Alternatively titled: Why residency is not an excuse
Welcome to my labor of love.
One of my biggest fears in transitioning from medical school to residency was losing much of the free time that had become a staple of my academic life. Sure, medical school was challenging and time consuming. But we rarely took weekend call, and were often dismissed from the hospital long before the residents got to go home, leaving ample time for evening runs and making dinner (JK I NEVER EVER MADE DINNER)
>> I knew going into residency that my biggest challenge would be twofold: First, I’d need to be more flexible. I’m a type A, DO WORK, love-my-introvert-time kind of lady, so the idea of selling my soul to my work with little to no free time was a terrifying prospect when choosing a medical career. Second, residency hours are, well, a suggestion. You never know when a patient might require urgent attention, or you have a pile of notes to finish after a 12 or 24 hour shift, thus even the best laid plans often get, erm, adjusted (smashed into oblivion).
>> It’s so important to hang on to ALL parts of yourself when embarking on a journey like residency. I decided to become a doctor because I felt, deep down in my bones, that it was the thing I was meant to do. But I can only do it well when I’m nourishing the other parts of my soul that keep me fulfilled and inspired. Because of that, I’ve been slowly figuring out how to make running life compatible with residency life.
You can’t always run when you want to run. You can’t. The sooner you accept this, the happier you will be:
I am a die-hard morning runner. I’d rather wake up at 4:00 AM and run than put it off until 8 PM. I have a much harder time running post-work and post-multiple meals. But let’s be clear — running before a 24 hour shift is not only impractical, it can be unsafe to add another couple hours to an already exhausting and sleep-deprived day. Safety before endorphins.
Comparison is the thief of joy:
I am a student of running blogs. I love waking up with a warm cup of coffee to see new posts each morning, the ups and downs of training season, injury reports and cross training regimens, and life updates. I cannot and should not compare my weekly mileage and training regime next to the other athletes I follow, it would be unhealthy and unattainable for me, given my work schedule. I chose this journey, and I’m so lucky to get to pursue this path — but the cost is my running schedule seldom resembles that of my peers.
Run from your house:
Busy? Run from your house. I don’t have the luxury of an extra 20 minutes to drive to a park or destination. Or heck, even to a treadmill. My call-free weekend days normally involve one group run. Otherwise, the minute I’m out my front door is the first minute of my run — rain, shine, or snow. I have tons of creative paths from my house as to not get bored with the same loop. Moral of the story, I don’t waste any time on transport.
Pick a high-yield training plan:
Training plans like the one proposed in Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster allow for less running, more cross-training, decreased burn out and injury prevention. The schedule is built upon three quality runs per week, and the science behind the method seems sound. 40-50 mile weeks don’t have to be the norm to PR, in fact, some runners find that decreasing mileage has short- and long-term rewards come race day.
This is an ongoing struggle. Residency quickly highlights those things in your life that are “must haves” from the things you really can do without. The joy, personal fulfillment, and energy I gain from a run may outweigh the benefits of a coffee date with a friend on some occasions. On the other hand, if I’m feeling socially isolated or invested in deepening a relationship, then by all means, pursue social time. The reality of residency means you often can’t have your cake and eat it too – being mindful of your emotions and needs, rather than impulsively acting on FOMO (queen of FOMO, right here), can help direct you to the activity that will best suit your needs.
Quality and consistency:
I don’t have time for a half-hearted elliptical session. Tentatively plan your work outs ahead of time, and plan for success. If I have a scheduled morning run, I mentally prepare the evening before for a successful workout. All runs are not endorphin binges, of course, but when I start with a positive attitude and accountability to stick to my plan, things tend to go well, and I’ve got solid miles in the bank.
Coerce a co-resident into racing with you:
Talk, discuss your training plan, keep each other accountable. Debrief work while you’re running, debrief running while you work. Give yourselves a little talkin’ to: You GET to live this life, and it’s a freaking spectacular challenge.
Any other thoughts on training with a busy schedule? Would love to hear from you!