Trainee: ‘What are your top tips for remaining healthy while busy at work?’

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By Legal Cheek on


Rookie solicitor needs advice

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one trainee City solicitor is keen to shake their unhealthy lifestyle.

“Hello Legal Cheek. I am in the third seat of my training contract at a City law firm. Prior to starting I was a keen gym-goer and ate relatively healthily. I’ve noticed in recent months my diet has become gradually worse (fast-food via Deliveroo is a regular occurrence) and I very rarely go to the gym during the week. This is all partly due to being busy at work which in turn has left me feeling very unmotivated. How do I get my mojo back? I’d be keen to hear from other trainees or associates about how they balance health with work commitments (if that’s even possible!?). Any top tips would be most welcome!”

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As a trainee you’re not in control of your own time, so you can’t up and leave for the gym mid-afternoon without getting a funny look from your trainer.
I normally go in the mornings before work, unless I’ve had a late night beforehand, in which case I prioritise sleep. Usually mornings before work starts are uninterrupted, especially if you actively choose not to respond to non-urgent emails.


In my years of experience being a lawyer, there’s only one way to get your “mojo” back, and regain your love of life: quit being a lawyer. Done.

Been there, done that

Start a relationship with someone at your firm for easy access to high quality cardio, without having to leave the office.


This. Frequent intense intercourse is both healthy for the body and pleasurable at the same time. Also, it doesn’t need to be limited to one individual (either generally or at one time). Gone are the old days of one person being limited to one other person. Minds are more open to healthy practices.

Mind you, law firms are still traditional places so you need to be discrete. A good place to start is with your fellow intake. Talk, find out who else in the firm might be game. If you do well for yourself you might end up mingling with more senior individuals which can also be helpful for advancing your career.


Secretaries and cafeteria staff are usually a good source of exercise, albeit not so strong on the career advancement side of things. For that you end up with a bit of a trade off – more money, but needing to conduct exercise with depraved and often filthy old men.


I’m a Trainee at a City firm, and struggled to adapt in a similar way. I’ve found that it’s better if I set realistic expectations for myself – getting up to go to the gym before work twice during the week rather than 4/5 times, and then can make it up by going twice at the weekend. If I finish early enough I’ll make sure to have a walk/jog in the evening where possible.

On days where there’s no chance I’ll get any exercise, I tend to get off the tube at an earlier stop on my way to and from work, just so I’m doing an extra bit of walking, and go out for a bit at lunchtime where possible. I also find this helps me with my work – I find it hard to focus if I just roll out of bed, onto the tube and into the office.


I cycle to and from work which gives me an hour of “free” exercise 3-4 times a week. I say free in the sense that I don’t have to carve time out from anywhere else for it because I’d have been commuting regardless.


Cycle on the days I go in the office. Walking pad and standing desk for the days I wfh.

Senior Associate / Comm Lit

As intimated by some, it is part of the life of a trainee, but it is only limited.

I’d suggest, (i) not drinking alcohol, at all (nor smoking), (ii) get to bed as soon as possible, (iii) meal prep on weekends, so your food is organised before the week starts, (iv) get up earlier (you’ve gone to bed earlier), and (v) do half an hour of exercise every morning (with your extra time from getting up earlier).

In my experience, the above is the only way to lead a healthy lifestyle while practicing as a lawyer (in London). You also have to be very strict with your social time, and save it for the weekends. You don’t have time to be social AND healthy during the week.

Senior Associate

This sounds incredibly dull. You don’t need to take such drastic measures to be healthy and succeed.

Paralegal and future equity partner

I can just tell you are a degenerate. Time will catch up with you. I’ll wave as I fly past you in my career in a few years.

Senior Associate

Oh for goodness sake, typical Gen Z who thinks they know it all.

I bet you’re the type who insists on storing condiments in the fridge just because the packaging tells you to. You’d throw out a week old garlic.

This sort of attitude sickens me. It makes my blood boil.

