no fun, and having no fun is bad quality of life. A key element of health, in turn, is physical fitness. Letting your body run down elevates your risk of coronary heart disease, adult-onset diabetes, high blood pressure and strokes, to name a few un-fun things. We all know that, and therefore stipulate it here, to avoid reciting the somber statistics that correlate a sedentary lifestyle to increased morbidity and mortality.

We also all know that law jobs can promote unhealthful lifestyles. Not all attorneys are out of shape, of course — but chances are you’re taking a quiet inventory of coworkers right now. Part of it is that law jobs are desk jobs. Lawyers make a living using their minds. We put in eight, 10, 12 hours a day putting keystrokes in order. At work, our bodies don’t work much. Another part is stress. Lawyers are driven people — it takes that to get here and stay here. We face long days, tight deadlines, histrionic clients and an unrelenting billable quota. All that goes with the territory. All that also makes it easy to put off exercise. How many lawyers, after a day at the desk, opt for a cushy chair, old TV on DVD, and a big box of chardonnay — and not for a bike ride, basketball game or neighborhood walk?
Regular physical activity promotes physical and mental well being—no case or controversy there. The question is: how? Here’s some tips on exercising your option to exercise:
Take the stairs. Many lawyers work above the ground floor and habitually ride the elevator. Taking the stairs creates exercise, burns calories and builds your quads. (No mercy for the lucky few that work in the high-rise buildings downtown!)

Bike to work. Portland is bike-friendly. Many streets have bike lanes, and TriMet offers bike racks on all buses and trains. You can therefore ride with your bike — and split a long commute between public transit and private time. Saves gas, too.

Skip the latte. Visit any coffee house and you’ll find busy professionals getting a caffeine fix. It’s hard to resist a mocha or latte, but avoiding the empty calories reduces your risk of relaxed-fit jeans. A 16-ounce whole milk mocha with whipped cream has over 300 calories and almost 20 grams of fat. A 16-ounce black coffee has less than 10 calories and no fat. So: opt for black coffee or a non-fat regular latte and skip the sugary flavored drinks.

Don’t skip breakfast. When you wake up, you’ve been fasting all night. You have all day to burn breakfast calories.

Park far, far away. Most trips to the store or the like require parking. Wasting time looking for the perfect space is stressful. Instead, take the first easy spot in the empty part of the lot and walk the rest of the way.

Stop Smoking. If this needs explanation, you haven’t been paying attention.

Pack a lunch. A home-made lunch is usually healthier than a take-out lunch. Client or colleague lunches are fancy events, but packing home-made can keep you from packing pounds. Eat less fried — be less fried.

Go to the gym. Athletic clubs keep long hours too. After work is prime time but not your only option. Most gyms open at (yikes!) 5 a.m. Try going early for a half-hour of cardiovascular exercise. Or try lunch time. Many firms now provide changing rooms, showers and even exercise gear.

Many of us haven’t kept any type of regular fitness routine since high school, and lifestyle change is daunting. It pays off, though, literally. Healthy people are more productive and earn more. Consider the potential client who visits the firm to make a decision about hiring an attorney. An out-of-shape attorney can make a bad first impression. Poor physical care doesn’t necessarily translate to poor legal representation, of course, but a potential client who sees you failing to maintain yourself might think you can’t maintain their case. Your physical fitness implies your professional fitness.

The author is a member of the OSB Quality of Life Committee and an attorney at Mentor Graphics Corporation.

© 2008 Doug Sedwick