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  • Writer's pictureTommy Sangchompuphen

What My Long-Distance Cycling Can Teach You About the Bar Exam

As a law professor dedicated to guiding students through the journey of passing the bar exam, I recently found an unexpected source of inspiration from another demanding endeavor—PeloFondo, a cycling event based on long-distance mileage over 48 hours.

A couple of weekends ago, I embarked on an 11-hour, 37-minute journey, covering 215.18 miles on my trusty Peloton bike. This was my 14th PeloFondo, but it was my personal best in terms of mileage. The parallels between mastering this physical challenge and tackling the mental marathon of the bar exam were striking.

You’ve most likely heard the warning, “Bar exam preparation is a marathon, not a sprint.”


But let me offer this slight change: “Bar exam preparation is a PeloFondo, not a sprint.” Much like in long-distance cycling, where the focus is on endurance and maintaining a steady pace over time, bar exam preparation requires sustained, consistent effort rather than short bursts of intensive study. In cycling, a sprint is a quick, explosive burst of speed, often used in the final stretch of a race or to overtake competitors in a brief, intense effort. However, such bursts are unsustainable over the long distances covered in events like PeloFondo, where maintaining a rhythm and conserving energy are crucial for reaching the finish line.


Similarly, the bar exam demands a methodical and enduring study approach instead of ineffective cramming at the last minute.


Here are some insights I gained from my pedals that can help with your preparation for the bar exam.


1. Start Early and Pace Yourself


Just as PeloFondo requires starting training months in advance, effective bar prep begins long before the actual exam. Early preparation allows you to establish a steady, sustainable pace, avoiding the need for last-minute cramming, which often leads to burnout—similar to how pacing prevents fatigue in cycling.


2. Break It Down into Manageable Segments


For me, thinking about riding for 215 miles from the start can be overwhelming. Similarly, the volume of material covered by the bar exam can seem insurmountable. Breaking your study schedule into focused, manageable segments can make the material more digestible and less intimidating. Aim to master one concept at a time, just as I focused on one mile at a time.


3. Consistent Effort Over Time


Endurance in cycling comes from consistent, regular effort, not from sporadic bursts of energy. The same applies to bar exam preparation. Regular, disciplined study sessions yield better long-term retention and deeper understanding than irregular, intense study binges.


4. Use the Right Tools and Resources


Just as choosing the right bike, gear, and nutritional supplements can enhance performance in cycling, selecting the right study materials and resources is crucial for bar exam success. Invest in quality preparation courses and materials that cater to your learning style.


5. Keep Your Goal in Sight


During my PeloFondo ride, I kept my end goal in sight, which motivated me to push through the toughest miles. Similarly, keeping your eyes on the prize—passing the bar—can help you maintain motivation when the going gets tough. Visualize your success and keep pushing forward.


6. Recover and Reflect


After completing a long ride, cyclists need to recover and reflect on their performance to prepare for future rides. After a full day of studying, take time to relax and reflect on what you’ve learned. This not only aids in recovery but also enhances retention and understanding.


Both PeloFondo and the bar exam require preparation, endurance, and mental strength. By taking my lessons from the PeloFondo and applying them to your studies, you can navigate your way to success with resilience and determination. Remember, whether it's on the bike or in the exam room, it's about how well you can maintain focus and strength over the long haul.


Ride on, and study strong!



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