Saturday, May 27, 2017

tips for staying healthy in medical school

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A question I've gotten over and over again over the past few years is how to fit healthy routines into the life of a medical student. For the last post in this graduation week series, I wanted to discuss ways I've found to stay on top of my own health over the past four years!
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Your life is not "on hold":  I've heard (and said) this phrase over and over again since I was a pre-med. Now at the end of medical school (but only the beginning of my medical career), I feel like this phrase just does more harm than good. While you are busy during medical school, there is no reason why you can't work towards your own fitness goals during this time. If you want to run a marathon, you will have time to do it. If you want to join a triathalon training group, you can! Want to squat more than ever before? Go for it! Interested in taking part in a yoga challenge? Do it! The thing is, you just have to make the time and effort to do it. Sometimes that will involve sacrificing certain things - maybe you have to get up earlier so you can go before school, or you can't watch The Bachelor live because you're at the only gym class you can make that day, but those little sacrifices will be worth it. Yes, there will be rotations and times during pre-clinical where you just can't make it work - during really busy months like surgery and on my auditions when I was at the hospital for 80 hours a week, I did not work out. But there are plenty of rotations where you get home at 3 PM and have your weekends free, which is when you can focus back on your fitness goals. 

Keep up on your own health maintenance: Especially if you moved for school, finding a new PCP is kind of annoying just because you will probably move again in two years. But it is vital that you stay up to date on your own wellness maintenance, whether that's getting a yearly physical, getting your Pap smears as recommended, or getting your flu shot. Plus I found myself to be a bit hypocritical to constantly ask about other people's health maintenance without staying up to date on my own!

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Find a buddy: This is huge, and has been one my biggest motivators to get my butt in gear! During the pre-clinical years, my best friend Caitlin and I would schedule 2-3 days a week to go to the gym. We used it as girl time and exercise time - we would spend like 30 minutes on the ellipticals catching up (and getting our heart rates up) and then spent another 15-20 minutes doing weights. For us, it was never a hardcore work out, but it was good to get our blood pumping, and time with friends is so vital during this process. When we didn't go to the gym floor, we would swim laps - I loved this, because you're in your own bubble for 45 minutes just swimming (not talking, staring at a book, or looking at a screen), and afterwards we would spend a few minutes in the sauna. All in all, it was about 1.5 hours on those days that we spend on our health and our friendship. During the clinical years, I would schedule work out classes with my friend Amy - again, we got to see each other, got to do something with a friend, but got in a really good work out in spin class or weights. Having those scheduled times means I actually did the work out, and had something to look forward to all at the same time!

Increase your water intake: Back when I was working full time, I used to drink a bottle of Diet Mountain Dew every day. I have never been a huge coffee person, but the more I learned about the benefits of water, the more of an effort I've made over the past four years to drink it, and drink a lot of it. I have a soda stream at home to make bubbly water (I usually add a few squirts of Mio for flavor!), and on rotations where we have a " home base", I bring a big bottle of water with me. I'm not at Dani's level of 150 ounces a day, but some day I'd like to be!

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Go on a walk: Having two dogs makes this almost mandatory for my life, but we go on walks all the time! During our pre-clinical years, my friends and I would pack up all of our animals, and head to the local park on early weekend mornings. The library wasn't open yet, so we couldn't feel guilty about not studying yet, and I always felt better knowing my dogs had fun outside before having to sit inside while I studied all day. Plus it was nice to just get out and be in nature for a while! Now during the clinical years, CR and I would come home from work, and grab the dogs to go on a walk before making dinner. The pups were so excited to go explore after being locked in the house all day, and it was nice for us to get some fresh air while catching up on our days. 

Join intramurals: This is such a great way to not only be active, but also meet new people! I know people who joined basketball leagues, softball leagues, and even kickball! Whatever gets you out of the library and moving around is good for you, and meeting new people is one of the best things about medical school! 

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Sweatshirt: Nike c/o Finish Line [exact]
Pants: Under Armour c/o Finish Line [exact]
Shoes: Nike c/o Finish Line [exact]

Treat yo self with cute work out clothes. CR thinks this is such a girly thing, but new work out clothes always motivates me to go work out! I sometimes will treat myself when I reach a fitness milestone (like my recent ten pound down mark) as an extra motivator to keep working to reach those goals. I recently received these fun training capris from Finish Line  as another incentive to keep up with my work outs - I love the white band around the bottom, and how well they hold everything in! I wore them to our spin class on Wednesday, and they were perfect for all the jumps we did. For an early morning walk with Baer, I paired them with a pink Nike sweater (so cute, right?!) and light weight tennis shoes, also from Nike. I think it's nice to reward yourself sometime with something that gets you going even more!

Pack your snacks and lunches (when possible): This is something I used to not do - we got free lunches at our hospital, so I would just eat whatever was being served that day. But especially in smaller cafeterias, and on rotations where food made me happy, I didn't always make the right choices. Now we cook several larges dishes on Sunday, so that I can bring my own lunches during the week. Because I bring my own, I control the portions and what I'm eating, and I'm not tempted to get chicken fingers instead. I also always have snacks on me, no matter what. Especially on unpredictable rotations like surgery where you probably won't get a lunch, quickly eating a protein bar between surgeries was life saving. 

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Mix it up: For some people, running three miles and then doing 45 minutes of weights, and doing that same routine for years works really well for them (see: CR). I get bored. I love finding new types of exercise to throw myself into - over the past four years, I've spent time on the ellipticals and stair masters, trained for a few races, tried yoga, stuck with BBG for a while, took a kickboxing class, spent time in the pool swimming laps, and really fell in love with spin classes. For a while there, I was going to spin like four times a week (when my schedule allowed it). You won't always be able to exercise, but trying new things keeps you interested in going. Plus, as a student, you often get discounts for signing up for classes, which is awesome. When I was traveling for residency interviews, I would look to see if there were any studios in the area that I wanted to try - usually, your first class is either discounted or completely free, which is a nice way to counteract all the amazing food you are going to get at the interview dinners!

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The biggest thing is to just be kind to your body. Eat healthy food, work out when you can, and be thankful you have a body that allows you to do what you've always wanted to do. 

I've been shopping at Finish Line my entire life, so I'm very thankful to be partnering with them on this post today. Below are some of my current favorites from their new arrivals...because sometimes you just need to treat yourself to a new pair of workout leggings ;)

Huge thanks to Finish Line and Shopstyle for sponsoring this post!