Medicine From The Trenches

Experiences from undergradute, graduate school, medical school, residency and beyond.

Starting a Running Plan

2018-04-01 21.17.00 I have been a runner since my days at University.  I was a varsity tennis player who needed something for conditioning in the offseason. Since our coach would not allow any racket sports like squash or racketball, I decided to do some running and weight-lifting to keep my aerobic base intact. I became a 10K specialist loving the middle distance.

In graduate school, I didn’t play much tennis other than the occasional club tournament but kept my running plan. I ran from 2-3 miles daily; my time for relaxation between my teaching duties and research experiments. I used the time to think about problems, angles and write my dissertation in my head. My running helped my research more than anything else.

I didn’t run in medical school; devoting my time to intense study. The volume of material  I mastered for each exam was overwhelming. My stress level was maximal with weight gain and essentially a sedentary lifestyle dictated by needing to produce excellent work in my courses, my exam and board study. My academics soared but my physical conditioning suffered. This was a huge mistake.

Through the stress of surgical residency, I tried to walk the stairs and meditate when I could. Since I had a good muscle base from university and graduate school, I stayed in average shape but didn’t run very much. I carried the excess weight from medical school hating the way I felt and looked. I hid in scrubs and in my professional duties moving to attending physician and professor.

Today, I am a long-distance runner; shedding the weight of medical school at last. I am thin,  powerful and serene. Achieving my goals was not an overnight process but a process necessary for my health and mental acumen. I started out brisk walking 15 minutes out and 15 minutes back every day of the week. My walk became a run and my runs stretched longer and longer.

My running forced cleaning my food intake to fresh fruit and vegetables with lean protein. My trainer added weight-training to my long distance running. Today, I run at 3:00 AM for a minimum of 1 1/2 hours most days of the week; longer distances on the weekends when I am not on call. I am strong, setting personal records and loving the Half Marathon distance as much as I loved the 10 K distance runs of my past.

My hospital has 14 floors that I climb at least twice daily loving the view from the roof in the early morning after a night on call. I enjoy running through the empty streets of my city; greeting the policemen who keep me safe in the early hours. I meditate and pray; gratitude for my excellent health and conditioning. My resting heart rate is in the mid-40s; my body very thin and very strong.

I tell my story because the summer is a good time to start the journey of getting in good physical condition. The weather is warm in most of the country which makes the process easier. Trust me, it’s hard for me to face 2F temperatures and snow of the winters in my Midwest city but I do face them for my early morning runs. Desire and planning pushed me out the door at first but habit now keeps me going.

I lost the tired feelings after a 16-20-hour day; now replaced with the energy to give my best. My physical strength allows me to finish 6-10-hour cases without a second thought. Good physical conditioning lets me park my car in the most remote parking place and dash into the hospital with stratospheric energy. Today, my energy is my most positive characteristic as I can run to an emergency faster than most of my residents with a smile on my face.

The public health part of being in sound physical condition is that in my Midwestern city, three-fourths of the population is overweight or obese. I am 5’8″ tall and wear a US Size 2 which is smaller than 99% of the US population. Even at this thin size, I take no medications other than a multi-vitamin and a calcium/Vitamin D supplement-the hazard of working indoors in rooms without windows to the outside.

I can counsel my patients about weight loss and increasing physical activity as an example of what they might accomplish at any age. I don’t admonish them but stress the importance of taking small steps; changing eating habits replacing them with things that can become a part of an active, healthy lifestyle. Too many obese people look to strategies such as gastric bypass which is a valuable tool but is beyond the reach of many who are without health insurance.

Take the summer to do one or small steps that will benefit your health and career now. While I regret not keeping up with my running in medical school, I am grateful that I did realize how making small changes led me to excellent health now. Learn good nutrition and leave the hospital cafeteria/ fast food/junk food alone. I have not had even a cold in the past 5 years because my physical conditioning keeps my immune system strong.  Be strong and be the example that your patients need.

Advertisements

23 May, 2018 Posted by | academics, life in medicine, medical school | | Leave a comment

Well, Spring is Here! Good Time to Make Some Changes.