Reality will catch up with you. The reality that you’re a dull, boring, close minded drone who needs to loosen up and learn to enjoy life a little.


This is actually very helpful advice. It may seem dull in ways but it simply highlights that his priorities are slightly different. I think a lot of people could gain from reading his advice. Some people unfortunately rely on alcohol, and that’s not to say drinking should be completely avoided, but down the line it could lead to health issues, addiction etc. Also, it is scientifically proven that alcohol affects sleep, so if your objective is to optimise your ability to work as a lawyer, his advice is prudent.


For your own good I hope you’re joking in response to a clearly tongue in cheek comment

MC Associate

Here are some things to bear in mind:
– No one gives you credit in most law firms for coming in early. But people may get annoyed if you leave early.
– The morning, before things kick off, is generally when you are least likely to be disturbed by work. Banking on doing exercise during the day or after work is a fool’s errand, even at associate level, as you are simply not in control of it. Even as a more senior associate I still have to respond to client requests and demands.
– If you can WFH, you get extra time to exercise / cook on that day.
– The weekends are the best time to exercise and meal prep with little chance of being disturbed.
– Cycling to work is “free exercise” from a time perspective.

So with that in mind:
– If you can cycle to work – do it. This is by far the most reliable way to get in exercise as it usually doesn’t require any or much extra time compared to other forms of commuting.
– Exercise on both days on the weekend. Any rest days should be during the week not weekend.
– During the week, exercise in the morning before work. That is the only reliable way to get exercise in during the week. If this means turning up to work at 9.30am or even a bit later, that’s fine. Usually no one cares. Unless you miss / are late to a meeting no one will really care if you turn up at 9.40am as opposed to 9.30am.
– Make sure you use any days when you can WFH to exercise. The lack of commute gives you extra time to do (non-cycling) exercise.
– If you want to eat healthily, make sure to batch cook or meal prep on weekends / WFH days when you have more time. If you firm has a cafeteria, just choose the healthy options (as opposed to deliveroo when working late).

Following this approach, I eat very healthily, exercise 6 days a week, and still get enough sleep, despite working at an MC firm. It is totally doable if you don’t have kids (which would obviously throw a spanner in the works time commitment wise).

MC Ass

Fellow gymgoing MC lawyer here and second this 100%. I’d also add – since OP is a trainee – to discuss with your principal to tell them you’ll be going to the gym in the mornings before work and if they need anything from you before 9.30 to just let you know the night before or early in the morning. Barely anything happens before 10am in my experience.

Been there, done that

Set a workout routine (e.g., gym in the morning on Tues, Thurs, Sat) and try your best to stick to it, adjusting for work requirements. I’ve found that if you don’t have a routine and just exercise when you feel like it, the inconsistency will suck any motivation out of you and all you’ll be left with is guilt.

Reality bites

Don’t exercise, eat well or otherwise look after yourself. You need to be overweight (for men, beer belly is good), raddled, grey, badly dressed and generally unattractive.

If you don’t do this you won’t fit in with the partners as you make your way upwards.


Replace your personality with cycling.

US Associate

This feels very relatable. Four things that made a difference for me were quitting Deliveroo, walking to work, treating the weekends as mandatory exercise days and time-saving on life-admin tasks.

Having Deliveroo each day just makes you become used to takeaways/quick food as the default which is really not good for your health. Even the healthy Deliveroo options are not a reliable substitute as you get bored/become tempted by other options. Just not having Deliveroo as an evening option at all will make you adapt to a better food substitute, even if it is just a salad meal-deal on your way to work.

Combining the walking with a podcast/audiobook became a bit of a habit and made me start off the day in a “healthy” way. These walks made me stop having to “find time” for exercise when I was severely tired in the morning/night, as a minimum amount of exercise was just done each day. Walking also didn’t tire me out as much as cardio/weights, so I didn’t binge eat afterwards. Regaining that healthy preference mindset was important.

Weekends are easier as you have a bit more time. Try to prioritise always getting exercise here, even during the busier deals.

