Each day, Charles Whitaker, the dean of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, presides over back-to-back Zoom meetings to raise funds, coordinate virtual education for a global student body, and — oh yeah — debate the future of media. “People are looking to journalism schools to figure out how to save the industry,” he says. To cope with the pressure, the 62-year-old reclaimed the prepandemic time he’d spent commuting from Woodlawn to Evanston and dedicated it to his well-being.
“Prior to the pandemic, I thought I was in reasonably good shape for a middle-aged man. I’m almost 6-foot-6, weighed around 216 pounds, and worked out sporadically. At my annual physical on my 60th birthday, my doctor said I could probably lose 10 pounds. That blithe remark shook me. He reminded me that diabetes runs in my family. But when my bloodwork came back and my glucose was in the normal range, I remained unconvinced, until the first few weeks of working from home. I was rolling out of bed right in time for my meetings — no shower, no shave, just sitting in front of the computer and eating chips and cookies. I’m just vain enough to say, OK, I gotta do something.”
“Now I work out every morning for about an hour and 15 minutes. After a warm-up of running in place and jumping jacks, I do 30 minutes on the stationary bike, followed by crunches, sit-ups, and pushups. I do curls —four sets of 20 reps with 40-pound dumbbells —as well as four sets of 20 reps of kettlebell swings for shoulder development. Before I go to bed, I do a scaled-down version, sans weights — about 30 to 45 minutes of sit-ups, pushups, and biking. When I started, I could barely do 10 pushups. By the end of the year, I knocked out three sets of 30 in a span of 30 minutes. I dropped 18 pounds and lost three pants sizes.”
“I stopped drinking coffee during the pandemic. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I just wasn’t going by Starbucks anymore, and I don’t miss it. But I have developed a habit of pouring myself a mimosa as a pick-me-up after my workout and before my first meeting. It’s mostly orange juice, with a splash of Korbel.”
“Zoom was really wearing me out, so I started taking an hourlong nap between my last meeting and dinner. I didn’t realize how sleep deprived I was before, getting on the road at 7:30 p.m., not getting home until 8, then staying up to answer messages until midnight or 1 a.m. I still stay up late on email, but with the nap, I feel a lot more alert and rested.”
“I’m an avid, albeit very bad, tennis player. I try to go out a couple of times each weekend from June to late September. Finding partners to hit with has become increasingly difficult as most of my contemporaries — guys I had been playing with for the past 20 years — have complained of back and knee pain and switched to golf. I won’t: I’m committed to the frustration of trying to get better at tennis. Going out and hacking my way around the court, even if I’m just whacking balls by myself, feels tremendous.”