Monday, October 7, 2013

The Short & Sweet Path to Fitness

Okay, there is no short and sweet path to fitness, but the idea is, a little bit of exercise a day keeps you feeling better and helps you receive the cardiovascular benefits that most of us want out of our workouts. Obviously, if you want more (weight loss, improved speed, improved strength, etc.), you have to work harder and longer. Most of us get stuck into this line of thinking that if we don't have time for an hour or more at the gym, then we may as well not go, and what it boils down to is, that is just not the case. Those shorter workouts are just as important as the longer ones when you are training for something, and even if you're not, any workout is better than no workout at all! ...Right?

Recently I started back on the inpatient service at work. And it’s exhausting. It’s 12- to 14-hour regular days (16-hour ones if things really go sour) mixed in with a 28-hour call shift every 4th day, and it’s significantly harder than it was when I was a sub-intern and did the very same schedule for 2 months. So, hot off the press, folks—I’m getting older. I’m getting older, but luckily for me, I’m finally getting a bit wiser with the older age. The long hours and the coming of autumn has taken away my ability to go enjoy those morning sunrise and evening sunset runs that I used to relish in. But just because you don’t have an hour--or 5 hours (some of us have different ideas about what it means to exercise and to stay fit)--to work out every day, doesn’t mean you can’t do something active and healthy for yourself each day.

As one of my co-residents recently pointed out, do you have time to bathe? (One of the interns said she didn’t. I’m pretty sure that was a joke.) Then you have time to exercise every day. And I have to admit, he makes a lot of sense. The thing that used to really annoy me about Ironman training and 2-3 workouts in a day was the 2-3 showers in a day. To quote a popular expression, “I ain’t got time for that!” But, seriously, as much as I love training for an Ironman, I have other priorities now that are more important than 5 hours of training a day. However, I know myself, and I know that some form of exercise each day is what enables me to do my job well, to be a happy person, and to feel good about my life. So this month I have made the goal to do a short workout every single day. And sometimes that means one extra shower, but, hey, a little extra showering never hurt anybody.

Exercise every day is a simple idea. But, it’s challenging, especially now as a senior resident. Especially because…I really love sleep. Sleep is great. But as one of my mentors pointed out to me not too long ago, “If you are the kind of person who needs an extra 15 minutes of sleep every day, you are in the wrong field.” She wasn’t being mean; she was just being honest. And the funny thing is, she wasn’t even talking about fitting in exercise! She was just talking about being a doctor and caring about doing what’s best for your patients. So, I do love sleep, but I also go without it every 4th day so I can make sure my asthmatics aren’t decompensating and I can sleep-walk into a room and feel for a spleen and hope it hasn’t ruptured yet.

With all that stress on my brain, exercise is just essential. I love my job, but I also love that recently when I leave the hospital, I tell myself that even though it’s been a rough day, and even though I just want to go to bed and sleep before I am up to do it over again, I will feel much better if I just get moving and breathe hard for a bit and have some fresh air. So I have been running at dusk in the Bronx. It’s really not the best idea. So soon I’ll transition to what I like to call the dreadmill. I’m just not ready for the dreadmill yet. It reminds me of my Surgery rotation and marathon training and it being dark any time I was out of the hospital and having to work again 14 hours and then run my mid-week 5-8-miler on the treadmill inside (my least favorite form of running). Thank goodness now I’m wiser and I’ve realized a few things…and I’m going to write it all down so we can all benefit.

  • Make the most of the extras.
    • Take the stairs. Park farther away from wherever inside is. Walk to run errands instead of driving. Actually RUN errands. I actually do the last one sometimes when I really want to run, but I also have other annoying things I have to do like go to the grocery store.
  • Buy a gadget! 
  •  Make the most of what you have.
    • This last one I will elaborate on because I really believe in it, and I just think it’s what we have to do. As we get older, we have more and more priorities, but what we don’t realize is that these priorities give us the opportunity to make the most of what we have. The other night, I had maybe 30 minutes before it got really, not-safe-dark in the Bronx, so I used that opportunity to do a speed workout instead of just the long run I had planned. And do you know what? I was so happy afterward! 
    • Exercise is exercise, and it gives you great endorphins. Shorter workouts work! I forgot about that because I’ve been doing endurance for so long, but I'm trying to remind myself again, thanks to my residency schedule.
Just a little bit about what the experts are saying about shorter workouts…

From the American College of Sports Medicine: The 7-Minute Workout:

I think doing it x2 with 60 second rest in between makes it even better! Then you are getting 15 minutes of intense exercise ;) I also like to add kettle bell swings, kettle bell goblet squat in place of the squat, and sand-bag lunges in place of the lunges. Haven’t heard about sand bags yet? Check out the Ultimate Sand Bag:

Still having trouble finding motivation after knowing that even something short is pretty good for you?

So, my goal is to work out every day (I may cheat and count some of my 28-hour calls as just one day even though they are two. I know, I am a slacker.) this inpatient month. Stay tuned for updates on this goal and more exciting updates on that helmet blog and some other wellness topics :)

Until next time, stay energetic, stay healthy, and stay fit, even if it's 15 minutes a day!