CPA athletes balance work, family, fitness

These accountants take exercise to an extreme.
By Cheryl Meyer

In September we spoke with five accountants who are also tremendous athletes, excelling in running, basketball, rugby, mountain climbing, and Tough Mudder events. Here, four more fit accountants share their stories, along with their best advice for finding work/life balance:

Elizabeth Miller. Photo by Mike Miller

Elizabeth Miller, CPA
, an audit partner with KPMG in New York City, has always been sporty, but her obsession with running didn't begin until she became a mom. After she had a baby, she found that running fit easily into her hectic schedule because it was an activity she could take part in anytime, even before dawn. After training for years, she ran her first full marathon in 2013, in Albany, N.Y., and later ran four additional marathons: in New York City (twice), Boston, and London.

In 2015, Miller gave birth to her third son, Kerry, and seven months later he was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, or cancer of the eye. The following year, she ran the New York City Marathon for the second time and raised $103,000 for pediatric cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the New York hospital where Kerry was treated.

"When my son got sick, it became my personal cause," Miller said. "I dedicated each mile of my marathon to a child along the way who was fighting, with my final mile dedicated to my son." She finished that race in 3 hours, 26 minutes. 12 seconds, her personal best. Her son's cancer is now in remission.

Her tip for fellow CPAs: Commit to your personal goals as you would to your professional goals. Miller makes room in her life for running because it gives her energy, helps her manage stress, and makes her more effective at work, she noted. "It's hard to find an hour a day to run, but if you prioritize and schedule it, you can do it," she said.

Katie Rick. Photo by Richard Magnone

Katie Rick, CPA
, an associate lecturer of accountancy at the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay, was just 6 years old when she tried logrolling for the first time at the La Crosse, Wis., YMCA pool. "I tried it because I wanted to do what my older brother was doing," she said.

Fast-forward 25 years, and Rick has competed in roughly 50 logrolling and boom-running events and is ranked as one of the top professional female competitors in the world. She has earned 13 top-three finishes since turning pro in 2004, according to her website, and is ranked second in the world in boom running. (The boom run is a sprint race where many logs are tied together end-to-end and athletes run across the water on the logs, vying for the best time. Watch Rick demonstrate it here.)

"My goal is to win the world title in logrolling and the boom run," said Rick, who is currently preparing for the 2019 Lumberjack World Championships, in Hayward, Wis. Through her company, KRICK LLC, Rick also directs two of her own tournaments and instructs logrolling trainers, in order to bring attention to the sport. The accounting profession and logrolling meld well together, she said, since they both require attention to detail and self-discipline.

Here's her advice for doing what you love: If you're having trouble finding time for a favorite activity, speak with supervisors to see if you can change your schedule. When Rick worked at Deloitte in Minneapolis, she got permission from her manager to come in early so she could train certain workdays during busy season.

Shaun Smith. Photo by Tara Smith

Shaun Smith, CPA
, was one of the top tennis players in South Africa when he accepted a full tennis scholarship at Alabama's Auburn University at Montgomery, in 1995. ("I started at the age of 5 in tennis, and at age 11, I was playing two to three hours a day," he recalled.) Four years later, after graduation, Smith found himself on the professional tennis tour, among some of his rivals, including American Andy Roddick and Croatian Mario Ancic.

Smith played on the tour for two years until retiring from the sport and getting serious about his accounting career. He is now the chief financial officer at the Boathouse Club/Vineyard Golf Club & Martha's Vineyard Club Management in Edgartown, Mass., and is the CFO at three charitable foundations on the island. Today he plays tennis about three to five times a week, mostly with his three children, two of whom are already competing in tournaments.

Smith gives this tip for staying fit: Plan your entire week, and include 60 minutes of exercise five days per week into your schedule. "Getting in with a group (cycling, running, tennis) is the easiest way to stay committed and focused on achieving your fitness goals," he said. "Workouts can be performed before the kids have to get up for school."


April Walker, CPA, CGMA, lead manager for taxation, AICPA, Durham, N.C., was a casual runner when she signed up for her first triathlon in 2014. One year later, she competed in her first half-Ironman race, swimming 1.2 miles, riding a bicycle 56 miles, and running and walking 13.1 miles.

In 2018, Walker entered her first full Ironman race (a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile marathon), in Mont-Tremblant, Canada. "Really my goal for the day was to finish with a smile on my face and be able to walk to the car," Walker quipped.

Crossing the finish line, she heard the words of the announcer: "April Walker, you are an Ironman." "It was just a surreal moment," she said. She plans to compete in another Ironman someday, but still prefers half-Ironman races since they are more manageable for her and her family.

Walker offers this advice: Build a support network to help through the ups and downs. "For triathlons, that means finding people to train with and encourage you," she said. When you connect with those who have similar goals and experiences, you can ask them questions, have a shoulder to lean on, and "have a group of cheerleaders when race day comes around."

Finally, she added, strive to reach your goals, even if they seem unattainable, and "just make it happen." Walker met her goals by researching various exercise regimens, determining a training plan that fit best into her life, and simply sticking to it. "If the plan told me to swim 2,000 yards, even if I felt tired, I still swam that 2,000 yards," she said. "No excuses!"

Cheryl Meyer is a California-based freelance writer. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Courtney Vien, a JofA senior editor, at

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