I will immediately lose some of my readers with this first admission: I am a lawyer.
For those of you still with me, this post – this series, this effort I am about to undertake is not about the law; but it is about lawyers, other professionals, and, increasingly, much of our world–a world in which being physically unfit has become the norm, and created a true health crisis. This post briefly outlines my own experience finding a way to be an exception to that trend. And I truly believe I embody the cliché, “If I can do it, then . . .” I am not an expert in health and fitness; I am one of you—a professional, a husband, dad, church volunteer, etc. I hope that this post is one of many articles, videos, and presentations I will share, to help other professionals know why they should take control of their fitness, that they can successfully gain that control, and some ideas on how.
After becoming an attorney, but long before I started studying and participating more actively in issues of health and fitness, I noticed something at large gatherings of attorneys (seminars, conventions, legal education). My colleagues were very bright, highly educated, hard-working, disciplined, driven, generally high-income earners, and . . . largely out of shape and overweight. It did not escape my attention that the last things on that list seemed at odds with the rest of the characteristics. In my younger years, I seemed to be one of the exceptions to the physical fitness problem (I also may be an exception to rest of the list). But, as time passed, the seemingly inevitable slide into middle-age softness started to set in for me as well.
Then, at age 47 (I am now 53), two events happened that made me snap–motivated me to see if there was a way to put the brakes on this weight-gain, even reverse it, and become truly “fit.” The first event was seeing a video of myself, as a Scoutmaster at a week-long scout camp, swimming the Polar Bear Plunge with the scouts—I clearly looked soft, even pudgy (yes, vanity was a significant motivator in my change—I was already short and balding, and didn’t want to add, well, you know). The second event was our firm’s annual assessment (biometric screening) for our health insurance plan. Every year, my numbers (like weight and waist size) were worse than the previous year; that year I was still in the “normal” Body Mass Index range. But, this time, I knew that if I came back after lunch, I would have crossed into the “overweight” range on the BMI scale. I had never thought of myself in that category, so that reality got my attention.
After years of trying “moderation” to stop or reverse this trend, I decided to take a more vigorous approach. I have much more to share about each of these (and the addition of other practices), but essentially I settled on the following things, which continue to form the core of my health and fitness efforts:
- I registered, trained for, and ran, my first full marathon (for non-runners, all marathons are 26.2 miles; all other distances are actually something different).
- I adopted a vegetarian diet (more recently vegan).
- As part of the dietary change, I also cut out (alright, consumed less) sugar, white flour, fried foods, and fatty foods.
- I started entering my food in a nutrition app (MyFitnessPal, but there are other great ones).
- I repeated. I just kept learning more and doing these things better, or at least regularly.
In my first year doing these (2013), I ran 3 full marathons, and dropped 25% of my body weight—and I was stronger than I’d been since high school (maybe stronger—I was a high school musician). Now, nearly 7 years later, I have run 17 full marathons, several half-marathons, and a few other distances. I even have a Boston qualifying time in there (and three close to it), which I would not have thought possible after my first (or second or third) marathon. But, the running events are not what matter for health and fitness—it is the training! Each marathon reflects 3 or 4 months of consistent running and exercise. And, not enough can be said about the importance of developing truly counter-culture eating habits. No matter how much you exercise, you can eat those calories back in minutes!
Because of what I observe and read about the physical health and fitness crisis facing us, I am anxious to share this message: You CAN beat it! You can make this part of your life align with the rest of the successful you! I am not saying it is easy, because it is not. But it also does not require a bunch of money, coaching, or a complex skill set. I have none of those. There are also a thousand ways to make significant health and fitness changes, and I am not saying that what I have done is ideal, or for you. I just hope that sharing some of what I have learned and done, through this and upcoming articles, videos, and presentations, will help you find your own way there.