7 Questions on Endurance
An Interview with six-time Ironman World Champion, Dave Scott
by Matthew Crouch
Editor’s Note: "7 Questions" is a series that will take something from non-attorney life, illuminate it with a personal interview and tie it to the practice of law. It is designed to stimulate and encourage different schools of thought. Answers have been revised for length and clarity.
Denver Docket: What is endurance to you?
Dave Scott: The three main areas of endurance — I will put it in layman’s terms — are cardiovascular endurance, cardio-respiratory endurance and muscular endurance. In a nutshell, your heart-lung-muscle function. They have a synergistic effect in working together. You can’t build up one without building up the other. In other words, your cardiovascular — your heart pumping system — has to be at the same level as your muscle system for them to handle a repetitive work load. Sometimes athletes who have been sedentary for a while have a tendency to be a little overzealous at the start of their endurance programs. They end up doing too much too quickly. Their minds may say: "Oh yeah, I can do this. I know I can do this." I think that happens to type-A people — and I would imagine a few people in your profession are that way.
DD: Quite a lot. (Chuckle with Dave.) So gaining endurance overnight is not possible?
DS: If you embark on a program where you do too much too soon, your muscles will adapt fairly quickly. For example, when you start a running program, you start off with that pounding or eccentric load on your muscles when you hit the ground. That huge shock absorption goes from your foot to your ankle, lower leg and knee, and transfers all the way up to your hip and lower back. Your muscles learn to adapt to the blow. But the problem with developing endurance overnight is that the connective tissue — your tendons and your ligaments — adapt much more slowly. So to truly build up your endurance, it usually takes a minimum of 12 weeks. From the muscular-skeletal standpoint, it takes about 12 weeks for you to handle a repetitive load.
DD: Don’t you see and feel the results of endurance training prior to 12 weeks?
DS: People can start building up endurance after three weeks. A sedentary person will start seeing muscular changes in three weeks and huge blood changes in six weeks. These changes tell athletes or an athletes-to-be that their "aerobic plumbing" is becoming that of an endurance athlete.
DD: With the daily grind and stress of a lawyer’s life, do you think having endurance is something that can help lawyers handle stress?
DS: Absolutely! There are numerous studies looking at that. Endurance activities mean roughly 20 minutes of continual exercise at a pace where your breathing rate actually goes up. It is not just like a light hike. You have to rev up your system, whether it is with rowing, swimming, cycling or something else. Whatever the aerobic activity is, you have to get your heart rate up. You will get a release of endorphins that will help your brain function and handle stress. Endurance performance gives an endorphin-like effect that causes a huge mood swing. It allows you to have better clarity of your problems, better clarity and judgment of the situation you are in, and, ultimately, a greater ability to override stress. That is a huge, huge, huge plus!
DD: Does it matter where the motivation for endurance activities comes from?
DS: If your motivation is defined by someone else who says, "You need to do this because you’re going to feel better," you might dig in your heels and say: "I don’t need this. I feel good about myself, don’t bother me." If people are motivated purely within themselves, it will drive them. Typically, it can be a very simple reason, like, "I just want to feel better." Most people have heard somewhere that if you exercise you are going to feel better. But you have to define what the "feel better" part means. It comes back to: "What do I really need?"
Ideally, you need to be active five days a week, at least 30 minutes a day. That should be the minimum goal. For lawyers who have very busy schedules, it means defining activity as a high priority and determining when exercise is going to fit into their routines, if it is not already there. It’s easy to say, "I know that I need 30 minutes to exercise," but then clients, paperwork, litigation and family matters pile up, and exercise is no longer a priority. That is a big mistake. Exercise doesn’t have to override the elements of family, work and so on, but it has to be slotted on a regular basis. If you do it at the same time each day, it can become part of your routine.
DD: Do you believe that lawyers need endurance qualities?
DS: I will give you a real example. I went through a divorce about a year ago. I remember talking to my attorney and I asked her how long it would take to meet with the arbitrator. It was really ironic. She said it could be a "long day," but I didn’t know what that really meant. Previously, I’d asked her if she was keeping up her exercise and she said, "Oh yes, I have to, to do this." The arbitration turned out to be a 13-hour day. At the end, when we were both delirious, I said: "Why, that took a phenomenal amount of mental clarity and endurance. I think we are fortunate that we were actually exercising before when we went into this day." She said: "Yeah! Hallelujah!"
DD: In closing, as a six-time Ironman champion, what is your favorite law and why?
DS: Good question. I am very familiar with lawyers, having worked with them for contracts and through my divorce. I know that side of it pretty well, but I will talk about the exercise side. I don’t know if I would define it as a law, but I always tell people a few things. If you are beginning a program, be consistent with it, be tenacious with it, and never give up, because ultimately you will feel much healthier for doing it. I tell people this rule or "soft law": people — even world-class athletes — should exercise to be healthy. Not to go faster in this race, but to be healthy.
Author’s Note: As with all exercise plans, consult your doctor first.