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Dagmar Vanbergen

Mr. Julie Vangeel: "You have to give your all, at sporting events as well as in the legal profession"

Julie Vangeel excels both at her job and on the running trail. After a long day as a specialist in government contracts and company and association law, she finds peace during her running sessions. "It is the ideal job for those with busy jobs," she proclaims. The young lawyer from Bilzen has already won several athletics competitions, despite the fact she only recently started running.

Fond of cross-country running, a sport that for many evokes uncomfortable memories of compulsory participation in primary school.

Why did you choose cross-country running?

Mr Vangeel: "I actually rolled in a bit. I started running during the covid period, partly out of boredom. I initially ran alone for a long time, but after a while I really got the hang of it. Since August, I have been working with a trainer. After the summer, he advised me to give cross-country running a try, and I was sold immediately. I like the cold while running; it helps me control my heart rate better than in warm weather. Cross-country running requires short, intense efforts. It is hard, but the satisfaction afterwards makes it worthwhile. Sometimes while running, I wonder why I'm doing this, but afterwards, the satisfaction is addictive. I want to experience that feeling again and again."

How did you relax before you took up running?

Mr Vangeel: "I never knew how beneficial running is, so I didn't know what I was missing. I used to walk my parents' little dog often for relaxation, but that is obviously very different. After a busy day, for instance, I didn't go for a walk in the dark at night. That often meant no exercise, whereas now I go for a walk in the evening. By making the effort to exercise after a long day anyway, I actually relax more."

"By making the effort to exercise after a long day, I actually relax more."
Julie Vangeel, lawyer

Now you regularly win cross-country runs, has the hobby gotten out of hand?

Mr Vangeel: "It has become more than a hobby for me. I dare even say I need it. In one fell swoop, I get outside in the fresh air and clear my head. Afterwards, I feel much better, and have more clarity and peace in my head. Don't get me wrong, I am not equally motivated every day either. Sometimes I've had a really busy day or I'm tired, if I then were to just sit on the sofa, I'd get a headache. If I just go for a run for half an hour, that feeling goes away too. It's such a simple solution, I wouldn't know what to do without it anymore."

Does running also make you better at your profession?

Mr Vangeel: "It not only made me calmer but also a better lawyer, especially regarding stress management. It makes you more resilient, but not legally stronger of course. (laughs) Above all, it helped me to wind down long days and give things a place. Moreover, running also makes you a bit more creative, I think. After all, you can only use your full creativity when your head is not full of other chaotic things. It even happens that you think about a file while running and new ideas come to you that way, sometimes it really does help to get out from behind your computer."

"I notice that several of my colleagues were already interested in running. Some even make time for a run in the afternoon. That's certainly not due to my influence, I think that running itself can be really inspiring for people with busy jobs or a need for relaxation. At the end of the day, everyone just wants to be able to let go of their thoughts for a while. (laughs)"

Mr Vangeel: "As a lawyer, you already naturally possess the discipline required for running. Just this week, my neighbour spoke to me while I was running in the neighbourhood. He said, 'You really do have character, don't you, girl?' You don't give it much thought, but it's actually true. You have to go for it 100 per cent, which is just as true in sporting competitions as it is in the legal profession."

Why is running the perfect sport for you?

Mr Vangeel: "Compared to other sports, running is incredibly low-threshold, which is what makes it so appealing. It's really no more than walking out your front door, with your running shoes on of course. You don't have to buy expensive equipment or find a team immediately, which is why it's just so easy to integrate into your routine. Investing in your hobby or finding peers can be done afterwards, if you are really sure that the sport is for you."

Do you prefer exercising alone or with others?

Mr Vangeel: "Both! The accessibility of running also makes it possible to combine training on certain days with a busy job. You run when and where you want, making it easier to plan your day than with team sports or specific areas."

"But exercising in a group definitely has advantages. If you enjoy a sport, finding peers is definitely worthwhile, even if for you this is just meeting up with friends or colleagues to run together. Our club has a training plan, but we decide the time and location. In our job, a day does not always look the same either, running then offers the necessary flexibility. Although athletics is individual, the club does offer me a close-knit community. We train together twice a week, enjoy social moments after training and organise club activities, such as our New Year's party."

"In our job, a day doesn't always look the same either, running then provides the necessary flexibility."
Julie Vangeel, lawyer

Do your professional commitments ever clash with your training needs?

Mr Vangeel: "Actually, no. I know that running makes me brighter and so I sometimes plan my days in function of running, I admit. Sometimes I really look forward to that moment and other times I really don't feel like it after a busy day, but I know I will feel better if I go anyway. So it sometimes happens that I go for a walk quite late, it doesn't always have to be long or far. Even going for a very short walk in the fresh air outside is noticeably beneficial."

"If I have a busy day ahead of me, I get up half an hour earlier to still be able to run a few km. Every little bit helps. Actually, you just have to put on your shoes and go outside, that's the hardest part. Once you take that step, you're off. Then it's not so bad."

Last but not least: tips for staying motivated on days when running seems less appealing?

Mr Vangeel: "I think the most important thing is just to put on running shoes and go outside. Once you're outside, it's not too bad. The only tip I can give is to just find a time, in the morning before or in the evening after work, and just go straight away. Afterwards, you'll be glad you did. Flip the switch, and go."

"In hindsight, you will be glad you did it. So flip the switch, and go."
Julie Vangeel, lawyer

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