The Compliance Officer Day Blog accepts contributions from guest authors and members of the E&C community. Enjoy this guest blog post on wellness and self-care from Rashmi Airan. To pitch a story to us, email complianceofficerday@saiglobal.com with a summary of your idea. 

It’s 5:15 in the morning. I’ve just woken up to the alarm ringing next to my pillow from the Timex watch I hung on the metal rod at the corner of my bunk bed last night. I sit up and look around just in time to see the flashlight on the ceiling as the night guards are finishing their 5:00 am count, about to walk out of my housing unit.

The flashlight is my daily reminder that despite living an ethical life, I did something wrong and am in prison for engaging in questionable and fraudulent business practices. The flashlight is my cue that it is safe for me to wake up and leave cube 408.

I quietly slide out of the top bunk as my ‘bunkie’ is still sleeping and quickly make my bed. After brushing my teeth, I get dressed in the men’s Russell athletic basketball shorts and t-shirt that I was able to buy from the commissary. Since I’m not allowed to leave my unit until 5:45 am, I use my remaining few minutes to login onto the computer system and send a loving email to my children before they leave for school.

Once the emails are sent to my loved ones, I walk out of the housing unit and head towards the “loop.” The loop is the term I lovingly use to refer to the track-like area where I run every day. The loop is not a real track because in prison you don’t get to choose where you run. You make do with what you’re given.

The loop is made up of crushed shells that cover potholes and pretty rough ground. In the middle of the loop is grass with a run-down wall to hit tennis balls and an overgrown, unkempt softball diamond. On one side of the loop is an open-air hallway where the wellness, recreation, library, education, and chapel are located. I jog over to the wellness room, put my bag down in a corner, and take out the tiny AM/FM radio that I was able to buy used from someone downstairs, along with her headphones.

I walk out to the loop and start running. As I am counting my loops, I have the opportunity to watch the sun rise over the trees and I thank the universe for another day to breathe, to be healthy, to learn something new, and to connect with my family and friends. I don’t have the proper running shoes with my medically prescribed orthotics, but, I am free to run and exercise, and sweat and stay healthy. I am as free as someone can be, given the circumstances.

After running, I get out the mat, a medicine ball, and round weights. I have a file of pictures of workouts that I have torn out of magazines like Shape, Women’s Health, and Runner’s World at night. My friends have been supportive and keep sending me magazines in the mail. Today, I am going to focus on my core strength and arms.

When I learned that I was going to be forced to leave my children and spend a year away from home, I decided early on that I would try to keep a consistent routine each day, similar to my days back home. Exercise was paramount to this daily schedule. Exercise and eating healthy allows me to feel good and gives me the confidence to push through each day.

I’m not in prison anymore, and thankfully I have overcome my adversity and taken responsibility for having made some very bad decisions, and now have committed to a life focused on ethical vigilance. But some habits find a way to stick. No matter where I was or where I am – in prison, at home, on vacation, at conferences, at work meetings out of town – I make sure to workout every morning. No day is complete without some level of exercise. If you ask my family, they’ll say that I am actually very difficult to be around without the adrenaline and endorphin high of exercise in my daily life. They’ll have to get used to it because I know that wellness and exercise will help guide me to a longer life.

As I spread my message of Ethical Vigilance and always making the right decision – I realize that this includes my daily decision to get out of bed, tie up my running shoes and start my workout.

Here is to making the right decision every day – see you on the Loop!

Rashmi Airan grew up in Miami, Florida with her parents who are of Indian origin. Her many roles include being a small business owner, a lawyer, a volunteer, a director serving on boards, a runner, a cyclist, a professor, and an entrepreneur. Most importantly, she is a devoted mother of two. Rashmi was named Kent Scholar for academic honors at Columbia Law School. Prior to that, Rashmi worked for Morgan Stanley after graduating with highest honors from UNC-CH. She began her career in national law firms and later as a government attorney. While running her own legal practice, one of Rashmi’s developer clients engaged in illegal business practices. In late 2015, she served six months of a year-and-a-day sentence—an experience and lesson she now shares boldly with the world.

It is her mission to study and share the need for ethical vigilance in everything we do and to share how she powerfully overcame adversity – as a woman, a mother, a professional, and a community activist. Rashmi is a keynote speaker and consultant fighting to create a culture of conversation and bring ethical issues in business to light, to promote integrity, enhance commitment to fiduciary duty, and shift the paradigm of ethics standards.