Five Similarities Between Triathlon Training & Practicing Law

What are you doing for your midlife crisis? Big trips? Eloping to Vegas? Tattoos? How about doing your very first triathlon – that’s one thing I wanted to accomplish.

Whether it’s truly a midlife crisis or not is debatable, but what’s not in question is the value that decision has provided in my life. When I turned 40 I chose to ride 40 miles on my bike, which was awesome. But what would I do for 41? Ultimately, the answer was a triathlon.


It’s been truly transformative. The health and lifestyle changes cannot be understated. Yet since I knew next to nothing about the sport, I knew it’d require a tremendous amount study and life changes. And the more I’ve learned, the more I’ve now realized how many crossovers there are between law and triathlons.

  1. Tight Scheduling

“How in the world am I going to fit triathlon training in?” I didn’t know, so I just began doing the three disciplines: swim, bike, and run. That was a decent start, but it was aimless. Eventually, I got a great recommendation from a friend to read Be Iron Fit by Don Fink. Besides providing clear training regimens, there are inspiring testimonials from people that went from the couch to full-length Ironmans. There was a common thread in their messaging: strict scheduling.

The same is true of law. There is no way you can manage the literal hundreds of tasks without being truly disciplined with time management. This becomes even more crucial in a trusting environment when you don’t have a supervisor breathing down your neck. Efficiency is your religion, and you must practice with great faith. It’s a lesson I drill into our kids all the time: “don’t do this because it’s an arbitrary rule from mom and dad, do it because it makes your life better.”

  1. The Initial Pain of Forming New Habits

“Habits are first cobwebs, then cables.”

– Spanish Proverb

Have you ever been to a gym in January? It’s probably one of their busiest times of year because everyone has set New Year resolutions. But February rolls around and most people are out… why is that?

It’s hard to implement permanent life changes and form new habits (and break old ones). We’ve all experienced this and there’s no shame in falling short – you just need to be aware that it’s tough at first and try again. The good news is it becomes much easier pretty quickly (generally within a couple weeks) and when the good habit is formed, it’ll lock in place.

Practicing law requires habit forming within case management. It’s very easy to slip into short cuts and sloppy work “just to get it done.” As I mentioned above, we have hundreds of tasks on a weekly basis – how easy it could be to do some of them at a “good enough” level.

The problem is all those C grade efforts change your trajectory and you become a lesser version of yourself.

  1. dataData, data, data!

Stats are your BFF. Whether you’re cycling your umpteenth mile or calling an adjuster for the hundredth time, we are often working in the trenches. It’s easier to make judgment calls on the fly, but unless you’re actively looking at big-picture items, you’ll miss important themes.

There are also categories we are simply not going to know unless we have technology tracking it for us. Besides that, using memory as your sole source of recall leads to errors and inefficiencies.

That’s where software comes in. Even the most basic of programs can provide wonderful insights. For triathlon training, heart rate zones are critical to improving endurance, and you can’t do that by feel. A cheap heart rate monitor or even a basic watch function can do the trick.

The same is true of claim management. You may be able to read non-verbal cues of a judge and adapt your message accordingly, but you can’t calculate annual budgets or case costs by writing it on a notebook. Believe me, we’ve seen older attorneys do this and it’s not pretty.

  1. Enjoying the Journey

It’s funny that pirates were always going around searching for treasure, and they never realized that the real treasure was the fond memories they were creating.

– Jack Handey

JackI miss Jack Handey on SNL; it’s a dry, dad-joke sense of humor I love. This is one of my favorite quotes of his, but it’s surprisingly applicable here.

I think too many people are just trying to “get through the day” or “I’m here for the paycheck.” The same attitude can be heard around races. “I can’t wait until it’s over so I can stop training.”

That’s a sad way to live life. Not everything is fun and certainly no claim is perfect. But finishing a race or having a case settle is such a tiny portion of the overall lifecycle. You’ll burn out if that’s all you’re in it for. When training, I try to be grateful for the beautiful weather, exciting wildlife, people around me, and the sense of accomplishment when I create a new personal best.

In case management, I think about the client and how important you are to them. It’s one of the worst times in their life and they need guidance, advocacy, and empathy.

While laws largely remain is the same, each case always present new factual challenges. When you embrace that, it becomes more exciting. I’m not some drone clicking buttons and updating template letters. I’m Perry Mason investigating evidence, I’m Nicolas Cage in National Treasure cracking a code no one else can.

That’s obviously an exaggeration, but there is truth to it. Paradigm shifting is such a valuable tool. We need to remember we captain our own (pirate!) ship and choose how we react to everyone and everything on a daily basis.

  1. Emotional & Psychological Readiness

There’s a lot of talk about physical and mental aspects, but the emotional element is just as important. And if you’re not addressing this with real attention, you’ll run into serious problems. Here’s a scary stat:

As many as 1 in 5 lawyers is a problem drinker – twice the national rate.

– The American Bar Association

I learned a valuable lesson how emotions and psychology can affect your triathlon performance. In my first event (the Lonetree Triathlon), I neglected the advice I heard of “don’t let a triathlon be the first time you open swim” in a lake.

Why didn’t I listen? Because I thought that advice was based on the chaos of a race setting, the differences in temperature… basically all the physical challenges of the lake. So, I trained by pool swimming three times the distance of my race during each session to make sure I was more than ready. Problem solved.

Except… it wasn’t. I completely neglected the unique challenge of a lake and was brutally punished for it. During the first 200 meters of the race, I started panicking. “The water is freakin’ dark! It’s so deep! Why didn’t I wear a wetsuit? What if I drown?!” My heart rate spiked to over 200 BPM and my strength was draining at an alarming rate. It was scary.

I made it over to a safety kayak and collected myself, and eventually overcame the incident to finish the race. However, it was a critical error and one I quickly corrected for my next race, the Boulder Sunset triathlon.

I’ve since heard a similar story many times. I’ve also seen it first hand at subsequent races. Unfortunately, these stories also happen in a legal setting. Suicide, divorce, chronic health problems… they’re all there and they’ll take us down if we don’t fight back. Acknowledgment is the first step, then correction, and finally future prevention. Make sure you have life rafts in place along the way.

Ultimately, my big take away is life and law are endurance based and must be handled as such. Preparation, evaluation, dedication, and fulfillment are key ingredients for success.

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