By Vado Porro • July 15, 2010•Writers in Residence
This morning, I woke up in my usual (as of late) fit of bar exam anxiety around 4:30. I tossed, I turned, I whimpered about how much my life sucks right now (my fiance thought the whimpering was “excessive”), and I tried to go back to sleep. Around 5am, I decided that if I wasn’t going to be asleep and I couldn’t bear the thought of another practice question, I would go to the gym to hit the 5:40am spin class that I used to attend with somewhat regularity, before I started a night bar review and not sleeping.
As I was doing sprints and hill climbs, I remembered a promise I made to myself back in May, when this mess first started. When I first began to feel overwhelmed, I would go swimming, or running, and simply tell myself over and over, “I will not let the Bar beat me.” I found myself reminding myself of that over and over again today. I will probably do the same thing tomorrow. I came home at 6:30, showered, and went back to sleep. When I woke up two hours later, I felt ready to face the day with a significantly better outlook. When I got to the gym, it was something like, “I hate everyone and everything and nobody could possibly understand how hard my life is” or something similarly self-pitying. When I woke up, it was something more like, “I’ll make cupcakes while I do practice questions.”
So many people treat me like I am either 1) fierce or 2) self-detrimental for going to the gym so regularly. Sometimes they say, “good for you for going to the gym!” Sometimes they say, “why do you work out so much?” I don't really think either of these approaches is correct. Our bar review course actually mandates 20+ minutes of exercise a day, to both build stamina and help you relax. My friends who would or might not have regularly exercised otherwise report that it is doing wonderful things for them. For me, it does the same thing it always has - keeps me sane.
I didn’t realize how true the “20 minutes a day” mantra was until we took our first practice test... When our instructor asked us how we felt afterwards, I shrugged. I had been surprised how badly I crashed at 2:30 on the written test day, but other than that, I’d been fine. I felt focused and like the 3.5 hour stretches weren’t so bad. A student in the back of the room, however, said he was surprised at how sore he was after 6 hours of sitting, and how fidgety he got. Our instructor reminded us that exercise would help increase our stamina so that we could withstand the 2-day ordeal that is the bar exam.
Last weekend, we took a full length practice MBE. Try as I might, I couldn’t shake myself out of a daze as I went through the morning section. At lunchtime, I packed up my books and I headed across the street to the gym. Five minutes later I was in the “emergency” gym clothes that I keep in my locker and walking on the treadmill. I walked for a mile, at a non-sweat-inducing pace, just to wake myself up and help me focus. It worked - I came back for the afternoon feeling alert and ready to go. I suspect the real exam will find me walking laps in the testing facility or around the block to keep myself awake and focused.
If you are studying for the July 2010 exam now, the very best of luck to you all. If you will be taking the exam in the future, I heartily recommend developing an exercise habit now that will help carry you through bar review.