"This is your real life"

*I changed the name of my blog because there was another one by a nurse with a very similar name. Hopefully this one will stick! 

As some of you know, I am taking a break from medical school and doing a year of research.  This means that I have a 9-5 job, and even more amazingly, I come home and don't have to study. At first, it was actually difficult to adjust--I didn't have to come home, scarf down refrigerated Trader Joe's fare quickly while watching a lecture video, and then work until my eyelids drooped.  I had time to make a nice dinner, talk to my boyfriend Aditya, take my sweet time at the gym, watch TV, etc. I felt like I was just wasting time, until I realized that homegirl needed to chill out and accept that it's healthy to not spend every second trying to optimize something.

The past 2 weeks though, I was slammed with a bunch of experiments, a draft due for a manuscript, and an exam in my elective class. It was back to the old days of setting my alarm clock to 5 AM to do work at Starbucks.  I became frustrated when I couldn't eat at the right times, and I skipped 2 days of my planned workouts. Even when I was exercising, I felt exhausted and had to drag myself through it.  Workouts that I thought would be done under an hour ended up taking almost twice as long as that. This was supposed to be my research year--if I couldn't do it now, how could I stay fit through the long days of clinics and residency?

I mentioned to Aditya that my next blog post would be about dealing with failure.  He asked me why, when in fact I had not failed at plenty of things. I had gotten all the work one, eaten as well as I could have, and I had exercised most of the days. He pointed out that what I was doing was simply being flexible and doing the best I could have under the circumstances. 

I know so many of you have a packed schedule or daily stress, and it can be tempting to just give up on self-care goals that truly are important to you, like losing weight, growing stronger, or eating healthier, when life gets crazy and you can't be perfect even when you have the perfect plan. After all, ours is a society that has little tolerance for imperfection, and we internalize that all the time.  But the best advice I ever got about being in medicine was this, from a graduating med student: "You can't wait to live the way you want until "real life starts"--aka when med school is over, or residency, or whatever the next step is. This is your real life, and you have to figure out ways to be happy now."  

What I am realizing now is that the key to long-term balance in medicine is to accept that you won't ever have this nirvana where you are a Crossfit superstar and also totally killin it professionally (unless you are Julie Foucher, of course), but that you can still achieve many of your health goals by staying realistic and flexible.

With this reality check in mind, I chose to forgo my post-test workout and went to the Osler dinner, a formal event that the Stanford internal medicine department puts on annually. I reconnected with classmates I hadn't seen in a while which was lovely, and some of our preclinical instructors gave hilarious speeches on their tortuous path through medical training.  All of them echoed the same sentiment--that they all struggled, both professionally and personally, but that they eventually found a balance that worked for them.  All four of them now love their jobs and their lives outside that. I became inspired to view the long haul I have left to go not as a time to simply survive, but to enjoy in its own right, even with all the missteps and uncertainties along the way (It sounds cheesy, but seriously! You had to be there. It was amazing).  

This morning, I did my deferred workout. I am still getting used to the flow of working out at home, but it's getting a lot faster. I changed the lifting routine into a circuit so that I didn't have to rest between sets. This is how long it took me: 

Then I did 5 rounds of KB swing/manmakers (10 reps each) in 15 minutes outside. I was initially going to do a workout twice as long (20 reps each), but a few reps in I realized that it would take me forever (especially since the first few were so killer. Manmakers should be called Manbreakers). I then walked around as a cool down because hey, it's not raining anymore! 

Success! Done in <45 minutes. I am going to slowly time myself for all the workouts and figure out how to make them all more manageable and flexible for a busy schedule before I repost them. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!


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