DSCN1772    I live in the Midwest where Spring took a long time to arrive. I have been training for an upcoming Half-Marathon but the cold temperatures put a damper on my quest for chewing up a good mileage base for my upcoming race. Still, the warm temperatures arrive with rain (the bane of my existence on the asphalt) which forced me into more resolve to get my running done.

My solution has been to run very early in the morning (3:00AM) and late in the evening after dark. My mind figured that if I didn’t see the pouring rain, it wouldn’t bother me as much as watching the downpour by daylight. My strategy worked a bit but the warmer temperature did come and I have a decent base of training.

As I watched my resting heart rate drop into the 50s, I watched my body become extremely thin. I worried a bit about losing muscle mass but one of my colleagues in Sports Medicine encouraged upping my protein intake. Following her advice, I did up my dietary protein while cutting back on carbohydrate intake. I have also found that I just can eat large quantities of food thus my weight loss continues while my speed is increasing along with my endurance.

My mind is peaceful, organized and disciplined which serve me well in medicine/surgery. My early morning runs are a chance to let my thoughts go in any direction and I tread along the empty streets of my Midwestern suburban town. I don’t have to worry about dogs or kids in the very early morning. The police officers on duty are now on a first-name basis with me with one presenting me with a light-reflecting vest that can be seen for miles under the street lights.

I also take a run around my hospital grounds to lose tension when things seem to interfere with my rest. On those shorter hospital runs, I plan lectures and work out pesky problems. I meditate and pray a prayer of thanks on many of my runs as I am grateful for good joints and a healthy body. As I seem, my patients who are often sick from years of smoking, unhealthy eating, and diabetes, I know that every step keeps me healthy and serene.

I changed my eating habits; no more cafeteria food in the middle of the night replaced with fresh cut vegetables and fresh fruits. Though I love my black French Roast coffee, I limit myself to two cups freshly brewed and savored. I eat nuts, a few raisins for sweetness and drink plenty of water to keep hydrated. Keeping hydrated in the HVAC air of my university and hospital is a challenge for me.

I now live one day at a time because my training for my long-distance races has forced me to do this. I don’t make the excuse that I am too tired or too busy to cook a good healthy meal (chop vegetables on the weekend and keep them in the freezer). I try not to sit for hours on end reading journals and completing records but move or stand when I do these necessities of my profession. I park in the furthest parking space and enjoy the brisk walk into the building. I shop in the outer aisles of the grocery store where I can find fresh fruit and vegetables; limiting my access to processed foods.

My complexion is glowing; my mind is aware and quicker these days based on a few changes to my diet and exercise. I used the changing weather to change how I take care of myself. I felt that I couldn’t counsel my patients in terms of a healthy lifestyle if I wasn’t living healthy myself. I also enjoy shopping (get many of my dresses from Costco) and love that I now wear Size Small scrubs (cuter than the Large ones).

I told myself that I would change one day at a time. If I could do one day, I could stretch my one day to two. Making the changes was difficult at first but now they are my normal routine. I sleep better, move better and get my work done better. There are times when I run the 14 floors of my hospital just because I know that I can do this now. What a difference making a change even at my advanced age can do and mean.

Take the time to make some small changes that will lead to a healthier mind and body. It’s very difficult for me to be depressed and angry when I am running in the wind (and occasional rain) with the world moving by me. I find that I smile more and enjoy greeting the world in the darkness as I head out at 3:00AM. I also find that the phone doesn’t ring at that hour either.

Spend some time taking care of yourself and appreciating what your body can do and how it can change. Be good to yourself and appreciate how powerful self-love and appreciation can become infectious to all around you. Wear brighter colors or change the color of your lipstick. Do anything that makes you feel good about this amazing world where you will help others and allow them to help you.

Spring is here soon to be followed by summer with warm days, beautiful flowers and trees. The smell of freshly cut grass or charcoal burning on the evening grills is a sheer pleasure. The early morning fog, quiet as the sun comes up and hearing an occasional alarm sounding as my neighbors start their days is great too. It’s a bit of a spiritual experience but it’s a good one!

5 May, 2018 Posted by | medical school, medicine, relaxation | , | Leave a comment