Where there was just no time during the week, my weekends used to be full of work and cleaning/laundry/ironing etc. Paying for dry-cleaning etc, grocery deliveries, meal-prep on occasions at times hit my wallet, but the time saving and reduced stress was worth it at times and offered extra time for sleep & training – which was much needed.

Finally, the experience varies between seats. In truth, I’m not walking home from work after constant 5am finishes in a transactional seat. However, I probably could do in a quieter advisory seat. Therefore, I might focus more on maintaining good nutrition during those busy periods, than trying to maintain an unrealistic daily early morning gym session routine.


I’d urge you to ‘look up’ and step back for a minute to gain some perspective and ask yourself what your priorities are? So, how important is work, how much exercise do you want to do, what do you ‘want’ to eat, do you enjoy socialising? It’s very easy as a trainee to get caught up on the hamster wheel – ie oh I’ve just found that I ‘end up’ ordering Deliveroo / I ended up going out for drinks 3 times in a week / I ended up staying late at work, and so on. It’s your life and you get to actively choose:-

1. Where you qualify (practice area, location and firm) – will dictate hours / expectations – and remuneration.
2. Your food / socialising plans – do you want to ‘say no’ to those social occasions so you can sleep? But what will the consequences of not going be – will that make you happy? Perhaps still go but (if you) end up staying til 1AM and drinking eight pints, stay until 8 except on birthdays or whatnot and perhaps try mixing with water too? Or whatever works. It doesn’t have to be ‘all or nothing’.
3. I found getting a routine going with bedtime and wakeup times, even at weekends, really helped me with health.
4. It sounds like you are seeking a better balance – it’s good you are self aware enough to notice and now it’s about taking action to change, but know that you can’t have it all.
5. Check your firm’s benefits – particularly when you qualify – can you opt in to a health assessment if you want some guidance? TMI for some but if you’re interested, better to have data to merge with the “I feel”.
6. Speak to your intake and others? Look at what the Associates do too, what’s the departmental culture? People say ‘coming in early isn’t valued’ but in my team, there is flexibility and nobody cares – the Partner cycles to the train and is in early but leaves at half 4/5 (and I’m a qualified lawyer and trainee supervisor and they always have) – you will be known as a hard worker not by your clock on/iff times but ultimately by MRH in my firm. If you disappear at lunchtime or spend your day gossiping in the kitchen then it will get noticed too. Again, you have to choose – am I defined as a hard worker? How approachable do I want to be? And so on. Your choice.

Some of the socialising will stop as you progress as people will “have less time” (their priorities will change) and so don’t worry too much as a trainee, but do recognise this is probably the first time you are away from any kind of structure such as uni or school where a lot of the timings are dictated to you, and the sooner you start to plan, the better.

Top G

So many dorks in this thread lol. Simple. Go to the gym! There’s no exercise. If you can’t find an hour to step away from your desk in the evening or before work for basic exercise then you’re doomed for an eternity of corporate slavery. Man up. Take your work phone for any urgent emails or calls, and make sure your gym isn’t too far away from home.

It’s obvious

Become a hairdresser at the weekends and evenings. Plenty of time on your feet and constantly using your hand and arm muscles plus you’ll get some extra dosh. Plus if law doesn’t work out or you want a career change you’ve got a ready made escape route plus a network of former colleagues who you can use as clients prepared to pay good amounts for your hair cutting services.


Hi – I am a partner in a City law firm, having trained around 20 years ago.

The above comments about regular exercise are helpful. I bike where possible.

Also, I’ve personally found journaling helpful over the years, as it helps me externalise what’s going on in my head. Better out than in, as they say.

Communication also is key to stop you becoming isolated. Is there anyone at work to whom you can talk? I offer all of my team weekly one-to-ones, and make that time available for conversation. They can cancel if needs be, but I keep the slot open. I trained in a super high-pressure environment, and appreciated the partners who made their time available to me, so I’m paying that forward now.

Lastly, LawCare offers a free and confidential listening service to help with stress. They are fab.

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